Yayoi Fujita, Thoumthone Vongvisouk,
and Somvilay Chanthaleunnavong
Name of forest:
Dong Phou Xoy Production Forest/Dong Sithouane Production Forest
Dong Phou Xoy, Khammouane Province/Dong Sithouane, Savannakhet Province
115 000 (Phou Xoy); 212 000 (Sithouane)
District agriculture and forestry offices and village forestry associations
Multiple use, sustainable livelihoods
For centuries, the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) was known for its abundant forest resources. In the past 60 years, however, forest cover has dwindled dramatically - from more than 80 percent in 1930 to 54 percent in 2000. According to the national Science, Technology and Environment Agency, forest area continues to decline at a rate of 300 000 hectares per year. Timber and wood account for approximately 40 percent of national export revenues, constituting a critical part of the country's economy.
Shifting cultivation and land clearing for permanent agriculture are the main causes of deforestation. Poor logging practices further contribute to forest degradation. Management challenges include weak planning capabilities, poor harvesting practices and a lack of monitoring capacity.
Forest Management and Conservation Programme
In the midst of increasing environmental awareness, the government has implemented several initiatives since the early 1990s - to encourage conservation and to promote sustainable forest management in state-owned production forests. One such programme, the Forest Management and Conservation Programme (FOMACOP), was initiated in 1995 to promote sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation with the active involvement of local authorities. Particular focus was given to involving provincial and district agriculture and forestry offices and local villagers. The World Bank, the Government of Finland, the Global Environment Facility and the Lao Government together provided US$20.3 million for FOMACOP implementation.
FOMACOP commenced in January 1995, with a planned duration of 10 to 15 years. A central project office was established in the Department of Forestry, which administered two subprogrammes. The Forest Management Sub-Programme (FMSP) focused on "village forestry" in production forests. The National Biodiversity Conservation Area Management Sub-Programme supported the sustainable management of national reserve forests. The two subprogrammes were operated at the field level through project offices located at the Provincial Agriculture and Forestry offices in Savannakhet and Khammouane provinces.
In 1997, the FMSP commenced its field operations in two central provinces. FMSP activities covered 327 000 hectares of forests, previously designated as Provincial Production Forest under a forest survey conducted in 1989 by the National Office of Forest Inventory Project. The forested area is situated west of the Annamite Range along the Mekong Plain. The area, with an annual average rainfall of 1 450 millimetres, was covered originally by lowland semi-evergreen forest, with extensive areas of dry dipterocarp forest, and mixed deciduous forest.
The majority of the population in the region is classified into two main ethnolinguistic groups - Mon Khmer and Tai Kadai. The main livelihood is agriculture, primarily paddy cultivation in association with swidden farming, cash cropping and livestock husbandry.
The FMSP had an overall objective of working to institutionalize "village forestry" as a core national forest management strategy.
The concept of village forestry or village-based forest management launched a major policy debate in Lao PDR regarding decentralization of production forest management - from state-owned to locally owned and managed forests. Village forestry essentially means local communities take the lead in managing the forest in partnership with district and provincial foresters. The rights of villagers to manage and utilize forest resources are recognized legally. Villagers become active participants in resource management planning processes and village district authorities, rather than provincial authorities, make decisions regarding forest resource use. This is a major change from the past when all management decisions related to production forests were made by state and provincial forestry enterprises. Such forestry enterprises typically promoted wasteful, large-scale commercial logging that generated few benefits and little income for local people. Village forestry consequently introduced a significant and innovative change in philosophy to encourage the sustainable management of production forests by local people.
The FMSP focused on legitimizing the local management of forests as well as strengthening the villagers' ability to manage resources. The FMSP trained core groups of local villagers (the koum kaen sane or Village Forest Management Groups) on forest inventory and survey techniques and the principles of sustained-yield management based on a 5- to 10-year harvesting cycle. The koum kaen sane consisted of up to 15 volunteers from a given village, with literacy generally being a prerequisite to membership. The koum kaen sane were largely informal units organized within the village and trained in forest management during the first year of the FMSP.
Participatory field training provides opportunities for strengthening local capacities (courtesy Patrick Dugan).
Following initial activities, the FMSP encouraged the conversion of the koum kaen sane into Village Forest Associations (VFAs), which were based on formal membership, and therefore could be officially recognized by both district and provincial authorities. VFAs were required to develop long-term resource use and management plans based on the production capacity of the forest. Management rules and procedures for monitoring their forests were also put into place.
The FMSP also encouraged economic independence for villages by introducing a "village fund" established with profits earned from timber sales. The VFA decided how the village fund would be utilized contingent on final approval by district authorities, including the district governor. In most instances, village funds were used to develop roads, schools, small-scale irrigation systems or to provide community services.
To implement forest management activities, local people were hired not only as labourers, but were also key decision makers in the management process. Villagers were involved in forest boundary delineation, forest inventory and survey, resource-use planning, drafting of rules and forest monitoring. The emphasis on decentralized forest management is best illustrated in the underpinning motto of the FMSP: "Whoever manages decides. Whoever decides plans. Whoever plans collects the necessary information."
Village Forestry Associations in Dong Sithouane and Dong Phou Xoy
In 1995, the FMSP initiated activities in Dong Sithouane in Savannakhet Province. Dong Sithouane covers an area of 212 000 hectares encompassing 85 villages in two districts. The initial activities of the FMSP in Dong Sithouane involved 10 villages that were grouped together into 6 koum kaen sane. These groups were provided with basic training in forest survey and inventory, management planning and sustainable logging techniques during the first year of operations. They worked closely with district foresters and staff from the Production Forest Unit of the provincial forest department.
The FMSP commenced activities in Dong Phou Xoy in Khammouane Province in 1996. This forest covers a total area of 115 000 hectares, including 73 villages in three districts. In Dong Phou Xoy, an initial 13 villages formed ten koum kaen sane.
"As the name suggests, we started to work with a small core group of villagers to train them in forest management techniques. In a way, it was just like nurturing a seed (kaen sane) to grow a tree," explained Bounoum Vilaysone, from the Production Forest Unit of Khammouane Province.
In 1996, an additional 23 villages were incorporated into FMSP activities in Dong Sithouane. During the course of the year, the koum kaen sane were transformed into VFAs, which had broader membership among villagers. The formation of VFAs broadened the forest management responsibilities of local communities
- beyond forest surveys and logging timber - to include requirements for preparing forest management plans and developing rules for access and management of forests, as well as implementing more extensive monitoring activities. Following the harvesting of timber, VFAs managed revenues from timber sales and invested these in village social services. By the end of the second year of the project, 23 VFAs had been established in Dong Sithouane while, in Dong Phou Xoy, the original 10 koum kaen sane had also been transformed into VFAs.
Training on tree marking for local forestry officers and villagers (courtesy Patrick Dugan)
Not another government plan?
"When the project first approached us," a villager from Bakkhumkham Village in Dong Sithouane noted, "we were suspicious that it was just another plan to log our timber."
However, observing the development of the koum kaen sane and that profits accruing from timber sales actually returned to villages and were used for community development, the villager was convinced: "This could be a good way to manage our forest and actually bring benefits to our village," he acknowledged.
Other villagers in both Dong Sithouane and Dong Phou Xoy expressed similar views regarding the benefits of VFAs.
VFAs were organized on the basis of membership. Each member paid a membership fee of approximately US$0.75 upon registration. Members were eligible to participate in activities organized by the VFA such as forest inventory and survey, forest protection, monitoring and logging. Members who participated in these activities were paid by the VFA. In addition, VFA members collectively decided how to manage their forest and how to use the village fund.
Bounoum Vilaysone confirmed that village forestry facilitated close relationships between local foresters and villagers. "We conducted forest surveys and forest inventories together with a group of trained villagers. We also checked regularly with each village to monitor how each VFA was functioning," he elaborated.
Planning for sustainable forest management
Commercial logging was previously based on short-term profits for the companies, often at the cost of forest degradation in the village.
"When logging companies left the villages they would often leave vast areas of disturbed forest. We had no control over our forests," reported a member of the Xome Village VFA.
Another member of the same VFA said that they could not object to commercial logging under the old system because it was decided by the village leader who signed an official document with the private company.
Even foresters working at the provincial level had little say over the political decisions that allocated logging quotas to private companies. Furthermore, while the Forest Law (1996) obliged logging companies to undertake reforestation and rehabilitation, it was very rare that a company complied with this requirement and the provincial and district forestry offices did not enforce it.
The FMSP encouraged low-intensity and low-impact logging on a 5- to 10 year felling cycle. Low-intensity logging required a minimum of 25 metres between selected trees and excluded trees located within 30 metres of a stream. There was also a requirement to leave at least 10 seed trees per hectare. In addition, the FMSP facilitated active involvement of villagers in developing forest management plans. A series of training workshops developed villagers' organizational skills and strengthened the sense of mutual responsibility for forest resources in each village.
Bounoum Vilaysone worked closely with members of the VFAs in Khammouane Province and witnessed, first hand, the way that a sense of responsibility - for managing forests effectively - gradually increased among the members of the Dong Phou Xoy VFA. Several VFAs also entered into negotiations with outside resource users.
"It was interesting," Mr Bounoum observed, "that private companies were only half-joking in complaining to me that FOMACOP villages were tough to negotiate with - and that the companies could no longer operate commercial logging as freely as before in these villages."
The environmental benefits of the forest management introduced by village forestry were apparent to observers. "The kind of forest management encouraged by the Forest Management Sub-Programme took time and cost money, but it had much less impact on the environment," said Mr Bounoum. "Sustained-yield management required patience, but it mitigated forest degradation," he added.
The villagers who established VFAs in Dong Sithouane and Dong Phou Xoy noticed a marked decrease in forest degradation by the commercial logging operations of both private companies and state enterprises following the development of village-based management plans.
One of the important challenges arising from village forestry was devising an equitable way to share profits from sustainable harvesting between the VFAs and respective provincial and district forest offices. A system was developed whereby net profits (i.e. after deduction of royalties and taxes) were shared, with the local VFA receiving approximately 43 percent of the profit, and the rest being divided among various gover nment agencies to compensate for administrative costs incurred during the facilitation of village-based forest management.
From the VFA share of profits, people who contributed labour to manage the forest were allocated a 10 percent share as a wage. The remaining money was pooled as a village fund. Redistribution of profits from timber sales was perceived by the members of the VFA as the greatest benefit of village forestry. With the introduction of a village fund, the profits accrued to the village and benefited a wide range of villagers in a tangible way. VFA members were generally content to see financial benefits returning to their village and not to particular individuals.
