Forest management institutions and the implementation of criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management

Martin Herbert Kijazi and Shashi Kant 1


Sustainable forest management (SFM) cannot be achieved just by developing national level criteria and indicators (C&I). An understanding of the gaps between existing forest management institutions and C&I, at the given level, is critical. Hence, a gap analysis framework is developed, and used to analyse gaps between the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers C&I and the Forest Management Planning Manual (FMPM) for Ontario. The dominant outcomes are: none of the criteria are fully incorporated in the FMPM; in most cases prescriptions at the planning level have not been followed through in operations and reporting and monitoring levels; forest management institutional reforms have been good on biological aspects, poor on social aspects, and worst on global ecological cycles; and the changes in forest management institutions have been incremental. Countries aiming for SFM, should initiate similar gap analysis at the forest management unit level, and should implement comprehensive forest management institutional reforms that incorporate required management prescriptions, at all levels of forest management, corresponding to the local C&I.


Authors are thankful to the Sustainable Forest Management Network (SFMN), Canada for financial support.


The concept of sustainable forest management (SFM) has become a dominant paradigm after the Rio summit, which demanded increased global stewardship and commitments to the management of world natural resources (UCED 1987). During the summit, nations agreed to adopt some common principles of SFM. The outcomes include Helsinki and Montreal processes, and Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM) initiative to set international and national Criteria and Indicators (C & I) of SFM, respectively. The productive use of the C & I requires scaling of the international and national C & I to the local or the forest management unit (FMU) levels, where actual forest management takes place (CFS 2001). However, the goals of SFM cannot be achieved just by development of C & I at different levels. Comprehensive forest management institutional reforms, that are responsive to C & I at all the three stages - planning; operations and; reporting & monitoring - of forest management, are essential ingredient for SFM. Hence, an understanding of the gaps between existing forest management institutions and C & I, at the given level, is critical to strengthen the process of SFM.

Hence, first we develop a framework for gap analysis between forest management institutions and C & I. Second, we demonstrate the use of this framework by using the case of the Ontario province, Canada, where forest management on Crown land is regulated by the Forest Management Planning Manual (FMPM) (OMNR 1996), and there are C & I at the national level only, known as CCFM C & I (CCFM 2000), but not at the provincial level. Thus, we use the framework for a gap analysis between the FMPM and the CCFM C & I. Third we highlight the dominant outcomes and discuss their relevance to SFM. Finally, we conclude with an argument that countries, which aim to achieve SFM in the near future, should initiate the process of gap analysis and reform the forest management institutions accordingly.


The proposed gap analysis framework has two components. The first is vertical gap analysis - analyzing hierarchical complementarities (national to local level) of C & I as well as of institutions. The second is horizontal gap analysis - gaps between C & I and the corresponding institutions at any given level. The details of the framework are given in Table 1. However, due to non-availability of C & I at the local-level in Ontario, we could not demonstrate the use of the first component. For the horizontal gap analysis we use the CCFM C & I, as a proxy for local C & I - the best approximation of such values at the FMU level in the given circumstances, and the Ontario's FMPM. The CCFM framework has six criteria defined by 22 elements and measured by 83 indicators. The FMPM has three parts: Part A (Management Plan); Part B (Annual Operations) and; Part C (Reporting and Monitoring). The horizontal gap analysis involved scoring each Criterion and its elements of SFM on the basis of the adequacy of the information/prescription content in the three parts of the FMPM. Gaps were recorded and grouped into three categories as major, intermediate and minor gaps, and the details are given in Table 2.

Outcomes of the Gap Analysis

Criterion-wise details of the outcomes of gap analysis are discussed next, and the summary of the outcomes is given in Table 3.

Criterion 1: Conservation of Biological Diversity

Biodiversity refers to the variability and complexity among living organisms. It can be measured at the ecosystem, species and genetic levels (CCFM 2000). The FMPM adequately prescribes for ecosystem diversity except for the assessment of representative forest types in protected areas within the FMU. Such assessment is important to provide ecological benchmark information for comparative assessment of the impact of forest management practices on biodiversity. The extent of forest types relative to historical conditions, which is currently only documented in planning stage, should be incorporated at the monitoring stage.

