Item 2(c) of the Provisional Agenda


Villahermosa, Mexico, 16-20 November 1998


Information Note



1.1 National forestry policy

The central objective of Mexico's forestry policy is to further the sustainable use of its forest resources so that their significant production potential can be fully tapped without endangering the social assets and services of forest ecosystems; and so that the sector can play a greater role in the national economy under a model of sustainable use that provides for the generation of employment in forest areas, a broader supply of wood and non-wood products and full integration throughout the forest production chain. The forestry legislation of 20 May 1997 defines the principles underlying this policy.

1.2 Strategies and mechanisms for implementation of forestry policy

The national strategy for the implementation of forestry policy aims at general and regional equilibrium among the economic, social and environmental objectives in order to contain the processes of environmental degradation; promote national land-use planning in which development is compatible with the environmental profile and capacities of each region; make full and sustainable use of natural resources; and safeguard the environment and natural resources by redirecting consumption patterns and ensuring compliance with the law.

1.3 National forest programme or plan

The Programme for Forestry and Soil 1995-2000 introduced in March 1996 is based on a comprehensive and detailed assessment of the evolution and present state of the forestry sector and of the structural problems related to soil degradation and control of desertification. The document establishes objectives and puts forward ten clearly-defined proposals for forestry and soil, with their enabling instruments and respective time frames, to orient programme actions and activities.

The Programme sets out six lines of action intended to strengthen the role of forestry in the economy under a model of sustainable use of forest resources:


2.1 Conversion of forests to other forms of land use and rate of deforestation

Figures from the Periodic National Forest Inventory (INFP) indicate that temperate forests, rainforests and other areas with natural vegetation cover 141.7 million hectares (72% of the national territory). Mexico's total forest area includes 56.8 million hectares (29%) of natural temperate forest and rainforest (53% temperate forest; 47% rainforest).

The causes of deforestation vary by region and type of vegetation. FAO calculations based on the latest INFP figures indicate an estimated annual deforestation of 508 000 hectares. However, a recent comparative analysis of INEGI and INFP mapping indicates an average annual rate of deforestation of 371 000 hectares for the period 1974-1990.

2.2 Fire, pests and disease

In Mexico, the critical season for fires is between March and May. There were 28 719 fires between 1996 and 1998 (9 256 in 1996, 5 161 in 1997 and 14 302 in 1998) affecting 249 000,108 000 and 584 000 hectares respectively.

Forest fires in 1998 were the worst in thirty years. In comparison with the average number during the period 1992-97, the number of fires increased by 99% and the burnt-over area by 222%. As a result, indicators of fire-fighting effectiveness showed an increase on the average damaged area per fire from 20.89 hectares in 1997 to 40.81 hectares in 1998.

Pests and disease are principle causes of degradation of Mexico's temperate and cold-climate forests. A health inspection of 129 forest nurseries was conducted in 1996 and 1997, along with a diagnostic survey of 12.8 million hectares and the control and sanitation of 13 347 hectares of forest land with pest infestation.

2.3 Promoting the sustainable management of natural forests

The agreement establishing the rules of operation for the granting of direct subsidies by the PRODEFOR Forest Development Programme was published in August 1997 to facilitate the transition to sustainability.

In 1997, subsidies totalling 19.1 million pesos were granted through PRODEFOR to natural forest owners, which, together with contributions of 10.1 million from forest operators, makes a total investment of 29.2 million. This should bring 354 000 hectares under forest production and rehabilitate a further 211 000 hectares for production. The programme will also generate 41 000 jobs. For 1998, PRODEFOR will grant a total of 67.1 million pesos of Federal Government funds to continue advancing sustainable management in natural forest areas.

2.4 Development of criteria and indicators for sustainable management

Mexico is one of the twelve countries adhering to the Montreal Process. This Protocol includes a technical panel, with members from each country, working on the uniformity of terms, measurements and approaches so as to standardize the periodic reports that countries are expected to submit on the seven established criteria.

2.5 Establishment of model or demonstration forests

Mexico was the first country to join the International Model Forests Network, in April 1994, with the establishment of two model forests: one in the state of Chihuahua, in a pine forest area; the other in Calakmul in the state of Campeche, in an upland tropical rainforest area.

The third model forest was established in April 1998 in the Monarch Butterfly zone, in the upland temperate forest on the border between the states of Mexico and Michoacán. As for the other model forests, this also has a three year strategic plan.

Mexico attended the seventh and eighth session of the International Model Forests Network, the last session being the first to be held outside the originating country, at the headquarters of the Forest Model of Chihuahua.

2.6 Forest resource inventories or land registers

Mexico has a total land area of 196.7 million hectares, of which 72% are woodland.

