|Forest codes of practice. Contributing to environmentally sound forest operations. (FAO Forestry Paper - 133) (1996)|
|A brief overview of the proposed FAO model code of forest harvesting practice|
Codes of forest practice are sets of regulations or guidelines which are designed to help foresters in government agencies and forest enterprises select practices to be followed in carrying out forest management and utilisation operations. In theory, practices which conform to a code of forest practice should achieve a desired outcome such as the harvest of commercial timber from a specified area of forest in a way that meets standards for sustainable forest management. Whether the codes of practice are mandatory or voluntary depends upon the legislative framework within which the rules or guidelines are adopted, the cultural history of the country or region, and even the attitudes of operators toward the results that the rules or guidelines are intended to achieve.
On public lands, and even increasingly in the private sector in many countries, forestry no longer focuses exclusively or even primarily on the production of commercial timber. It is now recognised worldwide that forests are of major importance for biological diversity, non-timber products, cultural values, and environmental services such as carbon sequestration, enrichment of soils, and provision of clean water. As a result forestry has become a more complex, more demanding discipline. One consequence of this is that it is now more difficult to plan and carry out forest harvesting operations because these operations must be designed and implemented in ways that accommodate, and if possible enhance, the multiresource character of the forest. To accomplish this foresters, planners, and logging operators require guidance on the practices that society is willing to accept and the outcomes that are required in connection with forest harvesting operations. This is an important motivation for the development of codes of forest harvesting practice, regardless of whether they are intended to be mandatory or voluntary.
The FAO Model Code of Forest Harvesting Practice is not itself a complete code of practice; this would be an unattainable goal, given the importance of local conditions in dictating economically feasible and environmentally sound forest harvesting practices. Rather, the Model Code is intended to be used as a reference by FAO member nations which are contemplating the preparation of their own codes of forest harvesting practice. It has therefore been prepared to provide information on a range of practices that are likely to be acceptable under various conditions, and also on practices which may damage timber or non-timber forest resources. In doing this, the Model Code assumes that it is first necessary to know what practices are technically and economically feasible; then, political institutions can be used to establish policies and legislation, in the context of the countrys cultural and sociological framework, that will motivate or enforce the adoption of such practices.
A second basic assumption of the FAO Model Code is that it is possible to conduct forest harvesting operations in ways that are consistent with sustainable forest management. Doing so generally requires the following:
· comprehensive harvest planning;
· effective implementation and control of harvesting operations;
· thorough assessment of harvesting operations and communication of the results of the assessment to the planning team and to harvesting personnel;
· development of a competent and properly motivated workforce.
The FAO Model Code thus examines each of these with the intention of providing information on what is known about how to accomplish them in environmentally sound ways that do not require major investments in training and technology. This is done by considering specifically each of the following components of forest harvesting:
· harvest planning
· forest road engineering
· landing operations
· transport operations
· harvesting assessment
· the forest harvesting workforce
Each of these is thoroughly discussed in a chapter which:
(i) describes the operation being examined,
(ii) summarises guiding principles which serve as a basis for selecting practices to be recommended,
(iii) lists the objectives to be achieved by proper execution of the operation,
(iv) outlines potential consequences of improper practices, and finally.
(v) provides details on the recommended practices themselves.
Insofar as possible the FAO Model Code attempts to provide flexibility in specifying recommended practices. In most cases it is not possible to know whether a specific harvesting practice will meet requirements for sustainability in all situations. Therefore, users can anticipate that it will be necessary to adapt guidelines on recommended harvesting practices to the local situation and also to changes which will occur over time, both in scientific understanding and in the socioeconomic conditions which provide an overall context to forest harvesting.