Conservation of Species diversity requires periodic evaluation of the status of forest dependent species. This is adequately prescribed at the planning stage, but need be augmented by objectives-oriented prescriptions to ensure survival and the monitoring of the status of threatened, rare and endangered species including population trends of selected species and species-guilds relative to stated objectives.

Gene-conservation has both ecological and utilitarian justifications - to safeguard future evolutionary potential of species to new biotic challenges and for commercial genetic improvement programs. Leaving some ecologically representative wild forest-stands to respond to natural evolutionary pressures in-situ is a desirable, cost-effective, feasible and long-term approach to gene-conservation. This approach can supplement ex-situ collections made for breeding purposes (Yanchuk and Lester 1996). The FMPM must prescribe for gene-conservation activities including reference guidelines for the implementation and monitoring of an in/ex-situ genetic conservation strategy for commercial and endangered forest vegetation species.

Criterion 2: Ecosystem Condition and Productivity

This criterion defines the forest condition; the relative freedom from stress and relative level of physical and biological energy as indicated by forest health and vitality (CCFM 2000). Ecosystem condition and productivity are conserved if forest disturbances and stresses allow maintenance of ecosystem processes and conditions within the succession-specific characteristic range. Hence, forest management practices must emulate or compensate for the natural processes altered through management (Morris 1997).

The current FMPM adequately prescribe for natural disturbances (pests, diseases, fire) and also measures ecosystem condition and productivity using total productive crown forestland and net primary productivity (NPP). However additional indicators are required for: assessment and monitoring of anthropogenic disturbances (pollutants, exotics etc.) and ecosystem resilience (e.g. regeneration); extant biomass - by using Mean Annual Increment (MAI) to assess sustainability of commercially usable forest-biomass, and indicator species to assess sustainability of other forest species. Such species can indicate habitat changes overtime; specific features of the forest such as forest structure and age class; and the impact of forest management operations on biological diversity (McLaren, et al. 1998).

Criterion 3: Soil and Water Conservation

The conservation of soil & water resources and the physical environments are needed to sustain the characteristic-range of ecosystem productivity (CSA 1996). Intensive disturbance by stand management operations may threaten long-term site productivity, particularly when poor practices are conducted in sensitive sites. An expert-opinion survey in Ontario indicated concerns for nutrient removals, loss of organic matter, altered hydrology and rutting when harvesting is done on shallow organic soils and upland sites (Morris 1997).

Management-induced changes in long-term site productivity can be evaluated and corrected by development of best practice guidelines; C & I of sustainability; and long-term field trials to provide feedback information for the best practices guidelines and C & I (Morris 1997). The current study endorses these recommendations. The assessment of water quality, and monitoring of the dynamics of aquatic fauna must supplement the current assessment of water yield. Site-specific soil and water protection factors and policy statements are needed to aid commitment to SFM and provide vision, mission, guiding principles and codes of good management practice (CSA 1996).

Criterion 4: Contribution to Global Ecological Cycles

Forests play a critical role in global ecological cycles, the complex and self-regulating processes that recycle water, carbon, nitrogen and other life-sustaining elements (CCFM 2000). Forest conditions and management activities, must contribute positively to the health of these cycles by: maintaining ecological processes, balancing utilization and rejuvenation, and protecting the forestlands from deforestation (CSA 1996).

Whereas indicators of forest utilization, rejuvenation and conversion are prescribed for by the FMPM there is a need to develop local-indicators related to: water and nutrient cycling, other life sustaining elements of the global ecological cycles, and the impact of forest management practices at the FMU to the ecological cycles. Explicit directives for assessment reporting and monitoring of such indicators over time are critical.

Criterion 5: Multiple Benefits

SFM implies sustained flow of multiple-benefits, within limits of the productive capacity of the resource-base, and a competitive but fair business (CSA 1996). Traditional Sustained Yield (SY) forestry intended to maximize timber yield subject to constraints imposed by non-timber values (NTVs). Some elements of SY are still reflected in current forest policies (Luckert 1997) as also observed in the FMPM prescriptions examined in the current study.