"In the past, when private companies came to log our timber, only the village head and those that were hired as labourers gained benefits," indicated a member of Xome Village VFA in Dong Phou Xoy. "The village fund gave us more autonomy to decide and initiate activities within the village without waiting for government assistance."
Box 1. Kengkhen Village, Dong Phou Xoy
The village forestry concept was introduced to Kengkhen Village in 1996. In the following year, a VFA was formed to manage approximately 500 hectares in the local vicinity, and nine villagers were selected to join forest management training organized by the FMSP.
The Kengkhen VFA worked to develop a forest management plan based on a five-year felling cycle. In 2001, the village carried out its first scheduled harvest and earned US$5 100. In the following year, the VFA opted, on advice from district foresters, to forfeit harvests in the areas designated as second and third year harvest plots due to inadequate forest density.
The VFA used the profits from the first sales of timber to provide credit to households with limited areas of paddy fields. New forestry legislation prohibited expansion of swidden lands (i.e. land for shifting cultivation), and it became essential for households to secure permanent agricultural land and diversify their livelihood basis. However, the majority of the households lacked financial resources to clear and convert forest into agricultural land.
Almost three-quarters of the village households borrowed from the village fund (at a nominal interest rate) to convert degraded forest lands into paddy fields. As a result, the proportion of households experiencing rice shortages decreased from 47 percent to five percent. It also enabled diversification into new livelihood opportunities. For example, Bounpheng Phommasing, the head of Kengkhen VFA, began to cultivate cash crops such as corn, peanuts and chilli peppers on his new agricultural land. Increased income and access to village credit also allowed his family to expand its agricultural activities into cattle raising.
Lessons from village forestry
The village forestry model triggered two main developments in villages that established VFAs:
1. The development of village-based sustainable forest management plans. Through village forestry, villagers gradually organized themselves and became accountable for implementing sustainable forest management. Resource boundaries were delineated and management responsibility was institutionalized. The development of VFAs also encouraged villagers to decide ways to manage forests collectively and to establish enforceable rules.
2. Villagers were empowered through recognition of their rights to access and use resources as well as through their management decisions. Where previously private companies and state enterprises had conducted unregulated commercial logging, villagers were now able to negotiate the terms of intervention with outside resource users.
An additional benefit of the village forestry approach was that local resource management authorities were able to establish formal collaborative relationships with the villagers.
"Through the Forest Management Sub-Programme, we were encouraged to work with villagers who knew more about their forest," commented Bounoum Vilaysone. "This close working relationship with the villagers helped us to overcome the constraints imposed by shortages of staff working on village forestry activities," he added.
Furthermore, village solidarity was strengthened through the development of VFAs, which provided a mechanism for villagers to approach local forest degradation as a village problem.
Villagers who joined VFAs had their rights to access and use resources protected and also profited from the tangible financial benefits resulting from timber sales and the village fund. When a decision was made to develop village infrastructure, villagers offered their labour, which strengthened the sense of kwaam saamakkhi or solidarity.
Shortfalls and weaknesses
Although village forestry highlighted the potential of sustainable forest management by local communities, it also raised concerns regarding equity, overlapping resource tenures, replication to other villages and compatibility with central government policy. A major concern was the disparity in forest allocations among villages in production forests.
"The system benefited villages with greater access to forests, while other villages with limited access benefited little from the system," indicated Bounchan Xayphannha, Deputy Director of the Forestry Office in Khammouane Province. "The benefits of village forestry were also greater for those villages with access to roads and to markets."
These disparities occurred due to the size of forest allocations, as well as the differing quality of forests. Villages that had access only to degraded forests received few benefits from establishing VFAs.
The delineation of boundaries in village forestry sometimes created conflicts between neighbouring villages that customarily had shared resources. Despite boundary delineation, villages in both Dong Sithouane and Dong Phou Xoy continued to face problems of forest degradation caused by encroachment and illegal logging.
"After the delineation of village boundaries, disputes between neighbouring villages emerged as we customarily used forest resources together in the past," said a leader of the Bakkhumkham VFA in Dong Sithouane. It proved particularly difficult to apply village forestry concepts beyond VFA villages.
Bounoum Vilaysone insisted that it was difficult to replicate village forestry in other villages located within Dong Phou Xoy without continued financial and technical assistance from external resources.
The profit distribution mechanism devised under the FMSP during its first phase allowed Mr Bounoum's office to continue basic forest surveys and extension support in ten villages after the termination of FOMACOP's first phase in 1999. However, limited financial resources to manage production forest also meant that some areas of production forest once again became subject to unregulated commercial logging.
There was also uncertainty over government support for village forestry. Villagers were concerned over fluctuating timber prices and possible revision of profit-sharing arrangements. A number of villages had to draw from the village fund to cover delays in distribution of the previous year's profits by the government. A World Bank Evaluation Mission identified substantial problems in the forestry sector - including lack of adequate supporting legislation and policy measures that inhibited the smooth implementation of the village forestry management model.
Genesis of SUFORD
FOMACOP's project cycle ended in 2001, but the lessons from the programme were not about to be lost. At the same time that FOMACOP was terminated, the design phase of a new project, SUFORD (Sustainable Forestry for Rural Development Project), was initiated.
Mr Manny Bonita, who helped to draft the SUFORD project document explained: "SUFORD is based on the experiences in community-based forest management started by FOMACOP." The project goals and objectives of FOMACOP/FMSP and SUFORD are fundamentally the same and most of the key elements, approaches, activities, and methodologies being planned and implemented in SUFORD are inspired by and adapted from FOMACOP. The salient features of FOMACOP which are incorporated in SUFORD project planning and implementation include:
Participatory forest management, including roles of forestry staff and organized villagers in forest management, spelled out in the forest management agreement, and benefit sharing.
Training and capacity building through a "pyramid approach" in training. Training includes a series of combined classroom and on-the-job learning starting from training of provincial trainers and district extension workers through to training of villagers in field applications and other work jointly carried out by forestry extension workers and village teams.
The FOMACOP Village Forestry Handbook and Training Manual are being used by SUFORD as key references in drawing up the necessary implementation guidelines and training materials on participatory sustainable forest management.
SUFORD has, however, expanded and elaborated several key aspects of the FOMACOP programme. Most importantly, SUFORD is a project designed to help institutionalize participatory sustainable forest management through project implementation covering initially eight areas in four provinces, but eventually nationwide. SUFORD also covers more activity components compared with FOMACOP, including sectoral policy reform, preparation of forest management guidelines and procedures, strengthening forest management capacity, improving participatory mechanisms and strengthening monitoring and control. Village development is already an integral part of the SUFORD project design and implementation, unlike FOMACOP where village development became a focus only towards the end of the project, to demonstrate that forestry could truly be a "vehicle for rural development."
Mr Edwin Payuan, Participatory Forestry Adviser to SUFORD, summarized the comparison between the two projects: "SUFORD is perhaps best understood as a vehicle for institutionalizing and propagating on a massive scale, the sustainable forest management approaches, techniques and approaches developed under FOMACOP."
FOMACOP has made a significant contribution in highlighting the opportunities and constraints in decentralizing production forest management in Lao PDR. The project also highlighted the need to improve mechanisms that allow local authorities to work in close collaboration with villagers in managing forest resources. Unlike several other Asian countries where violent conflicts have broken out over control of natural resources, decentralized forest management in Lao PDR has been carried out without significant upheaval. The government has also displayed considerable willingness to devolve management responsibilities to local authorities and villages.
Parisak Pravongviengkham, editor of A national advocacy for a holistic and decentralized approach to forest management in Lao PDR (2000), argues that current government efforts to decentralize forest management need to aim at improving the managerial capacities of local communities to use resources based on the characteristics of traditional collectives. This signifies that - beyond recognition of legal rights to use resources - decentralized forest management in Lao PDR requires organizational capacity building at village levels, including the development of local enterprises and capital formation to undertake new ventures.
The experience with the village forestry model has led the government to develop new legislation that underlines procedures for community-based forest management in production forests. Prime Ministerial Decree No. 59, issued in 2002, stipulates the need to establish Village Forest Organizations (similar to VFAs) that will design and implement forest management plans together with district foresters and government offices. While the scope for participation and distribution of benefits depends on terms of negotiation in each case, the concept recognizes the responsibilities of local communities - as well as claims for financial returns to communities, are commensurate with management efforts. The existence of this clearer and specific enabling policy for participatory sustainable forest management is allowing SUFORD to promote participatory sustainable forest management at a wider scale than during the era of FOMACOP. A close perusal of new laws and regulations relating to sustainable forest management in Lao PDR reveals that many of the approaches, techniques and practices espoused by FOMACOP are being embraced.
The concept of community-based management of production forests is also supported in the government's Forestry Strategy to the Year 2020 of the Lao PDR. Given the financial and human resource constraints that hamper government forestry agencies, greater involvement of local communities in resource management appears to be a practical choice for Lao PDR. However, as the experiences in Dong Sithouane and Dong Phou Xoy have shown, strengthening local resource management capacity requires additional financial resources as well as technical services provided by the local authorities. In addition, to ensure long-term sustainable forest management, the legitimacy of local people's rights to access and utilize forest resources needs to be recognized and supported by policies at the central government level.
In the meantime, participatory sustainable forest management continues in Dong Sithouane and Dong Phou Xoy with SUFORD support. In fact, the two forests have also applied for Forest Stewardship Council certification, with an initial pre-certification assessment carried out in 2003. That the forest managers have sufficient confidence to make this step highlights the strength that participatory forestry can bring to communities and indicates the importance of providing tangible economic benefits to ensure ongoing commitment from local people.
Litz, Vaneska. 2000. Certification and local forest management: the FOMACOP experience in the Lao P.D.R. Asia-Pacific Community Forestry Newsletter, 13, 2.
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. 2003. Draft of forestry strategy to Year 2020. Presented to the Consultation Meeting on a Draft of Forest Strategy 2020. Vientiane, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, 17 to 18 July 2003.
