In the follow-up to the 1992 UNCED meeting, there has been extensive
world-wide forest policy discussions and preliminary attempts
at implementing sustainable forest management (SFM) in most of
the world's regions. In addition to a brief summary of the current
forest policy environment, this paper provides a description and
discussion of the practical aspects of SFM and how it will impact
on future forest utilization. It is important to bear in mind
that the practical features of SFM are only beginning to be documented;
nonetheless, there are emerging themes that already have serious
implications for the forest products industry in fibre supply
planning. FAO is playing an active role at the policy and practical
levels of management.
Since the 1992 UNCED meeting, which produced a set
of international forest principles and agenda for action (Agenda
21), 5 years have elapsed and sceptics argue that little has happened
to improve the situation of the world's forests. While there is
merit to this argument, it clearly does a disservice to the forest
products companies, NGOs, research institutes, universities, international
organizations and governments attempting to take the principles
of sustainable forest management [SFM] and translate them into
This paper gives a brief overview of the global forest
policy environment and the initiatives FAO and others are taking
at the policy level. Perhaps more importantly, it also provides
a description and discussion of the more technical aspects of
SFM and how it is being implemented at the management level in
forest operational trials. It concludes with a discussion of the
major challenges ahead for converting the concept of SFM into
Since UNCED, criteria and indicators have been formulated
and refined through several international and national, governmental
and non-governmental processes. The intergovernmental processes
have been conducted mainly within the framework of a number of
major international initiatives which are summarized in Table
1. These initiatives are described more fully in the 1997 State
of the World's Forest report (FAO 1997a).
- Ongoing international initiatives by geographic region
||Number of Countries
||Forest Area (000ha)
|Temperate and Boreal Forest
||1 500 000|
|Tropical Forest||ITTO Producer Countries
||1 305 046|
|Dry-Zone sub-Saharan Forest
Dry Zone Africa
|Dry-Zone Near East
|All types of Forests
Central American / Lepaterique Process
These international initiatives
are now being tested in operational sustainable forest management
systems in several countries. The Center for International Forest
Research, for example, has been field testing Criteria and Indicators
for three years in different location world-wide (Prabhu 1996).
Many countries have recently introduced new forest
policies and laws protecting their resources through improved
management. Table 2 presents selected examples of the kinds of
reform currently underway. It is not intended to be an exhaustive
list but rather indicative of the extent and nature of the reform
underway. These reforms are indicators of how the concept of SFM
is being interpreted in the policy and legislative arena.
- Selected examples of legislative and policy reform
|Country||Types of reform recently introduced
|Canada||British Columbia forest practices code
ISO based wood certification scheme by Canadian Standard Association
|Cameroon||Reform of forest law
|Ghana||National timber certification scheme
Log export ban
|Cambodia||Forest policy reform process
Logging control and log verification
|Indonesia||National timber certification scheme
Criteria and indicators of natural production forest sustainability at the national level
Sustainable management on natural production forest on management unit level
Technical guidance on criteria and indicators at the management unit level
|Malaysia||Regional code of practice for timber harvesting in Asia-Pacific
National timber certification scheme
Guidelines on logging practice in Peninsular Malaysia
|New Zealand ||Forest code of practice
|Papua New Guinea||PNG logging code of practice
National forest plan
|Congo||Log export controls
|South Africa||South African harvesting code of practice
|USA||Codes of best management practice
Oregon Forest Practice Act
To forest companies reforms at the management unit
level are equally if not more important to their operations since
this will have direct impacts on their operating practices, legal
agreements for timber cutting, and ultimately on their profitability.
However, before discussing the more specific impacts
of SFM, it is useful to describe and assess the differences of
SFM from the older concept of sustained yield. This is one way
to articulate the shift in management emphasis in forest operations.
SFM is primarily a systematic approach to sustaining
each component of the forest ecosystem and their interactions.
