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Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Toolbox

Forest Management Planning

Welcome to the Forest Management Planning Module. This module is intended for forest owners and managers wishing to plan SFM activities and to enable monitoring and control.

The module provides information and links to tools and case studies, to guide users in planning the implementation of SFM at the forest management unit level.

Forest management planning contributes to SDGs:

Forest management is the process of planning and implementing practices for the stewardship and use of forests and other wooded land targeted at specific environmental, economic, social and cultural objectives. Forest management planning is a fundamental component of SFM, and it may be required at various scales, from local to national; this module focuses on the local (or forest management unit) scale.

The role of forest management planning is to determine and express the objectives of forest management in a specified area of forest and to set out the steps to be taken to achieve those objectives.

Forest management planning is important for many reasons. For example, it can:

  • help forest owners and managers identify what they want from the forest and provide an efficient course of action to meet those objectives;
  • provide a means by which stakeholders can participate in forest management and ensure clarity on the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders;
  • ensure the existence and functionality of the resource while also increasing its value (e.g. specifying where, how and under what conditions and constraints the resource may be used);
  • save time and reduce costs (e.g. in road construction and wood harvesting);
  • reduce risks and their impacts and avoid potentially costly forest management mistakes (e.g. harvesting the wrong trees or at the wrong time, failing to implement fire management, or neglecting an insect infestation);
  • provide continuity in managerial operations over time by formalizing administrative arrangements and establishing a basis for monitoring forest activities;
  • project future harvesting volumes and earnings; and
  • assist in the efficient collection of information and the organization of business records.

The forest management planning process often involves the following steps:

  • preliminary assessment (e.g. on legal, biophysical, socioeconomic and market aspects);
  • forest resources assessment (e.g. a forest inventory);
  • participation and consultation;
  • setting management objectives;
  • zoning or stratifying the forest area;
  • calculating sustainable yields (wood and non-wood products);
  • developing the content of the forest management plan according to the format(s) provided by the government agency, if any;
  • approval of the forest management plan by the forest authority (prior to implementation); and
  • periodic revision of the plan based on monitoring and evaluation on the ground.

Many decision-support systems are available to help in this process (see Tools).

Obtaining the data needed for effective forest management planning is an important part of the process. Information is needed on the terrain (e.g. in maps showing contour lines and watercourses) and on the growing stock, such as species, number of stems, basal area and volume per hectare. Information is also required on various economic, social and environmental parameters, such as tenure, the existence and state of infrastructure, the availability of human resources, community attitudes, sites of high conservation value, and the presence of rare or endangered species.

The result of the planning process is a document – usually called a forest management plan – containing all necessary information in the form of text, maps, tables and graphs. This plan guides SFM implementation – what is to be done, where, when, why and by whom – according to the specified objectives. In many jurisdictions, a nominated government organization must authorize such plans before forest activities may commence.