Ecosystem Area
(millions of ha)
% of national territory
Temperate forest 30.4 15.5
Rainforest 26.4 13.4
Arid vegetation 58.5 29.7
Wetland and saltmarsh vegetation 4.2 2.1
Disturbed woodland 22.2 11.3
Total woodland 141.7 72.0

The compilation of digitized INFP statistical, map and field sample databases was completed in 1997, along with the zoning of woodland areas and the programme of operation to carry out the forest inventory of the year 2000.


3.1 Forest plantation programmes and incentives

The Federal Government has decided to promote commercial forest plantations as reflected in the recast Forest Law of May 1997 which included important control and guarantee mechanisms for the parties involved. It is also reflected in the Programme for the Development of Commercial Forest Plantations (PRODEPLAN) designed to support the development of 875 000 hectares in the next 25 years by issuing subsidies to cover as much as 65% of start-up costs.

A public competition was held in 1997 for the PRODEPLAN subsidies, resulting in the selction of 17 projects which together will receive 143.7 million pesos for the development of 48 500 hectares: 31 000 for pulp products and 17 500 for wood products. The principal outcomes anticipated from this first stage are:

Annual timber production 1 million m3 roundwood
Direct and indirect jobs 4 850
Annual income from sale of raw materials 235 million pesos
Area under conservation 7 275 hectares

3.2 Forest plantation inventories or land registers

The Periodic National Forest Inventory conducted in 1994 identified a forest plantation area of 63 251 hectares. A further 64 500 hectares were planted in 1996-1997, 48 500 with support from PRODEPLAN.


4.1 Completed or ongoing institutional restructuring

The Secretariat of the Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries (SEMARNAP) was set up in December 1994, with its subsidiary Undersecretariat of Natural Resources responsible for the protection, promotion, conservation, rehabilitation, juridical regulation and sustainable use of forest resources. The Undersecretariat includes the General Directorates of Forestry, Soil Restoration and Conservation, Maritime Land Federal Zone and the National Programme of Reforestation.

The period 1996 to 1998 was one of successful consolidation and integration as shown by the forestry economic indicators.

4.2 Funding of the forestry institutions

Most of the operating funds for the Undersecretariat of Natural Resources come from Federal Government fiscal revenues; 476.9 million pesos for 1996 and 1997 together (146.3 million in 1996 and 330.6 million in 1997). In 1997, PRODEFOR received 23 million and PRODEPLAN 250 million.

4.3 Forest research institutions

Important institutions involved in forestry research in Mexico include the National Institute of Agricultural and Forest Research; the Institute of Pulp and Paper of the University of Guadalajara; the Institute of Biology of the Autonomous National University of Mexico; and the Forest Programme of the Post-graduate College of Chapingo.


5.1 Harvest, processing and use of wood and non-wood products

Mexico has a total area with commercial timber potential of some 22 million hectares, of which only 7.1 million (33%) are currently managed. Tapping the whole area would produce about 30 million m3 of timber, 375% more than at present.

A total of 7.7 million m3 of roundwood were produced in 1997. The sawmill industry took 73% of raw materials, pulp 16%, boards 4% and the remaining 7% was used for poles or fuelwood. In the same year, non-wood forest production, excluding extraction from forest land, amounted to 43 761 tons.

5.2 Forest industries

In 1996 the industry comprised 1 983 mills with an installed capacity of 13.7 million cubic metres of roundwood (mm3r). The figure for 1997 was 14% higher at 2 266 mills with an installed capacity of 16.4 mm3r (+18%).

5.3 Volume and value of national trade in forest products

A total of 7.7 million cubic metres of roundwood were produced from national forest land in 1997. At current prices, the value raw materials output stood at 2 783 million pesos.

Forestry sector GDP was 16 543 million pesos in 1997 - up 5.6% from 15 670 million in 1996. The forestry sector contributed 1.2% of national GDP valued at 1 384 824 million pesos.

5.4 Volume and value of international trade in forest products

There was a forest commodity trade deficit of US$967 million in 1997, 24% more than the deficit of US$718 million in 1996. This was mainly due to the import of pulp products for US$463 million in 1997 against US$377 million in 1996.

The external trade figures indicate that an import volume equivalent of 9.5 million m3r in 1997, against an export equivalent volume of 1.5 million m3r, similar to sales in 1996.

5.5 Environmental considerations and certification of forest products

In addition to wood and non-wood commodities, Mexico's temperate and rain forests also provide society with important environmental assets and services, including water for urban areas and agriculture, soil fertility and regional and global climatic stability.

As regards the certification of forest products, Mexico has drawn up legal requirements for the sustainable management of harvested forest resources.

