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How do you define sustainable forest management?

LISTENING STUDY: First, Maureen Smith provides one framing to show why sustainable forest management is even a question.

[There] is a fundamental dichotomy in the ways in which the subjects of forests and timber have come to be viewed. The modern business of cutting down trees cannot be unequivocally described as either a renewable agricultural industry or as an extractive industry (like mining or oil production) where the original resource is not considered renewable. As historically and currently practiced, timber production has characteristics of both. In essential respects the distinction between the two is well described by the difference (as the saying goes) between the forest and the trees. At one extreme, for example, the large-scale clear-cutting of old-growth and other late successional forests is clearly an essentially irreversible extractive process. No one has proposed that we can deliberately recreate them in all their complexity once they are gone, and the time scales of natural regeneration to a mature forest ecosystem are in any case measured in centuries. The process of natural regeneration further implies an absence or subtlety of human presence over such significant periods of time that its prospects are difficult to entertain for the future.
     At the same time . . . although plantations have much in common with conventional agricultural crops, they have very little - except trees - in common with forests. . . .
     The traditional practice of timber production in the United States, often referred to as timber mining, has been slowly and unevenly transitioning to the practice of sustainable timber production or sustainable yield in recent decades. . . . More lately these concepts have begun to give way to new attempts to define sustainable forest management. . . . - Maureen Smith 1997

LISTENING STUDY: Some responses, including unified comments from representatives of the paper industry, reference sustained yield concepts.

Sustainable forestry can be defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs by practicing a land stewardship ethic that integrates the reforestation, managing, growing, nurturing and harvesting of trees for useful products with the conservation of soil, air and water quality, biological diversity, wildlife and aquatic habitat, recreation and aesthetics. - American Forest and Paper Association

Sustainable forest management can be defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs by practicing a land stewardship ethic that integrates the reforestation, managing, growing, nurturing and harvesting of trees for useful products with the conservation of soil, air and water quality, biological diversity, wildlife and aquatic habitat, recreation and aesthetics. - Stora Enso

A sustainable forest is one that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable forestry is the practice of a land stewardship ethic that integrates reforestation, managing, growing, nurturing and harvesting of trees for useful products with the conservation of soil, air and water quality, biological diversity, wildlife and aquatic habitat, recreation and aesthetics. - International Paper

Sustainable forest management: forest management that produces goods for the present without compromising the productive capability and biological integrity on which future generations will depend. - Northern Forest Alliance 1999

Principles of Sustainability:
a) maintenance of soil productivity,
b) conservation of water quality, wetlands, and riparian zones,
c) maintenance or creation of a healthy balance of forest age classes,
d) continuous flow of timber, pulpwood, and other forest products,
e) improvement of the overall quality of the timber resource as a foundation for more value-added opportunities,
f) addressing scenic quality by limiting adverse aesthetic impacts of forest harvesting, particularly in high elevation areas and vistas,
g) conservation and enhancement of habitats that support a full range of native flora and fauna,
h) protection of unique or fragile natural areas,
i) continuation of opportunities for traditional recreation.
Sustainable forestry: Forest management practices for which the outcome will be sustained yield. - Northern Forest Lands Council 1994

LISTENING STUDY: Other responses highlight ecological integrity when defining sustainable forest management.

Sustainable forest management can be defined as active forest stewardship that meets human needs without compromising the ecological integrity of forest ecosystems. - Michael Snyder, Forester

To manage forests in a way that maintains their natural value. Any extraction of resources and any intrusions of roads can be harmful. Cautious approaches to determine the ecological impacts of any intrusion or extraction should be assessed. - Frank Locantore, Co-op America

Sustainable forest management: management regimes applied to forestland that maintain the productive and renewal capacities as well as the genetic, species and ecological diversity of forest ecosystems. - United States Forest Service

In a nutshell, the Silva Forest Foundation defines sustainable forest management as that which maintains ecological integrity at all spatial and temporal scales. We have defined sustainable forest management through our standards developed for obtaining accredited certifier status under the Forest Stewardship Council. Documents can be found on our web site: - Susan Hammond, Executive Director, Silva Forest Foundation

Sustainable forest management means protecting all values of the forest -- not just timber production, but also water quality, wildlife habitat, preservation of natural forest ecosystems and conservation of biodiversity. - Victoria Mills, Project Manager, Corporate Partnerships, Environmental Defense

LISTENING STUDY: Many responses include social, economic, and ecological components.