Phanthanousy, Bouahong & Bonita, M. Undated. Towards institutionalizing village forestry in Lao PDR. RECOFTC. http://www.recoftc.org/documents/InterReps/Crossroads/FOMACOPLao.pdf
Pravongviengkham, Parisak, ed. 2000. A national advocacy for a holistic and decentralized approach to forest management in Lao PDR. Decentralization and devolution of forest management in Asia and the Pacific. Report of an international seminar. Bangkok, Thailand, RECOFTC.
Raintree, J. & Makarabhirom, P. 1999. Comparison of village forestry planning models used in Laos. Consultant's report. RECOFTC. http://www.recoftc.org/documents/DiscusReports/Comparevfmlao.pdf
STEA, 2000. National Environmental Action Plan (July 2000).
Tsechalicha, X. and Gilmour, D.A. 2000. Forest rehabilitation in Lao PDR: Issues and constraints. Vientiane, IUCN.
About the authors
Yayoi Fujita and Thoumthone Vongvisouk, the principal authors, work for a research capacity building project on community-based natural resource management funded by the International Development Research Centre at the Faculty of Forestry, National University of Laos. Houngpheth Chantavong is a vice-dean of the faculty, and provided overall supervision and valuable advice to writing the case study. Somvilay Chanthaleunnavong is a junior faculty member who assisted in collecting information. The authors also thank Khamla Phanvilay, Department of Watershed Management and Land Use Planning, National University of Laos, who reviewed and provided useful comments on the case study.
Name of forest:
Lin'an Model Forest
Lin'an County, Zhejiang Province
Forestry Bureau of Lin'an County
Multiple use, ecotourism, non-timber forest products, sustainable livelihood
Prior to the late 1970s, forest management in Lin'an County, in China's eastern Zhejiang Province, focused almost exclusively on the production of timber. With little attention given to the sustainability of harvesting operations, however, the forest had been steadily degraded and soil erosion was reaching disturbing levels. The problems were exacerbated by uncontrolled clearing of forests for agriculture and indiscriminate exploitation of forest resources. Growing concerns emerged, especially over the resulting deterioration of water quality and flow. A poverty cycle revolving around deforested mountains, food insecurity and limited livelihood opportunities prevailed throughout much of the county.
However, after China adopted the strategies for economic modernization and restructuring in 1978, the people of Lin'an County dramatically reversed this trend, making enormous progress in protecting and cultivating forest resources and stabilizing forest production. The local government in Lin'an spurred this turnaround by advocating a development goal of "greening the mountains, beautifying the environment and increasing incomes." It is pursuing a development strategy based on promoting forestry, stabilizing agriculture and focusing on the exploitation of slopes.
"We have undertaken a broad variety of initiatives to promote sustainable forest management in the mountains," explained Mr Tang Mingrong, a Deputy Director of the Lin'an Forestry Bureau.
With a population of around 510 000 people and a land area of 310 000 hectares, Lin'an has moved to the forefront of national efforts to increase forest cover and expand forest plantations. Particular focus has been given to developing forests on rolling hills and gentle slopes, with the aim of establishing village-level forest farms specializing in the production of non-timber forest products.
With forest cover now extending over nearly 75 percent of its land area Lin'an County has become a centre of excellence in China, particularly noted for its high-quality hickory forests and bamboo plantations. Lin'an City, the main urban centre of the county, has garnered several awards and citations including being named, Town of Bamboo of China, Town of Hickory Nut of China, and Excellent Tourism City of China. Lin'an city has also been included in the lists of Demonstration Cities for Integrated Development in Mountainous Areas, Demonstration Cities for Prospering Forest through Science and Technology, and Demonstration Cities for Ecological Development.
Lin'an Model Forest
Lin'an is the only county in China that participates in the International Model Forest Network. The Lin'an Model Forest Project, supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the governments of Japan and Canada, has played an important role in shifting from a purely resource-based focus, towards the identification of profitable forest-based commodities. The result has been rapid environmental and economic transformation in the mountainous areas of the county.
The Lin'an Model Forest was formally established in 1999, with the principal goal of testing and demonstrating the best available approaches to sustainable forest management relating to innovative governance and techniques. The model forest area encompasses all of Lin'an County. From 2000 to 2003, the Lin'an Model Forest received core support from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the FAO-supported Regional Model Forest Project.
Model forests, within the International Model Forest Network, are established as working-scale models aimed at moving from conventional forest management towards more sustainable production and environmental conservation. Each model forest attempts to demonstrate sustainable and integrated forest management, to transfer new knowledge to forest managers and to apply relevant technology to operations. Model forests are managed with the involvement of all interested stakeholders, who form partnerships to support and carry out sustainable forest management.
The principal accomplishments of the Lin'an Model Forest to date include:
establishment of the Lin'an Model Forest Partnership Cooperation Committee, with over 33 partners or partner groups;
recognition as one of China's leading demonstration areas for sustainable forest management;
development of 10 new ecotourism sites attracting more than 2 million visitors per year;
training of more than 5 000 people - mainly local farmers - in the sustainable propagation of high-yield edible bamboo shoots and hickory farming techniques;
review of forest policy changes and impacts on forest and land-use practices; and
active pursuit of networking opportunities and business linkages outside of China.
There had already been much progress in many of these directions prior to 1999, but the model forest initiative provided the means for local people and the authorities to rapidly accelerate progress.
Four types of benefits
The people of Lin'an realized that in order to improve standards of living and break the cycle of poverty, they would have to give up conventional exploitative forestry practices and change their management approaches. They identified four types of benefits that they wanted to pursue in order to achieve sustainable prosperity:
Environmental benefits. Lin'an needed to pay greater attention to balancing economic development and environmental protection in order to overcome the abuses of the past that had resulted from undue emphasis on economic exploitation, especially in mountainous areas.
Structural optimization. It was perceived that poor economic returns were largely due to inefficient industrial structures, including low levels of industrial and technological development, low-intensity operations and exportation of resources as unprocessed commodities at low prices. Optimization of industrial structures was considered crucial for economic development, including developing broad product mixes and the creation of brand recognition for high-quality products.
Economies of scale. In the early 1980s, hillsides and forest rights in Lin'an were allocated for private use. Families and collectives constituted the basic management unit. This small-scale management entailed high costs, and benefits were commensurately low. It rapidly became evident that individual small-scale "owners" would benefit from cooperation and collaboration to increase the scale of management entities and enable joint promotion of selected products.
Progressive science and technology. It was recognized that support to science and technology needed to be strengthened and its application intensified to accelerate economic development. In particular, the potential roles for science and technology in developing mountainous areas were recognized.
Increasing overall benefits
Since 1995, the Lin'an local government has given priority to consolidating afforestation accomplishments, improving the environment, increasing economic benefits and accelerating the modernization of forestry. The goal of the Lin'an Forestry Bureau is to "increase the overall benefits of forestry, promote the protection of forest resources and the environment, and create a new prosperous Lin'an with green mountains and a sound environment."
To this end, Lin'an has designated 122 600 hectares of forest (48 percent of its total forest land) for conservation and protection purposes. Measures to protect the natural broad-leaf forests have included large-scale "mountain closure" (a formal process for limiting access and use for a specified period of years to allow the forest to rejuvenate), prohibitions on the collection of fuelwood for charcoal production and restrictions on full-tillage land preparation (thereby reducing soil erosion). Efforts have also been stepped up to convert marginal steep agricultural land to forest.
Several greening and afforestation activities have been carried out in townships and villages to enhance urban and rural landscapes. Public green spaces within Lin'an City have been increased to almost 7 square metres per person. Tree planting has been undertaken along highways and river courses, with 87 percent and 83 percent of these areas having been revegetated, respectively. More than 2 000 ancient and precious trees have been identified and placed under protection as scenic landmarks in the county.
Two nature reserves
Two national nature reserves are located in Lin'an County - the West Tianmu Mountain Nature Reserve and the Qingliangfeng Nature Reserve. These reserves encompass a range of unique forest, landscape, geologic and human values, as well as having immense significance as sites for scientific research, tourism and recreation.
The West Tianmu Mountain Nature Reserve has accorded great importance to the development of management protocols including institutional development, the regulatory environment and capacity building. As a result, a sound balance between protection and utilization has been established. Forest protection efforts have achieved notable success. For example, there have been no forest fires in the reserve area for more than 40 years. In 1997, West Tianmu was declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
The Qingliangfeng Nature Reserve contains an abundance of wild fauna and flora including 31 endemic plants. The vegetation structures are complex, with an enormous range of species, and the area also has a rich and multifaceted geological history. To better protect this unique area, the Lin'an Forestry Bureau drafted a formal development strategy and formulated a policy of "reinforced protection, active development, wise use, and promotion of conservation through development and utilization." The reserve has recently been extended to 10 800 hectares and now includes exclusive conservation zones for protecting endemic fauna and flora such as Sika deer (Cervus nippon) and Chinese allspice (Calycanthus chinensis), a very fragrant shrub, which derives its name from the fact that its fruits smell like three spices, namely Syzygium aromaticum, Cinnamomum sieboldii and Myristica fragrans.
Supportive mechanisms and incentives
To safeguard and maintain investments in afforestation, the local government is actively protecting forests from pilferage, disease and fire. Simultaneously, the Lin'an Forestry Bureau has encouraged its forest officers, farmers and other land managers to adopt effective management measures through four focused networks for:
forest protection organization;
forest fire prevention;
forest pest and disease prevention and quarantine; and
forest resource information management.
The abundant resources of Lin'an County make it well suited for developing industries based on non-timber forest products and services, including products such as fruits and bamboo shoots, and ecotourism. The local conditions in Lin'an lend themselves well to a strategy of diversity: "planting bamboo in the east and fruit trees in the west." Three bamboo types and products (vegetable bamboo, Moso bamboo and bamboo shoots) are the main forest produce in the eastern part of Lin'an, while hickory nuts are given priority in the western part of the county.
To encourage farmers to participate in comprehensive agricultural development, the local government has formulated and applied a series of policies, including unified planning, continuous planting, management by individual households, "he who plants the tree owns it," and long-term ownership.
The local government has encouraged farmers to invest in forests and forest management by offering support and guidance, supplemented by discounted bank loans. People with expertise and training in agriculture and forest product processing have also been given incentives to establish and develop businesses in rural areas. These policies have generated enthusiasm and creativity in exploring agricultural development and stimulated the cultivation of key commercial crops such as bamboo and fruit trees. As a result, the neglected upland slopes and denuded mountains have now become productive farms.
"We are very pleased with the level of support we have received," said Wang San, a farmer. "We now know far better how to earn a living without destroying the natural resources."
