An Argument for Intensive Forest Management

Neil Stocker[1]


In this paper a series of reasons is provided to justify the application of Intensive Forest Management (IFM). A new definition for IFM is proposed, with explanations provided of the components of the definition: advanced planning, intensive silviculture, enhanced protection, and effects and effectiveness monitoring. Also, the following questions are posed and addressed: who should engage in IFM and why; who pays and how much; intensifying forest management; IFM - where and on what scale; and when should IFM start?

What is IFM?

Intensive Forest Management (IFM) is an ill-defined means to an elusive goal. That goal is the concurrent management of all forest values to produce sustainably an optimum balance of quantity and quality of desired forest products over a minimum of time. Only IFM can ensure that the optimum balance, which is at or near the potential capacity for its site, is achieved.

Despite its prominence, IFM has, as yet, no generally accepted definition. An acceptable, standardized meaning is desperately needed. Existing definitions are predominately based on silviculture with a minor emphasis on protection. However, none of the existing definitions:

a) refer to the forest as an ecosystem containing a myriad of life forms;

b) acknowledge the need for thorough and detailed planning,

c) identify protection as a key element, if at all, and

d) address the need to assess IFM's intended and unintended results and improve its practices.

Accordingly, to address these shortcomings, a new definition is proposed for IFM, namely:

Forest Management that goes beyond current (2003) levels of practice and combines the use of:

a) advanced planning,
b) intensive silviculture,
c) enhanced protection, and
d) effects and effectiveness monitoring,

to increase substantially the quantity, quality, and/or diversity of forest products in the shortest possible time, without sacrificing the ecological integrity of the site.

IFM should be considered as management of the entire forest with both its timber and non-timber attributes. In most cases, the key objective will be the production of significant volumes of high quality timber in the shortest reasonable time frame. However, in some instances, other (non-timber) forest management objectives may be the principal focus of IFM. Where several such objectives can be met concurrently, that would be the preferred option.

"Current (2003) levels of practice" are best determined on a local basis. Attempting to prescribe these on a global basis is an impossible task. National, regional and local disparities in science, technology, money, regulation, history, society and other factors influence forest management. Therefore, the term IFM should be applied in context of both local forest management practices and local silviculture potential.

IFM, then, should aim to achieve substantial increases in forest productivity over that achieved through basic forest management. As well, these increases should be gained with the fewest negative effects on forest values, and at the best acceptable cost to the environment, economy, and society.

To be considered intensive, forest management must incorporate all four elements of the new definition. Omitting any one of these elements compromises the spirit and intent of IFM, and the resultant management would be something less than intensive.

IFM should not be confused with intensive silviculture. These terms are not synonymous. Intensive silviculture is a vital element of IFM, but IFM is far broader in its scope than intensive silviculture.

Advanced Planning

Advanced Planning is a site-specific, prescriptive approach that considers the forest as a whole, with all of its attributes and potentials. It acknowledges the history of the stand, including fire, insect, disease and man-made effects. Advanced planning incorporates realistic, state-of-the-art, spatially-based modelling. Such modelling relies on accurate forest inventory, practical forest ecosystem classification, and comprehensive non-timber forest value data. Advanced planning culminates in sets of site-specific, pre-harvest silvicultural prescriptions composed around clear forest management objectives. These prescriptions include:

1. the types, volumes, measurements and qualities of wood required by processing facilities by date;

2. detailed site assessments identifying:

3. other forest values to be maintained or improved over the life of the plan;

4. the most appropriate silvicultural system(-s) and crop management plan(-s) to be applied;

5. the most suitable:

6. the preferred micro-sites for each subdivision of the plantation;

7. the best species, stock types (including genetic variants), and densities for planting;

8. the periodic assessment/ monitoring standards and schedules;

9. the success/failure criteria and schedules for the achievement of:

10. alternative treatment regimes and/or remedial measures to address results better or worse than those expected, and the conditions and timetables for their implementation;

11. likely fire, insect and disease threats to the stands and the prevention/ protection measures to be instituted; and

12. access plans, including road construction, maintenance, and deactivation/ rehabilitation.

Intensive silviculture

Intensive silviculture is a highly subjective term. Most silviculture practitioners have used their own past activities, or that of their immediate neighbours, as the basis for its definition. Any activity beyond this baseline level of activity is considered by them to be 'intensive', even if that level of activity results in yields or quality effects that are only marginally better and fall far short of a site's potential.