The growing value of NTVs demands that SFM decision-making make unbiased analyses of opportunities and constraints for both industrial forest-uses and NTVs. Approaches to consider NTVs include: granting harvest rights, collection of fees by the Crown, and public control in form of subsidies and/or requirements for NTVs with diffuse prices (Luckert 1997). Non-market Economic Valuation Models and Decision Support Systems can be used to evaluate non-market values and to understand conflicts between industrial operations and other forest uses (Akabua, et al. 2000). The FMPM should require assessment of competitiveness at the FMU in terms of promoting multiple-benefits. The assessment of productive capacity of the forest must include sustainability trends for non-NTVs & and their contribution to the economy.

Criterion 6: Society's Responsibility in SFM

This criterion looks at the social values of the forests and effectiveness of the participation of the broader society in SFM (CCFM 2000). The current management planning requires consultation with the local citizens, Aboriginal and other forest communities. This study observed gaps in the process, which must be addressed, in order to enhance public and Aboriginal participation in SFM.

To make the process more effective, the monitoring process in the FMPM must not only evaluate the number of consulted communities, but also the effectiveness of the participation process and subsequent implementation. The local citizens and communities must be involved early in the consultation process in order to have their input on the design of the process by which local values are identified based on local situations, knowledge, perceptions, and resources. This is important for a successful, fair, and effective consultation and subsequent management planning and implementation. Locally flexible guidelines are needed to aid the process.

All aspects of forest operations must indicate commitment to SFM. With respect to respecting Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, and Sustainability of Forest Communities, the FMPM must require clearly defined set of policy statements, which express and define commitments, including roles and obligations of all involved stakeholders. Such statements must be linked to specific compliances in forest management procedures, operations and attitudes; they will serve as monitoring schemes and will also minimize the risks involved in the endeavor.

Efforts must be made to inform, empower, and learn from communities as local partners in SFM. This will enhance their participation towards SFM. Finally, informed decision-making programs e.g. learning mechanisms, public education, research and development and multi-resource inventories should be promoted. Monitoring of such programs will catalyze improvement and innovativeness leading to adaptive management.

Dominant Outcomes and their Relevance to SFM

The criterion and element specific gaps, discussed above, indicate the following four dominant outcomes. First, none of the criteria of SFM has been fully incorporated in forest management prescriptions. Second, in most cases prescriptions at the planning level have not been followed through at operations and reporting & monitoring levels. Third, on the basis of the gap-category of the majority of the elements in a criterion (Table 3), we are inclined to rank the six criteria in this order - Global Ecological Cycles, Society's Responsibility, Soil and Water Conservation, Multiple Benefits, Biological Diversity, and Ecosystem Productivity (highest to lowest gaps). Hence, reforms in forest management institutions have been good on biological aspects, poor on social aspects, and worst on global ecological cycles. Fourth, the changes in forest management institutions have been incremental while the change in the concept of forest management, from Sustained Yield Timber Management to SFM, is a drastic change.

The complete inadequacy of management prescriptions for the criteria Global Ecological cycles, at all three management levels, suggests the need to scale the national C & I to the level of FMU, for example assessment of energy-use efficiency of harvesting practices, forest rotation based on the maximization of carbon sequestration, and management of forest biomass for carbon sequestration, and to make appropriate changes in forest management institutions at all the three components - planning, operations, and reporting & monitoring.

Even though the outcomes are based on a study from Ontario, some implications are general in nature. The processes of developing C & I and designing forest management institutions are almost the same across Canada as well as around the world. Hence, many of these outcomes will be common across the regions/countries. For example, authors have not seen specific-prescriptions in forest management plans addressing global ecological cycles across the countries including India, China, and the USA. Hence, policy makers in the countries, which are working on the concept of SFM, can make use of these dominant outcomes.


The most critical result of this study is that there are huge gaps between the existing forest management institutions and C & I, which clearly indicates that C & I are not being transformed into management practices. It seems that in the last ten years, the main focus of the countries has been on developing national level C & I. The FMU level C & I and forest management institutional reforms have been done only to a very limited extent in most countries, including major forest countries; Canada, China, and USA (CFS 2001). However, only national-level C & I and incremental institutional changes cannot achieve the goals of SFM. The national and provincial governments have to focus their efforts on local-level C & I and comprehensive institutional reforms to incorporate local-level C & I fully.