To expand markets and livelihood options, Lin'an County has given high priority to research programmes focusing on fruit, bamboo and ecotourism.
Bamboo forestr y: The rapid expansion of bamboo plantations producing edible bamboo shoots is an important recent development that is helping to accelerate income generation and rural prosperity. At present, more than 30 000 farmers are involved in the cultivation of courtyard bamboo. Farmer Bao Zichao's experience is typical of potential returns to growers. Over the eight-week winter harvesting season, his 27-hectare farm of established bamboo produces more than 1 000 kilograms of bamboo shoots, generating income in excess of US$1 566.
Lin'an County also boasts 18 000 hectares of Moso bamboo forest - producing more than four million stems per annum for use as construction poles. Since 1985, Moso bamboo forests have become an additional source of edible bamboo shoots. Lin'an has also further diversified into a range of new uses for bamboo resources. Bamboo is processed into bamboo flooring, strands, matting, chopsticks and various handicrafts. Bamboo poles are used for scaffolding. Bamboo branches are made into brooms and other fibrous products, while bamboo leaves are recycled as compost or ground cover for newly germinated Lei bamboo shoots.
Horticultural trees: The major product grown in western areas of Lin'an County is hickory nuts. Daoshi Township is the centre of hickory nut growing and is known as the "first township of hickory plantation in China." At present, hickory plantations in Lin'an County cover more than 22 000 hectares, and constitute 57 percent of the national hickory resource. Approximately 2 500 tonnes of hickory nuts are produced annually. At present, more than 220 hickory nut-processing enterprises have been established, with the value of sales in 2002 exceeding US$18.5 million. The most important hickory nut products include fried and hand-peeled hickory nuts, hickory kernels and secondary products such as hickory cakes, oil and wine.
Value-adding enterprises: Lin'an has vigorously developed new enterprises and given priority to leading products, while also fostering and restructuring old enterprises. The county has established more than 300 enterprises engaged in producing bamboo poles and processing bamboo products and hickory nuts, and processing capacity is continually expanding. Processing of bamboo products has evolved from a limited number of traditional products to now encompass almost 500 product lines covering architecture, decoration, handicrafts, foods and daily necessities. Hickory products have also been developed into scores of product lines.
Many bamboo- and hickory-processing enterprises have established processing subsidiaries as well as attempting a degree of "vertical integration" through close collaboration with farmers. The local government of Lin'an and the Lin'an Forestry Bureau have developed an enterprise model that relies on the establishment of a processing base driven by factories in cooperation with farmers. This model plays an important role in nurturing key industries and promoting the process of agricultural industrialization.
Ecotourism: Lin'an boasts abundant tourism and scenic resources, and the county has declared tourism to be a priority industry. Several investors have been attracted to the sector and tourism development is being carried out under clear principles of government planning and guidance, social investment and public participation.
Lin'an recently adopted a strategy aimed at developing the county as China's premier ecotourism site by promoting Tianmu Mountain and Qianwang Mountain, with an emphasis on ecologically sound development. Lin'an has proactively conducted integrated planning exercises and has successfully opened a number of scenic attractions to tourism, including Tianmu Mountain, Qinghshan Lake, Linmu Taihu Lake Headstream, Longxu Dyke and West Zhejiang Gorge.
Today, tourism has become an important industry that is a driving force in the comprehensive development of the service sector in Lin'an. More than 10 ecotourism attractions have now been developed in Lin'an County. In 2001, more than two million tourists visited Lin'an, generating revenues in excess of US$120 million.
A focus of Lin'an's development philosophy has been to strengthen intensive processing industries, but the county has also attached great importance to marketing and logistics. At least 10 large-scale markets for bamboo products have been established in Lin'an City and other major towns. West Tianmu Township, for instance, is a major collection and distribution centre for dried bamboo shoots. In 2001, more than 2 000 tonnes of dried shoots were processed and sold, earning revenues in excess of US$4.8 million.
The local gover nment gives considerable emphasis to assisting farmer cooperatives and private distribution organizations with timely market information, marketing techniques and policy development. Lin'an produces 40 000 cubic metres of timber, 100 000 tonnes of fresh bamboo shoots, 3 000 tonnes of dried bamboo shoots and 5 000 tonnes of hickory nuts annually, which have ready markets throughout the country and internationally.
Box 1. Experiences with consumer marketing
The Wangxiang Group Corporation has invested US$1.8 million in establishing a hickory plantation covering more than 130 hectares, and has signed supply contracts with more than 4 000 farmer households. The company's products have entered more than 970 supermarkets in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces and Shanghai Municipality.
Similarly, Hangzhou Donglin Green Food Co. Ltd is a leading company of agricultural products, whose "Donglin Brand" product series won the Gold Medal at the National Excellent Forestry Products Exhibition, and was awarded the title of "Famous Products of Zhejiang Province" at the China International Agriculture Exhibition in 1999. Organically-grown Lei bamboo shoots of the "Tianmu Mountain" brand, bamboo flooring of the "Qingfeng" brand" and hickory of the "Donglin" brand" have each won several gold medals and have become well-recognized brands.
Following training and publicity carried out by the Lin'an Model Forest Project, the local people have realized that science and technology must be given high priority in the bid to develop agricultural resources and foster key industries. Focus has been placed on addressing key scientific and technical problems and providing support and demonstrations to provide leadership by example.
In recent years, the people of Lin'an have successfully elaborated a series of best practices including "Technology for Cultivating Early and High Yield Lei Bamboo Shoots," "Technology for Cultivating High and Steady Yield Hickory Nuts," "Technology for the Improvement of Low-yield Dried Shoot Bamboo Stand," "Timber and Shoot Producing Bamboo Stand Technology" and several other applied technologies, especially for high-yielding bamboo products.
The local government of Lin'an is emphasizing the importance of cooperation and coordination among governmental officials, technicians and farmers to effectively extend applied techniques and standards. The county has launched several technology-extension networks at city, district, township and village levels and has established the Bamboo Shoots Association, the Bamboo Shoots Processing Enterprises Association and the Hickory Nuts Association. These and other specialized groups provide farmers with practical information and technical services. The Lin'an Forestry Bureau and the Model Forest Project have established pilot sites for the demonstration of "forestry prosperity through science and education" to promote overall development. To date, the Model Forest Project has launched 10 demonstration sites for Moso bamboo, dried shoot bamboo, Lei bamboo, hickory nuts, chestnuts and other economically important plants.
"The Model Forest Project has helped us to better understand the meaning of sustainable management, as well as providing us with practical management techniques. Most importantly, the project has helped us improve our farming skills," said Tang Jinhua, a farmer who has attended several training sessions conducted by the Model Forest Project.
The project has also facilitated important processes to support the development and protection of forest resources. It has brought stakeholders together to set up voluntary, cooperative partnerships and has established a Partnership Committee of the Model Forest, which is comprised of representatives of different stakeholder groups including government, non-governmental organizations, industries, farmers, technology services and academic organizations.
"The Partnership Committee provides a forum where people can exchange ideas on forest management and conflict resolution," explained Wang Guoan, a forestry officer. "In addition, we want people to learn how they can participate in decision making." The Partnership Committee of the Model Forest also organizes training seminars and lectures to promote the concepts of comprehensive sustainable forest management, large-scale industrialization and "thinking big" in terms of marketing.
The Partnership Committee provides unique opportunities for farmers to discuss modern farming techniques and principles and means of adapting to the market economy. This helps farmers to update their knowledge and farming concepts, and to enhance their understanding of sustainable management. Practical training on ecotourism and social forestry helps technical and administrative staff to integrate theory with practice.
The Partnership Committee has sent a number of technicians to assist the "110 Technical Network," a technical service hotline through which farmers can obtain technical advice on forest management from experts via telephone or written communication. During the past two years, the Partnership Committee has organized several television lectures and more than 70 technical training courses. It has also distributed more than 10 000 copies of various training materials, and has trained more than 5 000 persons.
"We have learned what kind of technologies we need to adopt, how to sustain the forest we are managing, and how we can increase our incomes," summed up Chen Xing, a farmer from Baisha village, on the role of this information campaign.
The efforts of the people of Lin'an during the past few years have resulted in the following significant developments in the model forest area:
the area planted with bamboo and hickory forests has expanded;
tourism is now booming;
a system of consensus building and negotiation has been established among the partners;
and training and consultation have provided technical support to forestry production and broadened the perspectives of local people.
Government officials have changed their mode of thinking and have adjusted their methods of decision making to be more inclusive and participatory. Companies and farmers have accepted the concepts of sustainable management, and environmentally sound production has become a tenet of development.
There remain, however, a number of significant challenges. For instance, Gaohong Town of Lin'an has been chosen as a demonstration town for production of high-yielding Lei bamboo shoots. However, because of the substantial economic returns to Lei bamboo, Gaohong focuses its business on the management of only this single bamboo species. This intensive production is causing concerns related to monocultures, including reduced biological diversity, forest degradation, soil erosion and deteriorating water quality.
There is also a need to resolve remaining conflicts between some farmers' desires to maximize economic returns and broader societal goals of sustainable forest management and the conservation of biological diversity. In recent years, farmers' activities have gradually shifted to the low hills, where development is relatively easy. Conflicts have subsequently arisen over issues of forest land tenure and rights to develop non-timber resources.
"Such a shift calls for adjustments to our thinking, and changes in our management," mused a government official. "Only by settling these conflicts properly can we ensure social stability in mountainous areas, and attain sustainable development of resources and the economy."
"It is a new breakthrough action," said Chen Tongai, a senior adviser to the Expert Group on Integrated Mountain Development in China, in describing the Lin'an approach. "It has effectively combined forestry with agriculture and tourism, and dealt with issues of production, conservation and cultivating resources - all in the context of local conditions. It is a concrete example of a new economic concept. And it has led to Lin'an being declared as a demonstration and extension county for all China."
About the author
Yu Ling is an associate researcher currently working with the Science and Technology Development Centre, State Forestry Administration of China. She graduated from Northeast Forestry University in 1986 with a BA in Agriculture. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Ecology at Beijing Forestry University. Since 1993, she has conducted research related to sustainable forest management and community development.
Centuries-old Cryptomeia fortunei are a major feature of Lin'an County's rapidly expanding ecotourism industry (courtesy Patrick Durst).
Hickory nuts growing in a plantation near Daoshi township (courtesy Yu Ling).
