Term Paper on Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) | Forestry


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Term Paper on Sustainable Forest Management

Term Paper # 1. Introduction to Sustainable Forest Management:

Sustainable forest management will ensure that the values derived from the forest meet present-day needs while at the same time ensuring their continued availability and contribution to long-term development needs (FAO 1993a).

The term forest management is applied in situations where an integrated, coordinated series of actions, which are directed towards the achievement of specified objectives. Forest management is a process which effectively integrates the biological, social and economic factors which influence the decisions leading towards the implementation of one or more specified objectives.


Forest Management deals with the overall administrative, economic, legal, social, technical and scientific aspects related to natural and planted forests. It implies various degrees of deliberate human intervention to safeguard and maintain the forest ecosystem and its functions, in order to favour specific valuable species or groups of species for the improved production of goods and services.

Historically, forest management has mostly considered biological issues with a strong focus upon silviculture for the production of wood. As the forestry profession has grown, an understanding of the term “forest management” has broadened to span wider environmental issues, such as conservation of biological diversity, social and economic matters and, more generally, the concept of sustainability.

The Forest Principles, developed at the Earth Summit – the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) – have defined forest management as a part of a statement of principles for a global consensus on the management, conservation and Sustainable development of all types of forests.
Forest resources and forest lands should be sustainably managed to meet the social, economic, cultural and spiritual needs of present and future generations of human beings. These human needs are for forest products and services, such as wood and wood products, water, food, fodder, medicine, fuel, shelter, employment, recreation, habitats for wildlife, landscape diversity, carbon sinks and reservoirs, and for other forest products. Appropriate measures should be taken to protect forests against harmful effects of pollution, including air­borne pollution, fires, pests and diseases in order to maintain their full multiple values (UNCED 1992).

The basic principle of forest management comprises the following elements – national policy and legal framework, security of tenure of forest resources and land, effective forest protection, knowledge on sustainability of forest ecosystems, maintenance of site product­ivity, forest management planning, goals and objectives for forest management, definition of forest resources, application of appropriate silvicultural systems, minimization of adverse environmental impacts, a regard for the interests of forest-dependent communities, commercial sustainability and business management, monitoring of managerial performance.

Term Paper # 2. Concept of Sustainable Forest Management:


The perception that human development needed to be carried forward in a sustainable way was formulated during the 1980s and detailed discussions at UNCED constituted the concept of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM). During 1990s there have been a number of processes, launched by different constituencies to define SFM viz. Helsinki Process (the agreements of European governments); Montreal Process (the agreement among other temperate latitude governments); ITTO guidelines (the product of International Tropical Timber Organization representing producers and consumers); Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Considerable procedural differences still exist among derivations of general standards, termed criteria and indicators (C&I) for sustainable forest management.

Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) is the management of forests according to the principles of sustainable development. Sustainable forest management uses very broad social, economic and environmental goals. The “Forest Principles” adopted at The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 captured the general international understanding of sustainable forest management at that time. A number of sets of criteria and indicators have since been developed to evaluate the achievement of SFM at both the country and management unit level.

These were all attempts to codify and provide for independent assessment of the degree to which the broader objectives of sustainable forest management are being achieved in practice. In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests. The instrument was the first of its kind and reflected the strong international commitment to promote implementation of sustainable forest management through a new approach that brings all stakeholders together.

The concept of sustainable forest management contains guidelines and criteria to secure the optimal balance of goods and services from forests. It is an efficient tool to help countries and local communities achieve an appropriate equilibrium between the multiple needs of society.


A common understanding of what sustainable forest management encompasses has been the basis of the collaboration between various countries to evolve joint definition of sustainable forest management. SFM is the management to maintain and enhance the long- term health of forest ecosystems, while providing ecological, economic, social and cultural opportunities for the benefit of present and future generations.

Forest Europe:

The good definition of the present day understanding of the term ‘Sustainable Forest Management’ was developed by the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPEE) and has since been adopted by FAO. It defines sustainable forest management as the stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfill, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems.



