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Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Toolbox

Land-Use Planning

The Land-use Planning Module has been prepared for people involved in the assessment of forestlands and their economic, social and environmental potential for various land uses. The module provides basic and more detailed information on the importance of land-use planning in forestry and offers guidance on the main activities involved in a land-use planning framework.

The module also provides links to tools and case studies to foster effective land-use planning.

Generic approach to land-use planning

While there is no single blueprint for land-use planning, a generic framework can be used as a guide for the process and adapted to suit circumstances. Such a framework is shown in the table.

Generic steps and activities for land-use planning

Generic steps and activities for land-use planning



Initial engagement

Identify key stakeholders and stakeholder groups with an interest in the land-use planning exercise and its outcomes

Background information

Gather and document biophysical, economic and social information of relevance to the land-use planning exercise, as well as policy and legal material

Planning team

Establish a planning team containing representatives of all key stakeholder groups

Agree on roles and responsibilities in the planning team

Areas of planning interest

Identify and catalogue the current and proposed future uses of the land

Identify current and potential conflicts associated with actual or potential uses

Terms of reference for land-use plan

Negotiate the objectives of the land-use plan

Agree on the process to guide the development of the land-use plan (including conflict resolution)

Draft land-use plan

Negotiate and agree on land-use allocations (using participatory multistakeholder approaches) and permitted uses, and review requirements

Final land-use plan

Obtain approval of the land-use plan from relevant authorities and stakeholder representatives

Review and amendments

Work together with key stakeholders to review and amend the land-use plan over time

A central part of land-use planning in forest landscapes is reaching agreement on those areas to be managed under differing regimes. These might include:

Information collection and display

Information collection and display

Land-use planning requires the application of various tools and techniques to collect and display data and information. The collection of basic data is important as a prelude to deciding on land-use allocations. Multipurpose forest inventories and forest monitoring systems can provide the necessary data to support decision-making and land-use planning. Geographic information systems (GIS) are a useful tool for capturing, storing, managing and presenting a wide range of information, such as socioeconomic data, the geographic distribution of major landforms, dominant land cover, and inventories of natural resources.

Multistakeholder processes and integrating socioeconomic aspects into planning

Multistakeholder processes and integrating socioeconomic aspects into planning

In many countries, government decentralization and the devolution of decision-making over forest allocation and use have led to increased local government and community control over forests. Combined with growing public interest in decisions on forest use, decentralization and devolution have made the engagement of a wide range of stakeholders an integral and essential part of contemporary land-use planning processes. Such engagement involves the effective application of participatory approaches (see Participatory approaches and tools in forestry) and, in particular, the establishment and effective functioning of participatory multistakeholder planning teams. In addition to biophysical aspects, such teams need to take into account socioeconomic aspects of land-use planning (see socioeconomic aspects) and are generally charged with reconciling diverse interests and finding ways of managing forests equitably (see Collaborative conflict management in forestry).

Further detailed guidance and support for forest land-use planning can be found in the Tools and Cases segments of this module.