Sustainable forest management is the process of managing a forest 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. - International Tropical Timber Organization

Forest resources and forest lands should be sustainably managed to meet the social, economic, ecological, cultural and spiritual needs of present and future generations. These 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 air-borne pollution, fires, pests and diseases, in order to maintain their full multiple value. - United Nations General Assembly 1992

Sustainable forest management is management that maintains and enhances the long-term health of forest ecosystems for the benefit of all living things while providing environmental, economic, social and cultural opportunities for present and future generations. - Natural Resources Canada

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, ranging from actions aimed at safeguarding and maintaining the forest ecosystem and its functions, to favoring specific socially or economically valuable species or groups of species for the improved production of goods and services. 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. - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 1993

National-level criteria of sustainable forest management focus on the following globally agreed elements: extent of forest resources; biological diversity; forest health and vitality; productive functions of forests; protective functions of forests; socio-economic benefits and needs; legal, policy and institutional framework. The indicators vary widely among initiatives owing to differences in forest types and environmental, social, political and cultural conditions. - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2000

Sustainable forest management (sustainable forestry): the stewardship and use of forests and forestlands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality, and 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. - Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe 1993

Criteria for sustainable forestry include:
(a) conservation of biological diversity,
(b) maintenance of productive capacity of forest ecosystems,
(c) maintenance of forest ecosystem health and vitality,
(d) conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources,
(e) maintenance of forest contributions to global carbon cycles,
(f) maintenance and enhancement of long-term, multiple socioeconomic benefits to meet the needs of societies, and
(g) a legal, institutional, and economic framework for forest conservation and sustainable management. - Montreal Process 1995

I define "sustainable forestry" as:
     a) management, protection, and restoration that maintains natural forest ecosystems, remaining wild areas, clean water, abundant and well-distributed populations of all native species, other biological components and ecosystem processes of natural forests, long-term productivity for timber and non-timber forest products, and other ecosystem services, while
     b) allowing for forest resource extraction and development that is compatible with (a), and while
     c) promoting social equity, including among present and future generations, and amongst different economic beneficiaries.
In the U.S., wood and paper companies, as well as some non-industrial forest landowners and state trust lands, need to generate economic returns from their forests. Even the most "balanced" commercial forest management is unlikely to fully sustain all forest values, including wilderness, or species which need extensive intact and mature forests. However, we can -- and must -- move towards much greater sustainability on private and other non-federal forests in the U.S.
Thus I define "well-managed forests" as forests where resource protection, restoration, and management is as sustainable as possible, relative to my definition of "sustainable forestry," given: a) ecological, social, and economic contexts for the forest in question, and b) opportunities for using more sustainable forest management practices. In the U.S., the social and economic context for forestry differs most significantly amongst land ownership types. For example, the public expects National Forests and other federal public lands to be managed in the public interest, and along with forest products, to provide old growth ecosystems, wilderness, and other values that are less realistic to expect from private ownerships. - Daniel Hall, Forest Biodiversity Program Director, American Lands Alliance

Sustainable forest management maintains native biodiversity and natural processes of the forest ecosystem, is financially feasible for the landowner, and is socially acceptable. - Robert R. Bryan, Forest Ecologist, Maine Audubon

There is nothing better about old trees than young trees. Perhaps the ideal state is to have forests of all ages - young, medium and old - across the landscape. This will provide the highest diversity of habitats and therefore an opportunity for the largest number of species to live in that landscape. - Transcript from Trees Are the Answer, video hosted by Dr. Patrick Moore, Green Spirit, 2001

LISTENING STUDY: Maureen Smith again, suggesting that assuring sustainability in our forests, especially if we mix in economic aspects, is not so simple as we might wish.

Although the value of timber as a commodity can be measured, forests cannot be similarly deconstructed into simple economic terms despite the best efforts of diligent resource economists. Increasingly in recent years, there have been theoretical attempts to quantify present and future values of forest biodiversity, the value of (poorly understood) "ecosystem services" such as climate and watershed regulation, as well as the amenity (recreational) and even religious and cultural values of forests. Not surprisingly, such attempts have failed to do more than suggest the vast dimensions of our ignorance. . . .
     The debates over forests and timber and over associated public and industry policies have . . . to be understood to turn largely on whether one views (or at least portrays) the modern business of timber production as an extractive industry or as a renewable industry. One can quickly turn, for example, from a literature of heartbreaking images and vehement denunciations of the rape of the forests to mainstream forest industry publications that cheerfully announce "we're planting faster than we're cutting." The problem is that what they have been planting often bears only a trivial relationship to what they have eliminated. The jargon of agriculture, with its overtones of cyclical renewability, is pervasive in discussions of timber resources. . . . This masks, however, what has substantially been and continues to be an unrenewable, essentially extractive process of destruction - at best a simplification and shallow mimicry of the structural, functional, and genetic diversity of healthy forest ecosystems. - Maureen Smith 1997

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