Forest harvesting is defined as the aggregation of all operations related to the felling of trees and the extraction of their stems, or other usable parts, from the forest for subsequent processing into industrial products. Nowadays, however, harvesting no longer refers only to the process of extracting the selected trees from the forest to the roadside, but also takes into account the importance of forests as a source ofnon-wood forest productsandenvironmental servicesas well as for the conservation of biological diversity and cultural values. This increased complexity makes the planning and execution of harvesting operations more difficult, since they must be designed and implemented in such a way as to accommodate and, if possible, enhance the multifunctional character of forests.
The objective of FAO's Forest Harvesting Programme is to promote environmentally sound, economically feasible and socially acceptable forest operations to significantly contribute towards sustainable forestry development. The basic strategy of the programme is to collect and share information and experiences and to increase countries' human resource capacities to properly plan, carry out and control improved harvesting practices, thereby increasing the value of harvested products and services while reducing waste in the forest and the environmental impact on forest trees and stands.
In recent years, significant progress has been made in the development of guidelines for responsible forest harvesting practices. To date, the implementation of these guidelines remains problematic. Nevertheless, the guidelines themselves are an important step towards achieving sustainable forest management.