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The need for environmental planning is being increasingly recognized in developing countries. Costly degradation of the environment as a result of ill-conceived projects in the past has provided an impetus for this. At the same time, international funding agencies are becoming more concerned with environmental considerations in project planning and evaluation. As a result, Environmental Impact Assessment is gradually taking its place in the decision-making process, alongside cost-benefit analysis and technical evaluation. Unlike traditional environmental norms which concentrate on limiting the extent of the damage which has already occurred, Environmental Impact Assessment methods are instruments of environmental policy through which possible negative environmental effects of organized human actions can be analysed in advance, and hopefully prevented.

It can be expected that the environmental dimension will receive growing attention in the development of projects for the utilization of the resources of forest ecosystems. These guidelines, published within the series of the FAO Conservation Guides, attempt specifically to propagate experience gained in the environmental assessment of forestry projects. Notwithstanding the recognized advantages of Environmental Impact Assessment methods, their introduction, particularly in developing countries, raises a number of difficulties. However, these difficulties should not be exaggerated and in this respect the attention of the reader is drawn to section 1.3.2 of the publication.

We gratefully acknowledge the services of R.C. Zimmermann, the consultant who prepared the guidelines. Thanks are also due to the many persons who reviewed early drafts of the document. It is our hope that planners and practitioners in the developing world will find this work of practical value and we will welcome their comments and suggestions for its improvement.

J. Prats Llauradó
Forest Resources Division
Forestry Department

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