Modern packaging, meticulous hygiene, and sound marketing have contributed to the outstanding success of the hickory nut industry in Lin'an County (courtesy Patrick Durst).
Fiona Scarff and Sonya Duus
Name of forest:
Southwest forests of Western Australia
2 470 000
Department of Conservation and Land Management, Forest Products Commission
Sustainable multiple use
"Conflict over land use in Australian forests has a long history," explained John Dargavel, an academic who has made a study of forest history. "Early tensions between foresters and farmers wanting to clear land have given way to a new debate. Now conservationists clash with foresters over the conflicting goals of conservation and timber production. The Australian timber industry is strongly based on harvesting in native forests rather than plantations - and most native forests are on government land. So, the longstanding conflicts over forest use in Australia have led to over 70 government inquiries and other processes to try to resolve them."
There is a direct conflict in the forest itself - where harvesting operations conflict with conservation values. Another, subtler tension pervades forest administration at the government policy level, where decisions can be influenced by competing conservation and production interests.
The native forests of southwestern Australia are dominated by a range of eucalypt species, including jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata), karri (E. diversicolor), marri (E. calophylla), and wandoo (E. wandoo). The forests comprise a range of vegetation types, from wet sclerophyll forest through to drier woodlands, interspersed with wetlands and other ecosystems. An assessment of forest ecosystems identified over 2.6 million hectares of forests, including 1.8 million hectares of jarrah, a commercially harvested timber species. When forest areas outside the survey boundaries are taken into account, the full extent of forest ecosystems exceeds these figures. The native forests are managed for multiple uses, so conservation and timber are just two of many interests. Traditional Aboriginal owners, water resource managers and bee keepers share the forest with bauxite mining, tourism and a wildflower industry. But no two groups have so polarized the community and ignited public opinion as the timber industry and the conservation lobby.
The winds of change are blowing through the southwest forests, where public debate is reshaping the way forests are managed. Since the forests are publicly owned, community debate over the best way to balance the demands of different land uses is vigorous. Clashes over land use, in particular tracts of forest, are not uncommon.
These challenges can create uncertainty for the future of disputed areas and this uncertainty undermines the goals of all stakeholders. "Conservation reserves can't protect biodiversity unless they are secure and don't shift around," observed Beth Schultz, from the Conservation Council, a major non-governmental conservation organization. Logging contractor Greg Smeathers also needs certainty: "I can't plan to buy new harvesting equipment unless I know I will be allowed to cut enough timber to get a return on my investment later. Some of my equipment is 20-years old, but I can't replace it until I know. And it makes it very difficult to employ people."
Sawmillers likewise need to buy expensive milling equipment, and cannot justify doing so without some certainty as to the amount of timber available. At a more personal level, the livelihoods of employees are at the mercy of shifting debates over land use. "I'm lucky my wife works," declared Brett Moss grimly, as he waited for the outcome of a major planning decision. "I've just bought a house."
Long-term, rigid plans provide the security everyone is seeking - but rigid plans do not allow for changing community attitudes or new scientific findings. Both factors influence planning. To strike a balance, Forest Management Plans are produced once every 10 years (Box 1).
Ten years seems to be the shortest feasible interval. "It has been two-and-a-half years of hard work for everyone involved ... I wouldn't want to have to go through this any more often!" exclaimed Keith Low, a policy adviser with the Forest Products Commission (FPC). Conservationists Beth Schultz and Mary Frith agreed fervently. The workload for this process is intense, for both government agencies and voluntary community groups. For timber workers like Brett Moss, it means that periods of uncertainty come at 10-year intervals.
The 10-year plans provide guidelines on the direction for forest management, including the amount of timber that can be extracted. However, they do not supply the detail of exactly which forest areas will be logged, and when. The FPC conducts this level of planning each year.
Box 1. Forest Management Plans
Forest Management Plans are prepared by the Conservation Commission and the Forest Products Commission. The plans are released for public comment. After receiving the comments of the public and any conditions imposed by the Environmental Protection Authority, the two commissions make recommendations to their respective ministers (emphasizing principles of contestable policy advice). For its part, the Conservation Commission is charged with the protection of conservation values, and its members are appointed for their expertise in biodiversity and sustainability issues. On the other hand, the Forest Products Commissioners are charged with developing the timber industry, and are appointed for their expertise in commercial matters or experience with plantations. Once the ministers have resolved any differences, the plan is formulated for the next 10- year period.
These annual harvesting plans are available for the public to view. However, the role of the public in the planning process is much more limited than for the 10-year Forest Management Plans. "We try to accommodate requests from neighbours with land adjacent to a forest coupe. But we can't change our minds every time someone has a problem with logging - it wouldn't be workable," explained FPC officer Peter Beatty. Logging contractor Greg Smeathers added: "To me, all this planning is like a big wheel. It takes a lot to get it turning - once it's going you don't want to have to change direction."
Another major issue for conservationists and industry alike is the issue of land tenure - the classification of government land according to who is responsible for it and what it can be used for. Security of tenure and purpose is another way of providing a degree of certainty, in an environment where the legitimacy of different land uses is frequently contested. "A change in tenure or purpose of forest land use would require the agreement of both Houses of Parliament," said FPC's Keith Low. "It is very secure."
Logging operations in re-growth karri forest (courtesy Fiona Scarff).
Beth Schultz of the Conservation Council was not so sure: "Formal reserves such as national parks are secure. But although every sizeable stream that runs through a logging coupe has its own reserve on either side of it, these sorts of informal reserves aren't mapped and consequently their reserve status is not secure."
Continuity of land use is important for forest lands to be managed well. Efforts to provide security of tenure and purpose address this fact, although the enforcement of these measures in informal stream reserves presents particular challenges.
Between 1984 and 2000 in Western Australia, the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) was responsible for both timber harvesting and conservation values in public forests. There were strong public criticisms of this arrangement, which was perceived as a conflict of interest. People wondered how CALM could be the guardian and custodian of forest conservation while simultaneously making money from logging.
When CALM was formed in 1985, it was an amalgamation of the existing Forests Department, the National Parks Agency and a section of Fisheries and Wildlife. Beth Schultz from the Conservation Council was a strong critic of CALM. She declared: "At the time of amalgamation, the Forests Department was the largest and best-funded of the three agencies. Forestry staff dominated the new organization at both the lower and senior levels. So CALM became dominated by a forestry ethos."
In response to public concerns, CALM was split into three separate agencies in 2000, namely: the FPC, a "new" Department of Conservation and Land Management and the Conservation Commission.
In effect, CALM's responsibility for harvesting and marketing of timber has been transferred to the FPC. The FPC develops timber resources and markets timber products. The Department of Conservation and Land Management, the "new CALM," implements conservation management plans and manages forests prior to harvesting. The Conservation Commission operates independently. It audits the forest management carried out by the Department of Conservation and Land Management and the FPC's harvesting work.
Has the restructuring of CALM succeeded in its goals? The Department of Conservation and Land Management is now funded by general government funds instead of through timber revenues. "The conflict of interest could never be resolved while CALM still received money from timber revenues," Schultz asserted. She remains uncomfortable with the fact that the Department of Conservation and Land Management still receives money from the FPC for its expenses in managing forests destined for logging. "But the split is a good thing. I'd like to see the same thing happen wherever there is a way to make money out of the forest. Tourism, the wildflower industry... they all create conflicts of interest."
"Cultural change in the institutions is at least as important as restructuring," Schultz mused. "Can the new Department of Conservation and Land Management be so very different in its attitudes from CALM, when it is staffed by the same people, originally trained as foresters?" Others maintain that the perceived conflict of interest in CALM was never more than a public impression. "Insiders believed that it was a perception, that's all," indicated Low, "but it needed to be addressed all the same."
Efforts to create a distinctively different ethos in the FPC and Conservation Commission seem to have been highly successful. The FPC's Commissioners are selected for their expertise in commercial activities, the plantation industry and labour relations. In contrast, the Conservation Commission members are appointed for their understanding of biodiversity conservation, environmental management and natural resource sustainability. Further, whereas the FPC makes recommendations on forest management to the Forestr y Minister, the Conservation Commission gives separate advice to the Environment Minister.
Keith Low agrees that previously there was a perceived conflict of interest in CALM. "I believe in democracy, so I believe these changes were right. If CALM's operations were not transparent to the public, then it was important for the organization to be restructured," he stated. He believes that these changes have definitely increased the transparency of the agencies responsible for forest management, and have also moved decision-making more into the public arena. "Instead of issues of forest management being settled within CALM, debate now occurs between agencies and within the government itself, so it's in the public eye. Agencies try to resolve conflicts, but debates also have to progress into the political arena. This may not be as smooth, but it is appropriate."
The experience of CALM highlights the importance of commitment to transparency in government organizations, especially when politically contentious issues, such as forestry, are involved. Transparency is worth pursuing whether or not there is an underlying problem in the management ethos of an agency.
Old-growth forests and the Regional Forest Agreement
No aspect of the forestry debate in southwestern Australia has inspired such passion and widespread community interest as the management of old-growth forests, which are generally defined as essentially undisturbed areas of forest with mature trees.
Why did old-growth forests become so important to the community? "Logging old-growth forests is not timber harvesting - it is more like mining," claimed conservationist Beth Schultz. "The forest will never be the same again." Harvesting planner Wayne Keels disagreed: "People see a logged coupe and they think it's gone forever. But the truth is, it grows back."
Whether or not forest managers are able to return logged forest to its original state, stands of mature and undisturbed forest remain the benchmark by which environmental values are measured, and are a rallying point for conservationists.
The fight to reserve old-growth forests from logging gained widespread publicity in Western Australia as a result of the Regional Forest Agreement signed with the federal government. The Regional Forest Agreement resulted from a planning process, which required a review of the boundaries of forest nature reserves. A comprehensive, adequate and representative system of nature reserves was an essential component of the Regional Forest Agreement.
The formulation of the Regional Forest Agreement ignited community debate over the fate of old-growth forests. The dispute saw passionate confrontations between conservationists and timber workers and the split of the ruling political party into two separate parties over forest issues. "When the Regional Forest Agreement was finalized in 1999, to remain binding for the next 20 years, significant old-growth areas remained outside of reserves and therefore subject to logging. The conflict over old-growth forests did not subside with the signing of the Regional Forest Agreement," recalled Schultz. When the Labor Party won the state election in Western Australia, in 2001, after eight years in opposition, they swept to power with a promise to prevent logging of old-growth forests.