In forests available for wood supply, this means combining wood
production with other management objectives, above all, the conservation
of plant and animal biological diversity and soil and water conservation.
Similar intentions were not as clear in the classic management
concept of sustained yield but it is now agreed that forest management
must systematically address a fuller range of environmental, social
and economic issues (Lanly 1995). Table 3 is a summary of major
differences in management approach between the two concepts.
- Comparison of SFM and sustained yield forestry objectives for
|SFM||Sustained Yield Forestry
|Maintain the productivity of the forest, by avoiding erosion, soil degradation, and impoverishment of the soil ecosystem.
||Emphasizes productivity but the tendency is to use agricultural techniques to establish plantations or to use the least cost regeneration technique.
|Use practices which mimic natural disturbances to the extent that is feasible.
||No emphasis on the mimicking of natural disturbance. Aesthetic impacts are considered, as well as silvicultural characteristics of species and economics. Where feasible, convert stands of species with low commercial value to high valued species.
|Search for harvesting methods which reduce the level of disturbance in the forest, which primarily has meant that the size of clear-cut areas is being reduced and partial harvesting systems are being used more widely.
||Increasing utilization and reducing cost are the primary motivators, subject to social constraints on clear-cut size.
|Maintain wildlife populations and maintain species.
||Maintaining wildlife and non-timber species was generally considered outside the purview of forest managers and applied biologists were primarily concerned about maintaining populations of game species.
|Maintain structural and biological diversity in managed forests.
||The agro-industrial ideal was to have uniform rows of same sized, single species trees. Aesthetic considerations and economic costs were primary constraints.
Source: Bull, Williams and Duinker 1996, Williams
Conveying the differences is critical to forest management
and some forest companies are already changing their plans and
operational procedures to SFM.
The international community has had numerous, some
might call it a plethora, of discussions at the national and international
level on the subjects of biological diversity, SFM, ecosystem
management, wood certification, and, criteria and indicators.
At the same time, field managers have been trying to interpret
the implications of these initiatives into their operations. The
concerns of industry, and in many cases government and communities
relate to three major elements:
Since it is imperative that both forest policy actors
and field practitioners understand the implications of their decisions,
each of these elements warrant more discussion on their specific
In practical terms, SFM has to be incorporated into
timber yield regulations. The many formulas for yield calculation
contain three basic elements: the biological rotation period or
the felling cycle, the forest volume increment or growth and,
existing growing stock of the forest. Changing to SFM means a
change in the way we calculate the forest harvest level. The first
change is applied to the rotation age or felling cycle; it is
frequently being made longer. This means that the interventions
in the forest are less and the total volume removed from the total
forest has to be less in each felling cycle. So, for example,
if the felling cycle is extended from 30 to 50 years for the same
forest area then the total average removal per year would necessarily
The forest increment statistic being applied is also
changing. Traditionally, the increment was calculated use the
mean average growth with insufficient integration of losses dues
to mortality. In the tropics for example, where yield calculation
are conducted, the regulations are applying a reduction factor
of up to .5 to account for these losses (FAO 1975). This has enormous
implications for sustainable yields, particularly for forests
which are already converted to semi-natural forest (FAO 1997b).
The growing stock number is also being carefully
scrutinized. Is the reported number the total growing stock, the
productive growing stock or the commercial growing stock? As fibre
supply is being more restricted in many regions this takes on
a growing importance. For example, FAO now has estimates that
while the total growing stock in Indonesia is 8.0 billion m3,
the current commercial growing stock could be 3.0 billion
m3 . Obviously the number chosen for yield calculations
will have a dramatic effect on the estimate of sustainable fibre
yield. In the future, particularly with the advent of technical
tools such as geographic information systems, there will be an
increasing emphasis on defining the commercial growing stock on
the area available for wood supply. It is on this area that you
will see the application of SFM principles to forest harvesting.