Sustainable forest management implies various degrees of deliberate human interve­ntion, ranging from actions aimed at safeguarding and maintaining the forest ecosystem and its functions, to favouring specific socially or economically valuable species or groups of species for the improved production of goods and services (FAO 1999).

SFM ensures that the values derived from the forest meet present day needs while at the same time ensuring their continued availability and contribution to long-term development needs (FAO 2008). It has a tremendous potential to serve as a tool in combating climate change, protecting people and livelihoods, and creating a foundation for more sustainable economic and social development.

ITTO (2005):

ITTO defines Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) as the process of managing forest land to achieve one or more clearly specified objectives of management with regard to the production of a continuous flow of desired forest products and services without undue reduction of its inherent values and future productivity and without undue undesirable effects on the physical and social environment.


It means that forest-related activities should not damage the forest to the extent that its capacity to deliver products and services – such as timber, water and biodiversity conservation – is significantly reduced. Forest management should also aim to balance the needs of different forest users so that its benefits and costs are shared equitably.

United Nations:

The general assembly of the United Nations adopted in December 2007 the most widely, inter-governmentally agreed definition of SFM as a dynamic and evolving concept aims to maintain and enhance the economic, social and environmental value of all types of forests, for the benefit of present and future generations.

It is characterized by seven elements viz. extent of forest resources, forest biological diversity, forest health and vitality, productive functions of forest resources, protective functions of forest resources, socio-economic functions of forests, and legal, policy and institutional framework (UN 2008).

Term Paper # 3. Concept of Sustainability:

Large areas of forest land, especially in the tropics, will inevitably be converted to agricultural use in the coming decades. Logging and cutting for fuel wood will continue. The challenge is not to prevent these activities but to manage them. The aim must be to ensure that wood and other forest products are harvested sustainably, that forests are cleared only in a planned and controlled way and that the subsequent land uses are productive and sustainable.

The World Commission on Environment and Development (1987), commonly called the Brundtland Commission, clearly recognized the necessity for a broad approach to sustain­ability. It said “sustainable development is a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations”.

The concept of sustainability has deep historical roots in forestry. Much early forestry in World was concerned with the conservation of forests as wildlife reserves for hunting by kings and nobles. Later came the concept of managing forests for a sustainable yield of timber.

This was achieved by balancing the volume to be harvested against the growth predicted from regeneration and planting. “The sustainable management of forests for the production of wood is based on a deceptively simple principle. All that needs to be done is to harvest the wood at an average annual rate not greater than the forest in question can grow it” (FAO 1993b).

Management of the forest to provide a sustained yield of timber is still what many foresters have in mind when they talk of sustainable forest management. This definition focuses on the production of wood and does not address the wider issues of the ecological and social functions of forests, with which timber production may only incidentally be compatible or may even lead to conflict. Over the past two decades, management solely for wood production has been a cause of steadily growing concern to those affected by the loss of other benefits.

It has led, in an increasing number of areas, to confrontation and even physical conflict between loggers and people living in and around the forest areas being harvested. The concept of sustainable forest management has therefore evolved to encompass these wider issues and values. It is now seen as the multipurpose management of the forest so that its overall capacity to provide goods and services is not diminished.

A forest managed in this way will provide timber on a sustainable basis and will continue to provide fuel wood, food and other goods and services for those living in and around it. Its role in the preservation of genetic resources and biological diversity as well as in the protection of the environment will also be maintained.

The application of forest management in this wider sense would represent enormous progress in most of the forest areas of the world. It could be interpreted as confining forest management to those areas where a sustained yield of forest products and services is, at least in principle, achievable.

There is a need for explicit attention to those huge areas where the forests are disappearing as a result of encroachment and clearing for agriculture, where excessive grazing is preventing natural regeneration of trees or where cutting for charcoal- making and fuel wood is leading to the degradation or disappearance of forests.