Hence, it is necessary for all the countries, aiming for SFM, to initiate similar gap analysis at the FMU level. The gap-analysis framework and analytical procedure of the study can serve as guiding tools for scaling national C & I to sub-national levels; analyzing institutional arrangements for the implementation of C & I; analyzing gaps for the purpose of improvement of policy and management practices; and increasing efficiency of data gathering and aggregation. The framework is flexible and can be used in any country or region and at any scale - local, provincial, and national.

We used only the horizontal component of the framework, but the outcomes clearly prove the utility of the framework. The outcomes demonstrate the need of scaling C & I from the national level to the FMU level and hence the utility of vertical component. The outcomes also demonstrate the need for comprehensive forest management institutional reforms to incorporate all the elements of C & I, and these changes are also important for compatibility & comparability during aggregation of data for assessment and monitoring of sustainability at the regional, provincial, and national levels.


Akabua, K. M., W. L. Adamowicz, and P. C. Boxall, 2000. "Spatial non-timber valuation decision support systems." Forest Chronicle 76(2): 319-327.

Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM), 2000. Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management in Canada: National status 2000, Ottawa, 122p

Canadian Forest Service (CFS), 2001. Scaling National Criteria and Indicators to the Local Level, Ottawa.

Canadian Standards Association (CSA), 1996. A Sustainable Forest Management System: Specifications Document, Etobicoke.

Luckert, M. K. (1997). "Towards a tenure policy framework for sustainable forest management in Canada." Forest Chronicle 73(2): 211-215.

McLaren, M. A., I. D. Thompson, and J. A. Baker, 1998. "Selection o vertebrate wildlife indicators for monitoring sustainable forest management in Ontario." Forest Chronicle 74(2): 241-248.

Morris, D. M. (1997). "The role of long-term site productivity in maintaining healthy ecosystems: A prerequisite of ecosystem management." Forest Chronicle 73(6): 731-740.

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), 1996. Forest Management Manual for Ontario's Crown Forests, Queen's Printer for Ontario, Toronto.

World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), 1987. Our Common Future. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 400 p.

Yanchuk, A. D. and D. T. Lester (1996). "Setting priorities for conservation of the conifer genetic resources of British Columbia." Forest Chronicle 72(4): 406-415.

Table 1 A framework for analyzing gaps in institutional arrangement for the implementation of C & I

Table 2. The conceptual framework used to analyze gaps between elements of CCFM C & I of SFM and the prescriptions of the FMPM for Ontario's Crown forests.

Table 3 Gaps ascribed to the Conformance of the FMPM for Ontario's Crown forest to the elements of the CCFM C & I framework.



MA = major; IN = intermediate; MI = minor
A = Forest Management Planning section of FMPM; B = Annual operations section of FMPM; C = Monitoring and Reporting section of FMPM


Missing/required content

Conservation of Biological Diversity

Ecosystem diversity


Representation of forest types in `protected areas'

Species diversity


Indicators of species diversity

Genetic diversity


In/ex situ conservation strategy for commercial and endangered species

Ecosystem Condition and Productivity

Disturbance and stress


Anthropogenic disturbance & stress

Ecosystem resilience


Indicators of ecosystem resilience

Extant biomass


Indicator species, MAI

Soil and Water Conservation

Physical environmental factors


Water quality, dynamics of aquatic fauna

Policy and protection factors


Best practice guidelines, policy statements

Global Ecological Cycles

Global carbon budget


Local estimates/budgets

Forest land conversion


Well covered

Carbon dioxide conservation


Energy conservation, forest industry emissions

Policy factors


Forest inventories, policy statements

Hydrological Cycles


The impact of forest practices

Multiple Benefits

Productive capacity


Sustainability trends/depletion of non-timber resources



Profitability, markets, R & D, innovation

Contribution to economy


Contribution of non-timber products/values

Non-timber values


Optimal utilization/sustainability

Society's Responsibility

Aboriginal and Treaty Rights


Guidelines, terms of reference & policy statements to aid and ensure commitment, define roles and reduce risk.

Participation by Aboriginal Communities


Sustainability of Forest Communities


Fair and Effective Decision Making


Public involvement in the design of decision making process

Informed Decision Making


Mutual learning, public education, R & D; multi-resource inventories

1 Graduate student, Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto, 33 Willcocks St., Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 3B3. tini.herbert@utoronto.catini.herbert@utoronto.ca;
Website: http://www.forestry.utoronto.ca/sfm/FieldCamp/people/