Once in power, the government wasted no time in implementing its promise. "The speed of implementation was incredible," recalled Wayne Keels, of the Forest Products Commission. "The election was on a Saturday, and the directives to pull out of recognized old-growth logging coupes went out on Sunday evening. All the logging in those particular patches was over by the first Wednesday after the election." Logging contractor Greg Smeathers remembered having partly harvested an old-growth coupe when the directive came through. "We were in there with all our gear and we had to pull out."
The story of old-growth logging in southwestern Australia illustrates how quickly forest management can be changed if there is strong support for doing so. However, with such rapid changes, normal organization and planning is disrupted. "We took the directive as given," Peter Beatty, an officer with the Forest Products Commission, reflected. We literally had to stop the contractors overnight. But we still had contracts to supply them with timber, so we had to find them new coupes as fast as possible."
Ray Curo, a commissioner with the FPC, said: "I've heard that the stopping of old-growth logging in Tasmania was phased over a 10-year period. Here in Western Australia it was a few days. A more gradual change might have been better for industry. Forest management is about long-term planning." Beatty agreed: "We were left in the lurch. Normally we plan coupes on an annual basis. It was an unusually dramatic change."
"Industry has come to accept that the old-growth policy is here now," Beatty continued. "They just get on with it." The idea of reserving a portion of the old-growth forest has support within the timber industry, although most would have preferred to have some old growth still available for logging. Conflicts remain over the precise definition of "old growth" - because this determines exactly how much forest can still be cut. Although the general definition is fairly simple - "very little disturbance and mature trees" - there are still disagreementsover how much disturbance is "very little," and exactly how old a tree must be before it is mature. Complete resolution of conflicts like this seems to depend on a strong consensus on definitions. Whilst the days of massive public rallies for old-growth forests appear to be over, different interpretations of "old growth" will probably continue to fuel disputes at some level, for the foreseeable future.
"Farm forestry can benefit everyone - families, communities, land, stock...the trees help with soil salinity problems, and we also see the sheep huddle their lambs beneath the trees for shelter. It can also help reduce the pressure for logging in native forests," declared Mary Frith, a farmer in the Bridgetown Shire in the southwest of Western Australia. "We've been farming here for the last 43 years. After a big fire came through, in 1978, we decided to re-plan our farm - and shortly afterwards we moved into farm forestry," added Jim Frith, Mary's husband.
The couple said that there are special benefits to integrating timber production with farming for other products, particularly in lower rainfall areas. "Farm forestry returns more cash than farming either annual crops, or trees, alone. The trees provide shelter and shade for stock. Also, trees grow faster because they are more widely spaced than in plantations or native forest, and they are less likely to die when there is a shortage of rain," they affirmed.
Mary and Jim's district has seen a number of agricultural trends over the last 100 years, including dairy cattle, fat lambs and apple orchards. Commercial woodlots on privately-owned land began appearing in southwestern Australia in the mid-1980s. The trend was driven by community opposition to the government clearing native forest and buying agricultural land to develop plantations, and also by land degradation issues in the region.
The Forest Products Commission is currently involved in promoting farm forestry in Western Australia. "Farm forestry is an important means of addressing land degradation issues. Trees help reduce soil salinity, water-logging, wind and water erosion," said Keith Low. "Trees also fix carbon, which helps reduce the threat of an enhanced greenhouse effect, and one day may be used as part of a carbon-credit scheme. It can also help to develop economies and communities in regional areas. We're really excited about the potential here."
Involvement of farmers
Farmers are encouraged to plant trees that are suitable to their areas, depending on soil types and rainfall. Eucalypts, pines and sandalwood are amongst the recommended timber. Farmers can join the business of farm forestry in three ways. They can enter into joint ventures with the FPC, with timber companies, or with companies that raise money from investors.
It seems that everyone involved - farmers, conservationists and government agencies - supports the concept of developing a farm-forest industry in Western Australia. However, the benefits of farm forestry will not be enjoyed unless there is serious commitment to supporting tree farmers in the growing and marketing of their products.
"Farmers going into farm forestry need reliable technical advice on selecting and tending the trees, and marketing the timber," explained Jim Frith. "Trees for saw log production need to be pruned and thinned at appropriate times." The Friths have witnessed some dilemmas: "There are farmers who planted trees, but now they can't sell them. Small farmers often have a hard time selling their timber to millers who only want to deal with bigger organizations." To address these challenges, Jim and Mary Frith helped to establish a cooperative of tree farmers to pool their timber and strengthen their marketing position.
Market conditions for timber shape the industry in important ways. In Western Australia, the price of plantation timber compared to timber from native forests has been the source of some debate. Some claim that underpricing of native timber has promoted native forest logging and suppressed the development of plantation and farm forestry. Others argue that prices are fair, and that native timbers are so different from plantation timbers that the two products compete in different markets.
In all, farm forestry provides an exciting opportunity for farmers, although as Keith Low explained, a range of variables will influence a farmer's decision to try farm forestry. "Farmers realize that moving into farm forestry involves foregoing a portion of their farm to trees, and adjusting their farm plans to a long-term investment," he said. "Farm forestry won't always be profitable for the timber alone. We need the other benefits to be recognized and valued - benefits such as carbon credits and even salinity credits - to finance it all. There are people who are willing to bet on that. On the other hand, some farmers are prepared to invest in farm forestry, just knowing that they are looking after their land."
"10-80" is the trade name for a poison widely used by farmers to kill pest animals. Coincidentally, the substance that makes "10-80" toxic is also found in a group of plants native to Western Australia's southwest. Leaves of Gastrolobium, or "poison pea," are deadly to birds and mammals alike.
However, some mammals native to the southwestern forests display an unusual resistance to the poison. The woylie, a smaller cousin of the kangaroo, is a good example. Foraging in areas where Gastrolobium grows, these animals have been exposed to the toxin for so many generations that they evolved a unique tolerance to its deadly effects. This tolerance has handed forest managers a rare opportunity - they can use poisoned baits to kill feral pests such as foxes, without risk to poison-resistant native animals.
Why are foxes a problem? "The introduced fox preys upon small native mammals," explained Department of Conservation and Land Management scientists. "There is solid evidence that controlling foxes improves survival rates in animals like the woylie. We laid out baits laced with "10-80" and found that fox numbers fell and woylie numbers increased."
Woylies had disappeared from many areas of the forest. Scientists observed that attempts to re-establish this species were much more successful in areas baited to reduce foxes. "We fitted collars equipped with radio transmitters onto the woylies before we released them. We were able to keep track of what happened to them. It was harder to monitor the foxes - we made careful studies of their tracks and determined that baits do, in fact, help to reduce their numbers."
Spurred on by these results, the Department of Conservation and Land Management has introduced widespread fox baiting within the southwest forest region, under the banner of "Operation Western Shield." The baiting programme offers the opportunity to improve the conservation status of the range of native mammals preyed on by the fox.
Baiting programmes such as this one can be an important part of wildlife management in Australia's forests. The problem of introduced predators is certainly not unique to Australia's southwest. To be used successfully, however, many issues need to be considered.
Firstly, care must be taken to ensure that native animals will not be poisoned. Resistance to "10-80" poison appears to be rare outside of Western Australia, so this particular toxin is probably not suitable for other forests, unless there is a way of stopping native animals from taking the baits. In addition, the pest animals themselves can sometimes develop resistance to poisons.
Secondly, it is important to remember that predators may not be the sole cause for a species' decline. Recent work by Department of Conservation and Land Management scientists has revealed that foxes are not the only problem that native marsupial populations face. They also need appropriate habitat. When predators are only part of the problem, baiting can only be a part of the solution.
For the woylie, baiting has been highly successful. It is fortunate that this success did not cause researchers to focus so much on predators that they missed the important habitat link. It is critical that the success and convenience of predator baiting - or any aspect of wildlife management - should not obscure the importance of other factors.
The story of southwestern Australia's forests shows that much can be done to address conflict, from organizational restructuring, to planning for community input, to developing timber resources outside of native forests. These various approaches to addressing conflict offer great benefits, but only under the right conditions. Some of these conditions are largely out of managers' hands - sun, rain, wind and soil. Otherwise, it is up to forest managers to get it right.
For example, on farm forestry, there is clear agreement by everyone as to the immense potential of farm plantations. As Mary Frith opined: "This benefits everyone - families, communities, land and stock." However, it is clear that these benefits will only be seen if farm forestry is commercially viable, which will depend on a range of factors including market conditions, the value placed on land care and the quality of technical advice available to farmers.
The issue of "10-80" baiting shows how important it is to be open minded about the science of forest management. Embracing preconceived ideas too closely can blind managers from seeing other options - important ones. This does not only apply to science. The importance of openness to new ideas and the flexibility to adopt them run as themes through the southwest Australian experience. All the way from the Cabinet to the forest, ability to change is important. Changes in government agencies and in attitudes to farm forestry are good examples. Sometimes, situations demand more than just flexibility in policy - major cultural changes are involved. Cultural changes in the forest arena call for a level of commitment from everyone above and beyond what it takes to change policy.
Flexibility and change have to be balanced with measures to provide certainty for the men and women whose lives are caught up in the shifting tides of Australia's southwest forest. At stake are the livelihoods of timber workers and farmers, the endurance of community groups staffed by volunteers, and, as Mary Frith points out, "the very fabric of the Earth."
Conservation Commission of Western Australia. 2002. A new forest management plan for Western Australia. Discussion paper January 2002. Conservation Commission of Western Australia, Perth.
Dargavel, J. 1995. Fashioning Australia's forests. Melbourne, Oxford University Press.
Dept. of Conservation and Land Management. http://www.calm.wa.gov.au/aboutcalm.html
Forest Products Commission. http://www.fpc.wa.gov.au/content/aboutus/aboutus.asp
Mobbs, C. 2001. National forest policy and regional forest agreements. In S. Dovers & S. Wild River, eds. Processes and institutions for resource and environmental management: Australian experiences. Report to Land and Water Australia, Centre for Resources and Environmental Studies, Canberra, Australian National University.
About the authors
Dr Fiona Scarff lectures in the School of Biological Sciences at Murdoch University. She is interested in identifying research and management priorities in natural ecosystems. She also has a research interest in the ecology of the brush-tailed phascogale, a forest marsupial.