If sustainable forest management is to be achieved such issues must be addressed and the concept needs to be widened further or perhaps better viewed as management for sustainability. This approach of necessity must be a holistic one encompassing land-use planning and the wider questions of rural development.

Management for sustainability will therefore first be concerned with securing an improved livelihood for the present generation, while maintaining the potential of the forest heritage for future generations. Second, the forest potential must be seen within the broader context of rural development, in which the allocation of land to different uses is part of a dynamic process but where a balance is maintained between forests and other forms of land use in which trees have a role.

Third, responsibilities for forest management must be clearly identified and competing interests must be reconciled through dialogue and partnership. Finally, forestry activities will have to compete for scarce financial resources and both the production and the environmental functions must be shown to be worthwhile to both users and financers (FAO 1993c).

Term Paper # 4. Components of Sustainable Forest Management:

The following seven thematic elements, acknowledged by UNFF, are based on the criteria of the nine on-going regional/international processes on criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, and were acknowledged by the FAO Committee on Forestry in 2003.

In February 2004, the FAO/ITTO Expert Consultation on Criteria and Indicators recognized that these elements are important for facilitating international communication on forest-related issues:

1. Extent of Forest Resources:

The theme expresses an overall desire to have significant forest cover and stocking, including Trees outside Forests (TOF), to support the social, economic and environmental dimensions of forestry. For example, the existence and extent of specific forest types are important as a basis for conservation efforts.

The theme encompasses ambitions to reduce deforestation and to restore and rehabilitate degraded forest landscapes. This theme also includes the important function of forests and trees outside forests to store carbon and thereby contribute to moderating the global climate.

2. Biological Diversity:

The theme concerns the conservation and management of biological diversity at the ecosystem (landscape), species and genetic levels. Such conservation, including protecting areas with fragile ecosystems, ensures that diversity of life is maintained and provides opportunities to develop new products, for example medicines, in the future. Genetic improvement is also a means to improve forest productivity, for example to ensure a high wood production in intensively managed forests.

3. Forest Health and Vitality:

Forests need to be managed so that risks and impacts of unwanted disturbances are minimized, including wildfires, airborne pollution, storm felling, invasive species, pests, diseases and insects. Such disturbances may impact social, economic as well as environmental dimensions of forestry.

4. Productive Functions of Forest Resources:

Forests and trees outside forests provide a wide range of wood and non-wood forest products. The theme expresses the ambition to maintain a high and valuable supply of primary forest products, while at the same time ensuring that production and harvesting are sustainable and do not compromise management options of future generations.

5. Protective Functions of Forest Resources:

The theme addresses the role of forests and trees outside forests to help moderate soil, hydrological and aquatic systems. This includes maintaining clean water including e.g. healthy fish populations, as well as to reduce risks or impacts of floods, avalanches, erosion and droughts. Protective functions of forest resources also contribute to ecosystem conservation efforts. Protective functions of forest resources have strong cross-sectoral aspects, as the benefits to agriculture and rural livelihoods are high.

6. Socio-Economic Functions:

The theme addresses the contributions of forest resources to the overall economy, for example through employment, values generated through processing and marketing of forest products and energy, trade and investments in the forest sector. The theme also addresses the important functions of forest to host and protect sites and landscapes that have high cultural, spiritual or recreational values and thus include aspects of land tenure, indigenous and community management systems and traditional knowledge.

7. Legal, Policy and Institutional Framework:

The theme includes the legal, policy and institutional arrangements necessary to support the above six themes, including participatory decision making, governance and law enforcement, monitoring and assessment of progress. The theme also addresses broader social aspects; including fair and equitable use of forest resources, science, research and education, infrastructure arrangements to support the forest sector, transfer of technology and capacity building and public information and communication.

Term Paper # 5. Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management:

During the 1990’s, the attention drawn to the forests and their change enhanced the concept of durability and the need for criteria and indicators to describe and measure forest management. Different international conferences have established lists of indicators to be applied essentially on a national level.