5.6 Financial and economic valuation of forests and their inclusion in the national accounts

Mexico has an estimated 22 million hectares with potential for timber production, with an estimated total volume of 2 800 million m3 of timber: 1 800 million from temperate forests, which have the production potential; and 1 000 million from rainforests which can produce high-value goods for the international market.

The overall annual increase in temperate forests, which account for 95% of industrial timber supply, is calculated at 25.2 million m3r, with an estimated 13.5 million m3 in the tropical rainforests, making an annual total of 38.7 million m3. The total value of this forest output (solely industrial timber) could amount to over 5 000 million dollars each year, which works out at an average income per hectare of 200 to 250 dollars.

Temperate forests, rainforests and other areas with natural vegetation are also important to society as they provide key environmental assets and services, such as carbon sequestration, watershed conservation, tourism and recreation, potential pharmaceutical and food products and genetic resources. The annual value of the services produced by Mexico's forests and woodlands is estimated at US$ 13 677 million, which averages out at US$ 244 per hectare. However this contribution needs to be acknowledged and taken into account.

5.7 Wildlife, recreation and tourism

In addition to their biological riches, Mexico's forest ecosystems offer suitable environmental conditions for numerous visiting or resident wildlife species; for example the monarch butterfly which migrates from the United States and Canada and depends on the Mexican forests of Oyamel to winter and complete its life cycle.

The country's better-known eco-tourism areas include the Monarch Butterfly area in the state of Michoacán; El Triunfo, Palenque, Montes Azules and Bonampak in Chiapas; Sian Ka'an in Quintana Roo; La Barranca del Cobre y Lago Arareco in Chihuahua. A recreational tourism vocation needs to be developed in forest areas with such potential.


6.1 Mechanisms of consultation and of forest programme planning and implementation, with the inclusion of indigenous cultures

The Forest National Consultative Technical Council presently serves as the SEMARNAP's advisory body and is made up of representatives of all relevant parties who participate in a process of open and transparent consultation to advise the Secretariat on decisions related to policies and strategies for the protection, conservation, rehabilitation, use and sustainable development of forest land and to evaluation and monitor implementation of the Programme for Forestry and Soil 1995-2000.


7.1 Impact of climatic factors such as El Niño on forests

In 1998, the El Niño phenomenon contributed towards the 14 302 forest fires that broke out in Mexico over a total area of 583 664 hectares (27% woodland, equivalent to 0.28% of the country's forest area).

In 1997, El Niño was especially destructive in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero where Hurricane Pauline devastated some 70 000 hectares of low-lying rainforest and pine and evergreen oak woodlands.

7.2 Establishment and management of protected wildlife areas

Mexico has a National System of Protected Areas (SINAP) which seeks to conserve and protect the country's diversity of wildlife and ecosystem. It has a network of 286 protected natural areas under various forms of management and together covering some 40% of the national territory.


8.1 Agreements and conventions

Mexico has forest-related technical and scientific links with the following countries: Germany, with five community forestry development projects in tropical forests in Quintana Roo; Canada, with three development and community participation projects in Campeche, Chihuahua and Michoacán; United States, with eight forest and soil development and conservation projects; Finland, for rehabilitation; Japan, with one forest development project in Oaxaca; United Kingdom, with three community forest development projects in Oaxaca, Jalisco and Quintana Roo; Spain, with a fellowship programme; Guatemala, with an agreement to stop the trafficking of forest products; Belize, with a cooperation agreement for the management of protected areas; Cuba, with technical and scientific exchange for sustainable development; and with El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama through the Tuxtla II agreement on cooperation on forests and renewable resources.

8.2 Activities related to international, intergovernmental and non-governmental forest initiatives

In 1996 and 1997, Mexico was actively involved in the discussions on the National Forest Programmes which are being implemented under the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests; in various meetings convened by the Convention on Biological Diversity to prepare the Protocol on Biodiversity; and in the meetings of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. In 1997, an Ad Hoc Group on Forests was set up under CITES with Mexico represented by INE, PROFEPA and CONABIO 1; it also attended the first meeting of the International Convention to Combat Desertification and offered to host the headquarters of the implementation mechanism for Latin America and the Caribbean.

8.3 Technical cooperation

Mexico has received FAO financial support under trilateral and multilateral cooperation schemes from the following technical cooperation projects:

Mexico attended this year's Twentieth Session of the LACFC, coordinated by FAO, in Havana, Cuba, and, in 1996, the Tenth Session of the Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


INE: Instituto Nacional de Ecología

PROFEPA: Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente.

CONABIO: Comisión Nacional de Biodiversidad.