Finally, the traditional formula variables described
above will likely have to be further modified to allow for the
application of an additional reduction factor. This factor will
allow for the inclusion of, for example, riparian areas and biological
diversity in some regions.
Yield regulation can also be analyzed by examining case studies
which indicate reduction in various regions at an operational
scale. Table 4 indicates that the range of reduction in volumes
can be minor to very significant. This has important implications
for fibre supply planning. Discussion will therefore have to begin
amongst the policy actors as to the appropriate distribution of
the costs as a esult of forest volume harvest reductions.
- Forest volumes impacts of SFM
||Case Study||Forest volume impact
|West Coast North America
||Clayoquot Sound||30-40 % reduction
|Nordic Europe||A. Berklund
|Boreal North America:
||White River||15% reduction
|Boreal North America:
||Seine River||24% reduction
||up to 100% reduction
|East Kalimantan, Indonesia
||STREK Project||9% reduction
|Eastern Amazonia, Brazil
The harvesting and silvicultural systems will increasingly
be blended into one overall system management under the concept
of SFM. At the operational level, increasingly the person(s) responsible
for harvesting operations must also plan for all the necessary
pre- and post- harvesting silvicultural actions as an integral
part of the harvesting system. Table 5 summarizes some of the
changes in the major silvicultural and harvesting systems. Notice
how countries like Indonesia and Malaysia seem to be reversing
the systems in opposite directions in their attempts to apply
SFM. It is now fairly widely accepted that there is no one 'perfect'
system which will definitely express SFM; rather, the appropriate
system must match the biological and physical factors of the forest
A central question for any forest operation is of
course the cost impact of adopting to new harvesting and silvicultural
systems. Unfortunately, many studies either do not present the
cost impacts, and when they do, it is frequently expressed using
different terminology. Table 6 presents the information as increase
in cost per m3, loss of profits to loggers, and increase
in cost per hectare. The financial impacts are due to a number
of factors including: increase in planning costs, pre-harvest
inventories, extra efforts to reduce logging damage, changing
log utilization standards use of new logging equipment to meet
environmental standards, and increased costs of combining silviculture
techniques with harvesting techniques, mills have to operate at
below capacity. In many cases the cost are rising and unfortunately,
the revenue from forest products is not. This creates great difficulties
for an industry which is not performing particularly well in comparison
with some of the other industrial sectors.
- Silvicultural and harvesting systems used in tropical forests
|Country||Other countries where variants applied
||>45 cm DBH
30 year felling cycle
|Selective Felling System
||>50cm DBH partially removed
35 year felling cycle
|Shelterwood / Enrichment Planting in Dipterocarps
60-70 year felling cycle/15 years for the planted species
|Malaysian Uniform System
||> 45cm DBH
|Selective Management System
25-30 year cuts
lower volume removed
|Tropical Shelterwood System
||sampling 6 years before final fellings.
60-80% of commercial basal area frequently removed
|CELOS harvesting and silvicultural system
||> 35 cm DBH
20-25 year cuts
The financial impacts of
SFM are real but they do vary greatly from study to study as indicated
below. While the financial impact shown in Table 6 are based on
the analysis of individual case studies, there seems to be a general
consensus that commercial delivered wood costs are rising.
- Summary of financial impacts of SFM
||Case study||Financial impacts (short term)
|North America- West Coast
||Clayoquot Sound||8-25% cost increase per m3
|Asia- Malaysia||Innoprize Corporation
||5% cost increase per m3
||Chimanes||35-67% loss in profits to logging contractors
|Latin America - Eastern Amazonia, Brazil
|Latin America- Suriname
||CELOS||10-20% cost savings
|Latin America- Brazil
||Precious Woods||0% cost increase per m3 but assumes more trees as commercial species
Responsible forest management is becoming part of
forest concession agreements and companies are increasingly equipping
themselves with qualified personnel and scientific support in
order to meet the requirements of modern forest management including
preharvesting prescriptions, preharvesting treatments, best harvesting
practices guidelines, and management audits.