The Processes of Helsinki and Montreal for boreal or temperate countries, the Proposition of Tarapoto and the Tegucigalpa Meeting for Latin American countries and the UNEP/FAO initiative (Nairobi Meeting) and the Cairo Meeting for the dry African Zone, Near and Middle East, are the realization of these efforts.

As the task of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Forestry (IFF) was to reach, in an open and participatory manner, a consensus and formulation of propositions coordinated for the sustainable management of forests, the role of Criteria and Indicators was emphasized and it was specified that their development must be “a gradual process based on national sustainable forest management policies”.

What should be understood by Criteria and Indicator?


Criteria define the essential factors of forest management against which forest sustainability may be assessed. Each criterion relates to a key management factor which may be described by one or more qualitative, quantitative or descriptive indicators. Criteria describe the different aspects of sustainability at a conceptual level.

A criterion is a characteristic feature or a set of conditions, based on which it is possible to evaluate the various aspects of forestry. A criterion contains a built-in goal to strive for. The evaluation of a criterion is based on evaluation of indicators.


Through measurement and monitoring of selected indicators, the effects of forest management action, or inaction, can be assessed and evaluated and action adjusted to ensure that forest management objectives are more likely to be achieved. Indicators show or reflect the state of art as well as time related changes. They indicate how well each criterion meets the goals set.

Typically an indicator shows a quantitative change. As all aspects of forestry cannot be measured with quantitative indicators, some descriptive indicators have been formulated to reflect the change regarding the legal, institutional and economic policy framework as well as the informational means to implement the policy.

International Processes:

Approximately 150 countries are currently participating in one or more of the nine on­going processes on criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. Over the past years, criteria and indicators processes have helped promote a better understanding of the concept of sustainable forest management.

FAO’s Forestry Department has collaborated with and supported on-going international processes on Criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, namely the – African Timber Organization (ATO) process, Dry forest in Asia process, Dry-Zone Africa process, International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) process, Lepaterique process of Central America, Montreal process, Near East process, Pan-European forest process and Tarapoto proposal for the sustainability of the Amazon forest.

Term Paper # 6. Indian Initiatives for Sustainable Forest Management:

The importance placed on the development and implementation of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management by countries has resulted, during the past several years, in the development of nine separate but conceptually linked initiatives. In all these processes, the definition of sustainability remains virtually the same.

This holds great promise for convergence or mutual recognition, so that over a period of time, a common approach can be used globally to measure progress in sustainable forest management. It was realized to develop sustainable forest management in India, to accomplish establishment of a benchmark for sustainability according to the policy framework.

SFM process was initiated by HFM, Bhopal in 1998 and was christened as ‘Bhopal- India Process’ (B-I). B-I Process identified eight national level criteria and 49 indicators for the sustainable management of dry forests in the region. Participating countries are proceeding with implementation based on a two-year plan of action elaborated during the meeting. The action plan also commits participating countries to seek political and technical support from national forestry authorities for its implementation.

The Asia regional initiative was endorsed by the ‘National Task Force on Sustainable Forest Management’ appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India in November 1999 and IIFM, Bhopal has been designated as nodal agency for operationalizing SFM in India. In order to coordinate sustainable forest management activities in India, SFM Cell has been set up in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. States and Union Territories are in the process of setting up similar cells.

Term Paper # 7. Challenges of Sustainable Forest Management:

Forest management and harvesting is important for the national economy and the livelihoods of many individuals. In a world with an increasing population and consequently increasing consumption of wood products, the important question is therefore: “how can these forests be managed even more effectively than today in order to produce industrial round wood for the benefit of mankind?” The challenge that forestry is currently facing is how to combine this task with demands to preserve a reasonable portion of unaffected forest ecosystems and demands to conserve biodiversity more widely.