Sonya Duus has recently finished her Honors research at the Australian National University's School of Resources, Environment and Society. Her research is concerned with dispute resolution in environmental management, and has included a focus on indigenous people and forest management.
Turpentine and rosin from pine resin are important materials for many industrial products including solvent for oil paints, adhesives, and germicides (courtesy Masakazu Kashio).
Name of forest:
Southern Forests of Tasmania
Huon District, Tasmania
Sustainable timber production
"A continual balancing act," is how Steve Davis describes his job of managing Huon District's state forests. Davis is an experienced forestry professional who works as Huon District Forester for Forestry Tasmania, the state government's forestry agency.
"I have to balance expectations for timber production against expectations for conservation," he says. "Everyone expects that I will do the best that can be done for each, and that somehow everything is going to be rosy - to turn out well. At the same time, I have to think about the local community and the people who work in the forests."
Steve Davis considers his job to be one of the most difficult in all of Tasmania.
"Although I try to please everyone, no one ever seems to be satisfied," says this exemplary manager, whose job description entails gathering detailed information about the forests, developing comprehensive forest management plans within a well-defined legislative and policy framework - and spending a lot of time explaining all this to community and stakeholder groups. His path to effective management is based on the establishment of clear and transparent processes to help him deal with the pressures of conflicting expectations and multiple objectives.
"Forestry in Tasmania is a controversial and often heated topic," he observed. "We have to have robust systems that can stand up to intense scrutiny."
People have lived in Tasmania and used the forests for at least 30 000 years. The isolation of the indigenous Aboriginal people ended in 1803, when British colonists arrived on the island. Disease and frontier conflicts decimated the indigenous population. Most of those who survived were displaced and much of the traditional knowledge of forest management was lost, although recently, attempts to reconstruct it have been initiated. Colonial society developed slowly during the nineteenth century, with the principal forestry developments centred on establishing a number of small sawmills that provided timber for building and for export to the mainland. In 1901, Tasmania joined other Australian colonies in forming the federal nation of Australia.
Tasmania is Australia's smallest state with a population of 478 000 people. Since the 1930s, much of Tasmania's industrial development has been based on abundant, cheap hydro-electricity and plentiful wood allocated by licences or in forest-harvesting concessions. In the 1990s, the concessions were replaced by a system of long-term sales accompanied by a legislated commitment to make a minimum quantity of sawlogs available to industry each year. The majority of wood produced in Tasmanian forests is pulped for use in paper mills, including a substantial volume exported as woodchips to overseas markets, primarily to Japan. Tourism is also an important industry for Tasmania, with the beauty of the natural forests constituting an integral part of Tasmanian landscapes.
Forest management under scrutiny
In March 2004, 10 000 people marched through the streets of the state capital, Hobart, protesting against the continued clear-felling of old-growth forests. They were particularly incensed about felling giant trees, some over 80 metres tall, in the Styx Valley. Their protest was the latest in 30 years of public and political controversies about how the forests should be used. A week later, a similar number of people marched through Launceston, Tasmania's second city, in support of the forest industries and the employment they provide.
Tasmania has the most vehement environmental controversies in Australia. These have deeply divided the community and in spite of many attempts to resolve the controversies politically, the situation was still potent enough to influence the major political parties in the 2004 federal election. Forestry issues are so controversial in Tasmania for the following reasons:
Forests cover over 50 percent of the island, the largest proportion of any Australian state. Forests are highly valued for wilderness, conservation and timber.
Tasmanian forests contain Eucalyptus regnans, the world's tallest hardwood tree, as well as endemic conifers.
The forest industry is the largest employer in Tasmania, a state with a higher rate of unemployment than Australia generally.
The industry is highly concentrated with one company, Gunns Ltd, processing over 70 percent of all the wood felled in the state. The industry is politically powerful.
The environmental movement, spearheaded by the Wilderness Society, is very active and is linked to national and international environmental organizations. It enjoys considerable public support and is adept at gaining media attention.
The Tasmanian Parliament has four Green Party members that keep forest issues before its 25-member House of Assembly.
Australia's voting systems enable minor parties, such as the Green Party, to exert political influence.
The Tasmanian State Government has jurisdiction over its land and forests, but the Australian Federal Government controls foreign affairs and trade, and most of the budget. Spurred by the environmental vote in the big mainland cities of Sydney and Melbourne, the federal government blocked the Tasmanian Government from building dams in wilderness areas. The federal government successfully nominated a large area in the southwest of Tasmania to be declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Area - in recognition of outstanding natural, scientific and Aboriginal heritage values. Logging and mining are not allowed in the World Heritage area.
To try and resolve the environmental controversies across the country, the federal and state governments agreed on a National Policy Statement that aimed at:
having a system of "Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative" conservation reserves;
sustainably managing forests outside the conservation reserves - such as the Huon state forests; and
developing an internationally competitive timber industry.
The policy was followed by a Regional Forest Agreement process that identified the conservation reserves and the areas to be used for commercial purposes. It defined the tasks of forest management, established guidelines and assigned responsibilities.
The federal and Tasmanian governments entered into a 20-year Regional Forest Agreement in 1997. It divided Tasmania's 3.2 million hectares of native forests into roughly equal areas of conservation reserves, state forests managed for multiple uses including wood production, and private land. This was not completely accepted by the environmental movement which continues to argue that many state forest areas - especially those with old growth - should be transferred to conservation reserves. However, the state forests still have to be managed by foresters, such as Steve Davis in the Huon District, for the uses that the state and federal governments have authorized.
Steve Davis and his staff manage 123 000 hectares of forests on a beautiful upland landscape that extends to a coastal area of small farms and orchards. The state forests of Huon District lie just outside the World Heritage Area and comprise mainly tall eucalyptus rain forests, with dense temperate understoreys. The magnificent Eucalyptus regnans dominates the best sites with some trees being more than 80 metres tall and 450 years old. A significant proportion of the forests, including some areas scheduled for harvesting, has not previously been logged.
In 2001, the roundwood harvest from natural forests in Huon District totalled 415 000 cubic metres of timber, of which 75 percent comprised pulpwood, with the majority of the remainder being sawlogs or peeler logs. Among the timber species, Eucalyptus obliqua and Eucalyptus globulus, are highly valued for veneer, furniture making, construction timber and paper pulp - with large volumes also exported as woodchips. Myrtle (Nothofagus cunninghamii), which grows in the rain forest understorey, provides a fine furniture timber. The endemic conifer, celery top pine (Phylocladus aspeniifolius) is valued particularly as a timber for boat building. Two other endemic conifers, Huon pine (Dacrydium franklinii) and King Billy pine (Athrotaxis selaginiodes), grow locally but are not harvested in Huon District. Leatherwood (Eucryphia lucida) is prized by apiarists for the distinctive honey produced from its flowers.
Regeneration in Compartment Picton 39A in Southern Tasmania
(courtesy Forestry Tasmania).
Coupe felling is the principal silvicultural system. It is used because the Eucalypts are strongly light-demanding species that cannot be regenerated under an overstorey or in the presence of the remaining understorey. In natural systems, Eucalyptus regnans and E. obliqua forests on wet sites regenerate only after occasional severe wildfires have killed the old trees and left bare, scorched ground on which the prolific seed can generate new trees. A site for collaborative long-term ecological and silvicultural research has been set up at Warra to monitor change and see if alternative silvicultural systems can be devised.
Logging contractors clear-cut the forest in coupes of 50-100 hectares and transport the best logs to sawmills and veneer plants. Some rare conifers and other specialty species are sold for boat building or local woodcrafts. The remainder which accounts for three-quarters of the wood cut in the district is despatched to woodchip export mills.
Once logging is finished in each coupe, foresters burn the slash and remaining understorey to create a bare "ash bed" onto which seeds are dropped from aircraft to regenerate the forest. Steve Davis reports that this process is generally successful, although at times some wet south-facing slopes are difficult to burn and have to be planted with nursery-grown seedlings.
To prevent wallabies and other native animals from eating the growing seedlings, some areas are treated with "10-80" poison. Native animals can be killed only if the Department in charge of the environment issues a permit. If used properly, the poison can be specific only to the target species and its use has to be supervised by the water authorities to prevent contamination. Although it is an effective means of raising a new crop of trees and probably has negligible residual environmental effects, poisoning is highly unpopular. Although its use against native animals is still legal in Tasmania, Steve Davis and his team will stop using it in 2005.
The new crops of trees are to be grown on rotations of 80 to 100 years. On about seven percent of the area, where slopes are gentle, thinning operations are carried out at mid-rotation.
Harvesting operations are a point of major controversy in Tasmania. Protests against logging in the forests have been held throughout Tasmania for more than 25 years. The protests have led to considerable antagonism between the environmental movement and forest product companies, their logging contractors and workers.
"There are still large tracts of old-growth forest that are directly threatened by logging. These adjoin the World Heritage Area and we believe they should be included within it," said Mike Noble, of the Wildness Society, an active environmental advocacy group. Adam Burling, from the local Huon Valley Environment Centre, agreed. He organizes regular public protests against logging of the forests to ensure the issue remains at the forefront of public awareness.
Tony Ferrier, Manager of Environment and Development Services for the Huon Valley Council, reported that there was also significant local concern about the effect on long-term biodiversity in the forests:
"Many people believe that the relatively short harvesting regimes result in inadequate time for non-eucalyptus species to regenerate, and monocultures are being actively encouraged," he said.
Apiarists, craft workers and other groups have joined the environmental advocacy groups, in more recent times. One group of small businesses, furniture makers and craft workers, the Timber Workers for Forests, argues that clear-felling the forests depletes the supply of myrtle and the rare conifers needed by artisans producing high-value wood manufactures. But another group of woodworkers - the Woodcraft Guild Tasmania - sees the situation quite differently. Their President, George Harris, feels that the forestry managers give a lot of attention in their planning to supplying the speciality timbers that his members need. This is done by providing salvage areas that people can apply for, and by arranging for a storage yard, Island Speciality Timbers, to keep parcels of rare timbers until needed. His experience is that, "the foresters are fair and decent people, easy to talk to and straight-dealing."
The controversies pervade society and even divide families sometimes. Scott McLean, Secretary of the Forestry Division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has gone so far as to introduce a special programme to help forest workers deal with the continual criticism. He provides them with basic facts about forest management on a foldout card they can keep in their pockets. He also trains them to deal with conflict in a non-violent way.