Increasingly forest products companies are accepting
that SFM is a condition of doing business. The challenge is to
ensure that all companies have accepted the concept at the operational
scale to ensure that the rules are the same for everyone. Otherwise,
there is a distinct risk that poor environmental practice will
be used as a competitive tool by irresponsible companies.
In adopting an SFM strategy there are still serious
challenges for the wood products industry. First, many forest
concession agreements are too short in terms of time, frequently
incomplete and contain too many risk factors. Second, there is
a serious lack of studies to determine the appropriate fiscal
incentives necessary to change to new harvesting and silvicultural
systems. Third, there is insufficient discussion between governments,
industry, communities and NGOs on the appropriate sharing of the
social costs of adopting SFM.
FAO has been very active in forest and conservation
law reform in many developing and transition countries. Since
1992 FAO has been advising member countries on reforms to their
forest laws that also promote SFM principles [See Table 7].
Table 7 - Countries
where FAO has provide assistance in law reform
Policy dialogue is a major role of the FAO and there
are a number of means to facilitate it. At the global level, every
two years the FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO) brings together
the heads of forest services and other senior government officials
to identify emerging issues and to advise FAO on a course of action.
FAO also convenes Regional Forestry Commission meetings, international
meetings of ministers responsible for forestry and representatives
of nongovernmental, environmental and development organizations
and leaders of the private forest industries to follow-up on the
The FAO is closely associated with certification
issues, both in relation to forest management and to trade. In
particular FAO has been involved in efforts to determine how forest
management standards may be assessed; what should be evaluated;
and what the market effects of certification may be. It also has
been closely involved with the development of national-level criteria
and indicators for sustainable forest management, a subject that
some see as having linkages to certification.
FAO will continue to monitor activities and provide
technical input into certification efforts in order to ensure
that schemes are soundly based and that their implications are
carefully considered. Where appropriate it will carry out studies,
and provide information and advice on both forest management and
trade aspects of the subject. It will encourage the development
of well considered, technically-sound, effective, certification
Further work is needed before effective, acceptable
system(s), which are mutually compatible, are available. Some
of the areas needing increased attention are:
- further analysis of all aspects (from in-forest
to in-market), including the evaluation of certification schemes
that have been in place for a period of time in order to learn
from their experience and to ensure that mis-use does not occur;
- increased analysis of the likely benefits and
limitations of certification, and greater clarity on what its
likely impacts may be, including its impacts on trade;
- continuation of trials to determine what factors
should be assessed in order to evaluate forest management and
how they can be reliably measured;
- development of effective and accurate procedures
for tracking wood from the forest to the market (i.e. chain of
- agreement on such issues as who should carry
out certification; what the basis of the certification should
be; who should issue certificates; who should assess certifiers
- evaluation of the role of the various groups,
in particular the role of governments;
- analysis of the degree to which there are linkages
between national and management unit level criteria and indicators,
and between the latter and forest product certification;
- further efforts to develop stronger linkages
between the certification systems that are being developed, and
to reach broad agreement and where possible mutual recognition,
of alternative schemes in order to limit conflicts. A basic need
is to achieve a degree of international and regional agreement
on sound approaches to sustainable forestry.
FAO is organizing the XI World Forestry Congress.
The general theme is "Forestry for Sustainable
Development: Towards the 21st Century". It is expected
that the Congress will have a broad participation and outreach,
considering the current debate on forests within the follow-up
to UNCED. The timing of the Congress, just after the conclusion
of the tasks of CSD's Interdepartmental Panel on Forests and the comprehensive
review of Agenda 21 by a special session of the UN General Assembly,
makes the Congress the logical venue to look at the follow-up
in sustainable forestry development.