Intensive forest management, which may include operations such as site preparation, tree planting (including, the use of genetically improved trees and/or exotic tree species), tending, thinning and fertilizer application, is often criticized as being inconsistent with the goal of achieving an acceptable level of forest biodiversity. However, forest managers argue that a reasonable level of biodiversity can be preserved even if a major portion of the forest is managed intensively as long as these forests are managed in a way that is reasonably environmentally friendly.

Furthermore, even under intensive forest management, some forest areas can be left untouched as reserves for biodiversity conservation. These areas should be selected so that they form a continuous web in the landscape and include ecotypes that are particularly valuable for conserving biodiversity. This relatively new management concept is sometimes called “landscape ecosystem management” or “landscape planning”.

Another approach to sustainable forest management is to practice low intensity forestry. This has lower reforestation and silvicultural costs than the landscape planning approach. It is often based on natural regeneration or some type of selective harvesting system and results in little interference with the natural development of the forest stand. Biologically, this approach may work well in stands that are easily regenerated or stands that contain trees that regenerate well.

If well planned, this approach also has good prospects to satisfy nature conservation objectives and result in minimum damage to valuable ecosystems. However, the long-term consequences of low intensity forest management, particularly concerning future yields of industrial round wood and wood quality, are uncertain and difficult to predict. The validity of this approach as a viable approach to sustainable forest management is, therefore, somewhat questionable.

Term Paper # 8. Constraints to Sustainable Forest Management:

Other than difficulties caused by wars and armed conflicts, which are profound, several constraints frequently recurs in the country profiles. Probably the most important is that the sustainable management of natural tropical forests is less profitable as a land use than other ways of using the land, especially some forms of agriculture, urban development and mining.

As a result, SFM tends to be a low priority for governments and the private sector often lacks incentives to pursue it. In general, tropical timber prices remain relatively low. It is possible that they will increase in the future to better reflect the true cost of production, including the opportunity cost of retaining natural forest, but to date there is no sign of this.

Nevertheless, natural tropical forests are recognized increasingly as a valuable resource at the local, national and global levels, for the ecosystem services they supply. In some countries, payments are being made for such ecosystem services and REDD+ offers a potentially important revenue-generating opportunity for forest owners.

In the long run, the extent of payments for the ecosystem services supplied by tropical forests, made at either the national level or the global level, are likely to play a larger part in determining the fate of the remaining tropical forests. In order for such payments to achieve their potential to impact forest management, constraints related to governance also need to be overcome.

Another constraint to SFM is confusion over ownership. Without the security provided by credible, negotiated arrangements on tenure, SFM is unlikely to succeed. In many countries, resolving disputes over land tenure is not an easy task. But it must be tackled, preferably through a transparent and equitable process, if resource management is ever to become sustainable.

Term Paper # 9. Forest Certification:

Forest certification is a process which results in a written certification being issued by an independent third party, attesting to the location and management status of a forest which is producing timber. The certification is the process of indepen­dent third party verification that forest management has reached the level required by a given standard.

In some cases, when combined with a chain of custody certificate, certification allows products from a particular certified forest area to carry an ecolabel. Ecolabel helps consumers in selecting environmentally friendly products. Certification is a market-based tool that provides the capacity to customers to select the commodities based on their social and environmental concerns.

Forest certification refers to two separate processes viz. Forest Management Unit Certification (FMU) and Chain of Custody Certification (COC). Forest Management Certification is a process which verifies that an area of forest or plantations from where the wood, fiber and other non-timber forest products is extracted is managed to a defined standard. COC certification is a process of tracking forest products from the certified forest to the point of sale to ensure that product originated from a certified forest.

The innovative idea of forest certification was developed during the Parallel NGO Rio meetings in 1992. The concept was to develop a system for certifying and labeling forest and forest products. As a result, a voluntary non-profit organization Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was launched in 1993 with the coalition of Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) for forest certification.

Since then, several forest certification organizations have emerged. Although it is often viewed as an exclusively market-driven tool for sustainable forest management, forest certification actually encourages collaboration, facilitates conflict resolution, builds confidence and trust, promotes partnership and promises a premium price.

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