"Don't get into fights with environmentalists; take a deep breath, think for a moment or two, and then just tell them the facts from your point of view," he often tells his workers.
Today, the workers are looking forward to a national training package that will cover quality assurance and product care in the forest industries. Workers hope that - when this becomes a reality - they will finally be given proper recognition for their skills in balancing production and conservation.
The challenging situation in Tasmania requires that Steve Davis and his forestry team have a well-developed, clear and transparent planning system for managing the Huon state forests. It incorporates:
1. a legal and policy framework;
2. assessment and mapping;
3. Forest Management Plans; and
4. operational plans.
The legal framework is based on the Forestry Act, first passed by the Tasmanian Parliament in 1920 and updated several times since. It makes Forestry Tasmania the government agency responsible for managing state forests, but not for managing national parks. The Regional Forest Agreement, mentioned earlier, also sets out management responsibilities.
Forestry Tasmania has policies aiming to make it an "inter nationally competitive" and "sustainable multiple-use" forest manager. Its processes in environmental management have been certified as meeting the ISO 14001 Standard.
2. Assessment and mapping
Tasmania has a long history of assessing and mapping the timber values of its forests and, since the late 1980s, their heritage values. The Regional Forest Agreement process provided funds for comprehensive assessments of the environmental, economic, social and heritage values. A substantial database of these values provides the basis for planning how the Huon and other forests are managed.
A Management Decision Classification system uses the data to map the state forests into zones. Separate zones delineate areas for wood production, and those that require special care - such as those next to the World Heritage Area, those that have indigenous or cultural heritage values and those containing rare or endangered plants and animals. Much of the Huon area is on limestone, or karst country, and ancient glacial moraines are present in several areas. Tasmania is among the world-leaders in recognizing the "geodiversity" as well as the "biodiversity" values in forests. However, it is difficult and expensive to find many of the heritage and geological features hidden by the dense understorey in these forests.
3. Forest Management Plan for the Huon Forest District
The Forestry Act requires a comprehensive Forest Management Plan for every state forest and specifies that the responsible Minister must approve them. The 10-year Forest Management Plan for the Huon Forest District is a concise, readable document that describes forest management objectives and activities. The current plan was approved in 2000, after its predecessor was amended to bring it into line with the Regional Forest Agreement. The plan provides the forest manager, Steve Davis, with clear guidelines and a mandate for implementing forest management activities. A key ingredient in the process of formulating the plan is provision of extensive opportunities for public participation in the planning process.
The current plan identifies 21 production, conservation and process objectives. For example, it delineates the various management zones and allocates forest for production purposes (52 percent), for production with additional special management (22 percent), for tree plantations (3 percent) and for forest protection (23 percent). The plan describes the silvicultural prescriptions that are to be applied for general wood production, special timbers and plantations. Prescriptions for management of biodiversity, old-growth forests, wilderness, flora, fauna, geoconservation, soils, landscape and heritage values are also covered. The plan also has sections devoted to management for recreation, education, access, fire, mining, honey production and other activities.
In addition to the comprehensive Forest Management Plan, there are several subordinate operational plans. A three-year Wood Production Plan has been developed in consultation with the major wood-processing companies and local municipal councils. It sets out where new forest roads are to be built, which coupes are to be logged, and which municipal roads will be used to haul the wood to market.
4. Operational plans
A Forest Practices Plan is written for every coupe before it is logged. An experienced forester, trained in the provisions of the Forest Practices Code, prepares each plan. Manuals covering heritage values, biodiversity, geomorphology and other considerations guide the foresters in writing the plans. Each plan consists of a detailed topographical map showing the area to be felled, the boundaries of any patches to be given special care or not to be felled, designs for roads, tracks and log landings, and the general direction in which logs are to be hauled to landings.
The plan guides practices at the landings including de-limbing, and sorting. Any special prescriptions are noted on the plans, such as the care to be taken if any sinkholes to underground limestone caves are discovered during the course of operations.
The Forest Practices Plan is signed by the logging contractor and the company buying the wood. Once logging is completed, a forester inspects the coupe to assess whether the plan has been complied with, or whether the contractor needs to complete remedial work.
The Forest Practices Code is based on a principle of co-regulation by the forest manager, the company and its contractors. However each year, a separate government agency, the Forest Practices Board audits 15 percent of the coupes against 124 criteria. This monitors performance and has improved the standard of logging. In the Huon Forest District, the audits have found a compliance rate of more than 90 percent in the last three years. The Forest Practices Code and plans are subject to extensive debate. For example, some people believe that current pre-harvesting assessments are not adequate, and that high costs are used as an excuse for failing to implement satisfactory systems.
"Tasmania should follow the practice in the State of Victoria where detailed flora and fauna surveys are done before any coupe plan is prepared," advised Adam Burling. "We need these types of surveys in order to give greater protection to rare birds, such as eagles and owls." He also fears that the use of poison to kill browsing animals might have serious negative effects higher up the food chain.
However, Gary King, Environmental Planning Manager for Forestry Tasmania rebutted such criticism: "Every coupe is surveyed for flora communities and fauna habitat including nesting sites for eagles and goshawks, and the impact of "10-80" is monitored," he pointed out.
Monitoring and reporting
The planning system has procedures for monitoring and reporting progress against its components at each of its four levels. For example, at the legal and policy level, the first five-yearly review of the Regional Forest Agreement has recently been completed. It found that most forest management issues are being satisfactorily addressed, and made only a few recommendations for issues where "further progress needs to be made." However, the political sensitivity of forest issues in an election year was such that the federal government stalled on responding to it, even months after it was completed.
"We are structured on a corporate model - as a government business enterprise, rather than as a traditional forestry department or a commission," explains Gary King in Forestry Tasmania's Head Office. "This has encouraged us to set clear objectives and to implement proactive measures achieve these aims. Our performance is required to be measured and reported to Parliament and the public every year." Huon District has its own business plan with detailed performance measures - mostly established in quantifiable terms - such as the amount of wood produced, compliance rates with the Forest Practices Code, or minimizing the area burned in wildfires. Each year, Steve Davis is required to report on progress made against the plan's targets.
The municipal government, the Huon Valley Council, sponsors a "Healthy Rivers Program" and has a similar attitude to measuring performance. The Council collates water quality measurements taken by government agencies as well as those taken by local schools and community groups. One of its initial findings is that the quality of water coming from the forest is virtually unaffected by the forest operations. Steve Davis and his team also monitor water quality in all streams immediately below sites where chemicals are applied, and the results are published annually. However, Adam Burling from the Huon Environment Centre remains worried about pollution and thinks that the water should be more rigorously tested for residues of the herbicides and fertilizers used in the plantations.
Although the current Huon Forest District Management Plan will expire in 2010, the forest managers have much longer-term visions for the future. Six hundred hectares of new plantations are established each year, approximately half with the local blue gum, Eucalyptus globulus and most of the remainder with the fast-growing Eucalyptus nitens from Victoria and a small area of Pinus radiata. The wood from these plantations - and from regenerating trees in the coupes previously cut over - is expected to generate a fourfold increase in wood production in the future. Development of industrial capacity to utilize the additional wood is being pursued vigorously, with a bold plan to build an integrated forest products' processing centre. The planned centre will comprise a log sorting yard, a sawmill, a factory to make laminated timber and an electricity co-generation plant fuelled by waste wood.
Tourism and the economy
Forestry Tasmania seeks to capitalize on opportunities to develop tourism. Deep in the forest, at the confluence of the Huon and Picton rivers, it has built the "Tahune Air Walk" - a forest canopy walkway suspended 45 metres above the river bank. The facility includes a stylish visitors' centre, forest walking tracks and interpretive signs that explain how the forest is managed to balance production and conservation pressures. The walkway has proven very popular and presently attracts more than 150 000 visitors each year. A Forest and Heritage Centre in the nearby township of Geeveston complements the Air Walk, with displays depicting the history of the timber industry and a woodcrafts' gallery.
The economy of the Huon Valley, in particular Geeveston, has been revitalized and business confidence turned around by the boom in tourism and by plans for the establishment of an integrated processing centre, which will be built nearby. New cafes, craft shops and accommodation facilities have been established to supply the tourist market.
Tahune Air Walk, suspended 45 metres above the river bank, attracts many tourists (courtesy Forestry Tasmania).
Public consultation and participation
Public consultation is an established part of Australian planning practice, but may not affect the outcomes of the political process. For example, Tasmania undertook the extensive, multi-sector, "Tasmania Together" public consultation from 2000 to 2003, that proposed to "end clear felling in areas of high conservation value old-growth forest by January 1, 2003, and cease all clear felling in old-growth forests by 2010". However, the government had to balance this with economic and employment pressures, and it continued as it had agreed to under its Regional Forest Agreement with the federal government.
Facilitating involvement in forest management by the Aboriginal community requires that the various groups be consulted and that sufficient time be allowed for consensus views to be developed. Steve Davis is actively working with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council to plan the protection of Aboriginal heritage values of the Riveaux Cave area in Huon District. While progress is being made in this direction, Aboriginal cultural historian, Kaye McPherson of the Manuta Tunapee Puggaluggia within the Lia Pootah community, believes that the government fails to acknowledge the diversity of indigenous Australians and their remaining traditional knowledge.
Nevertheless, consultation is an essential part of good forest management and can be successful at the local scale. Steve Davis spends a lot of his time explaining forest management to community groups. A recent example of rerouting a historic walking track to the Hartz Mountains showed that face-to-face discussions could be helpful in finding acceptable compromises between production and conservation on a small local scale. More importantly, he demonstrates to community groups that forest management in Huon District is conducted in an honest and open manner, even if some people disagree with the forest policies that he implements.
Forest management in Southern Tasmania has developed a detailed planning, monitoring, auditing and reporting system in response to international and national agreements and policies. It operates in a climate of widespread community debate and general dissatisfaction over the felling of old-growth forests. It is under intense scrutiny from environmental and other groups with very high expectations of what should - and can - be achieved. Although the context is often contentious, forest management generally proceeds in a clear, orderly and professional way.
About the author
Dr John Dargavel has worked as a forester in gover nment, industry and universities for more than 40 years. He has authored numerous scientific papers and is the author or editor of 10 books on forest management, policy and history. He is a Visiting Fellow in the Australian National University and is a former President of the Australian Forest History Society.
 Text relating to SUFORD
has been adapted by the editors - from contributions by Manuel Bonita and Edwin
Payuan - and added to the original case study.|