FAO also seeks specialized technical advice on policy
through various standing committees on forest gene resources,
forest products and through ad hoc working groups on priority
issues. Examples are the Advisory Committee and Paper and Wood
Products and the very recent Working Group on Forest Sector Outlook
In late 1995, the FAO Forestry Department initiated
the Global Fibre Supply Study with an outlook to the year
2050. The general objective of the study is to contribute reliable
data, information and analysis of industrial fibre sources. The
study includes a compilation of the latest available inventory
data, including recovered and non-wood fibre, focusing primarily
on the sources of industrial fibre as raw material for the sawmilling,
wood-based panels, and pulp and paper industries. It will also
include a projection and analysis of future developments in fibre
supply, based on explicit consideration of the major factors affecting
The Organization undertakes a global forest assessment
every 10 years, highlighting forest cover, deforestation and forest
degradation. The next assessment will be published in the
year 2000 and will be known as FRA 2000.
FAO also regularly provided information on wood products
production, trade, regional and world forest outlook studies and
forest sector studies. The Yearbook of Forest Products is
a well-known example of statistics on products and trade, the
Asia-Pacific study is the current regional forest outlook
study and the Provisional outlook study for global forest products
consumption, production and trade is an example of model development
for world outlook studies.
One of the key elements of non-wood forest products
is the gathering, analysis and dissemination of key technical
information on non-wood forest products. The overall aim is to
enhance the sustainable utilization of non-wood forest products
in order to contribute to the management of the world's forest
and the conservation of their biodiversity, and to improve food
and income security for rural people.
FAO offers technical assistance to developing countries
to help create and implement policies and technologies on SFM.
Currently, the FAO is active in some 250 forestry technical assistance
projects in 90 countries. Technical projects level assistance
covers most dimensions of SFM (Harcharik 1995).
In addition, FAO also develops practical field manuals,
analyzes sustainable utilization of forest resources and assists
in ongoing wood-worker training programmes. These activities are
in some respects the most important since SFM has to be translated
into the operational setting. This means that resources such as
trees and non-wood products will be utilized but at a sustainable
FAO is also attempting to offer more practical guidance
in SFM. Following are a few examples of projects which attempt
to provide such guidance.
This is a case study on forest harvesting in natural
forests of the south Congo has just been completed. The study
report is part of a series of case studies published by FAO in
the field of forest harvesting. The study was carried out in cooperation
with a private contractor operating a concession. It is the first
one carried out by the FAO in collaboration with a private industrial
enterprise. The objective of the study was the establishment of
reliable data on a ground harvesting system in the tropics, using
power saws, crawler tractors and wheeled skidders. The case study
consisted of a study inventory, a harvesting recovery analysis,
and a harvesting impact assessment.
The objective of the Brazilian study was to thoroughly
document and establish data on environmentally sound forest harvesting
associated with careful planning of every phase of the harvesting
operations in the tropical natural forest of the Amazon in Brazil.
This type of harvesting was compared with the traditional harvesting
system used in the region. Another aim was to establish the applicability
of the FAO Model Code for each phase of harvesting. In conducting
the study FAO worked with a forest products company whose aim
is to demonstrate the economic viability of SFM integrated with
a wood processing industry.
FAO has just recently developed a Model code of forest
harvesting practices with the aim to assist FAO member countries
to consider the adoption or revision of their own codes of practice
and promote environmentally sound forest operations world-wide.
The practical means to achieve is by adopting low impact felling
systems, new wood harvesting systems and appropriate road development.
Currently the FAO is in the process of developing
a handbook for tropical forest management. The objective is to
provide practitioners with a manual which will take the principles
of SFM and translate them into practical methods for field practice.
This will include suggestions on issues such as regulating harvest
or sustainable yield, maintaining a continuous forest inventory,
and road and skidtrail construction.
Most reports still concur that population growth
will continue, albeit at a slower rate in richer countries, and
that there is a shortage of productive land in the poorer countries
for agriculture and wood production. Also there is still a frequent
lack of land use planning, for example of converting land from
forest to agricultural production and finally, poor enforcement
of forest laws.
For the policy maker, there is still a serious lack
of reliable up-to-date information on forest resources. Frequently,
for example, forest inventories are old or of poor quality. Therefore
planning for the future still requires policy makers to make many
dubious assumptions until there are significant step taken, such
as those by Indonesia, to create a reliable inventory system.
At the management unit level there continues to be
irresponsible forest practices which can only explained by weak
regulatory control, corruption or lack of long term guarantees
for forest supply. In many regions there continues to be ineffective
market mechanisms in log distribution which can lead to monopolistic
pricing, unfair distribution of economic rents and poor forest
Changes are and will have to continue to take place
in how the forest products industry defines its role in the communities
in which it operates. For example, a major forest products company
announced on April 9, 1997 a joint venture forest company with
an indigenous group in western Canada in which the indigenous
group will own 51 percent of the shares. Many more arrangements
of this nature will likely happen in the future. Likewise, rural
communities will also be much more involved with forest products
firms in decisionmaking, particularly in single industry towns.
Building new arrangements will take time and mutual trust of the
Finally, there is a lack of field data and field
demonstrations of the impact of SFM and how it can be achieved
in practical terms. To address this weakness closer cooperation
is required between the industry, government, local people and
NGOs. It also means information will have to be more freely shared
which can only happen in an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation.
Given the preponderance of legal and policy initiatives
that include SFM, it is likely that international institutions,
such as the World Bank and FAO and UNDP, and country aid agencies,
such as the ODA, SIDA, FINNIDA, CIDA, GTZ and many others, will
become even more involved in supporting SFM at the management
The FAO Forest Department is actively trying to contribute
to the discussion of SFM but with increasing budgetary constraints
it needs to work in stronger partnerships with other institutions,
public agencies and most certainly the private sector. Cooperation
is not an option, it is a necessity.
By examining case studies, the impacts of SFM at
the management unit level produces different results under different
conditions. While it is clear that in most cases there is an impact,
each forest company will have to determine for their own particular
circumstance what change, if any, in timber volume harvested can
be anticipated, and what the change in the many financial costs
will be under SFM. It will then be necessary to have discussions
with governments, aid agencies, NGOs and international institutions
on how to distribute the impact of these changes. Private sector
companies should not have to bear all the immediate impacts. In
the long run, everyone benefits from the application of SFM.
It is also clear from the information presented that
some countries are seriously engaged in efforts to ensure that
the forest are managed sustainably and that practical progress
is being achieved. By giving recognition to this progress, hopefully
more forest companies and forest landowners (governments, investors,
individuals and communities) will take up the challenge to implement
the concept of SFM in all forest operations. The FAO will continue
to play a vital role in translating the SFM vision into a reality.
Bull G., Williams J. and Duinker P. 1996. The
future contribution of the global temperate and boreal forests
to the sustainable paper cycle. Report prepared for the International
Institute of Environment and Development: Sustainable Paper Cycle
Project. London, UK.
FAO. 1997a. State of the World's Forests Report.
Rome, Italy (Draft).
FAO. 1997b. Handbook for the Management of Tropical
Forest Management. Rome, Italy (Draft).
FAO. 1975. Management Possibilities of Tropical
High Forest in Africa. FO/75, Rome, Italy.
Harcharik, D. 1995. Promoting Sustainable
Forest Management: Journal of Forestry 93(10): 18-20.
Lanly, J.P. 1995. Sustainable forest management:
lessons of history and recent developments. Unsylva
Prabhu R. et al. 1996. Testing Criteria and Indicators
for the sustainable management of forests: phase 1. Final
report. Centre for International Forest Research. Indonesia.
Williams, J. 1997. Impacts of Sustainable Forest
Management on Global Fibre Supply. Background Report. Prepared
for the Global Fibre Supply Study. FAO Forestry Department (Draft).