Silviculture, is defined in the glossary of forestry terms (CFS, 1995), as:

The theory and practice of controlling the establishment, composition, growth, and quality of forest stands.

Intensive silviculture has been defined (Natural Resources Canada, 1995) as:

The application of cultural measures which, in addition to simply maintaining the forest cover, will allow an increase in the value or volume of the cut.

Silviculture intensities may be categorised on a hierarchical basis. Based on the amount and range of activity undertaken to establish and tend stands, these are (Dunster and Dunster 1996, Bell et al. 2000):

The list of treatments associated with intensive silviculture should be extended to include:

As well, the definition of elite silviculture should also be extended to include pruning as its purpose is analogous to that of fertilization. Whereas fertilization is intended to stimulate greater tree growth, pruning attempts to improve stem form by focusing that growth on the uppermost parts of stems. The revised list of treatments is summarized in Table 1.


Site Preparation







Insect Control

Disease Control












































Table 1. Revised listing of treatment types associated with the hierarchy of silviculture intensities.

Despite the inclusion of site preparation and planting with most forms of silviculture, they should not be considered essential elements. Where the density, distribution and quality of naturally established trees is equivalent, or preferable, to the measures likely to be established artificially, then such stands should be considered as meeting the establishment requirements for those levels of silviculture. Indeed, incorporating high-quality advanced regeneration into managed forest stands, through appropriate harvest and site preparation methods, could be a highly desirable strategy. This strategy could reduce establishment costs and risks, ensure the continuity of various stand attributes, and shorten rotations at minimal additional cost, if any, to the forest manager. Therefore, the use of natural regeneration, where it meets these conditions, should be an acceptable strategy in IFM.

Enhanced Protection

Enhanced protection is a more assertive variant of protection from fire, insects and disease, than that currently in use. At present, enhanced protection cannot be applied effectively throughout the forest, nor should it be. Because of limited resources (money, equipment, and particularly trained staff), constantly evolving forests, and immature risk analysis capability, the capacity for forest managers to apply continuous, uniform, effective protection is severely limited. Accordingly, enhanced protection can only be applied effectively and with confidence to certain areas. The selection of areas for enhanced protection will depend on:

Enhanced protection consists of proactive and reactive elements. Proactive elements for fire, insect and disease attacks include:

a) thorough analysis of fire, insect and disease risks to stands;
b) detailed planning and preparation of countermeasures;
c) frequent surveillance and reporting, using active and passive methods where possible;
d) training of personnel in both monitoring and response measures;
e) acquisition and pre-positioning of equipment and supplies;
f) scientific research into even more effective products and techniques; and
g) development of partnerships for protection.

Reactive elements consist of:

a) rapid detection and notification;
b) quick and vigorous response to attack;
c) thorough monitoring of attack extent and intensity; and
d) monitoring of surveillance and control measures' effects and effectiveness.

Implicit in this specification of enhanced protection is the need to learn from its successes and failures (adaptive management). Creation, maintenance and study of detailed records of the attacks and responses to them are essential elements of the adaptive management process.

Effects & Effectiveness Monitoring

Monitoring is defined (Sutter, 1993) as:

The "measurement of environmental characteristics over an extended period of time to determine status or trends in some aspect of environmental quality".

Effects monitoring is "used to determine how a particular treatment, group of treatments or operation interacts with, or affects, other organisms or ecological processes" (OMNR, 2001).

Effectiveness has been defined (OMNR, 2001) as:

"...how the results of a prescription or treatment compare with:

a) the targeted results;
b) the results (and costs) of other prescriptions on similar sites; and
c) silvicultural standards or target measures.

IFM is, by its nature, a highly adaptive form of management. Ongoing effectiveness monitoring is the principal means of providing feed-back on IFM and all of its constituents. The outcome of this feed-back is the implementation of better, alternative or remedial measures to the stands as needed.

Effectiveness monitoring is an essential means of determining whether:

a) the goals of treatment are being met;
b) the forest stand's rate of development matches the original prescription forecast;
c) each prescribed treatment is needed to meet the management objectives; and
d) a specific prescribed treatment is the best option to meet the management objectives.

Who Should Engage in IFM and Why?

All forest managers with economic, social and environmental concerns about the forest should engage in IFM for the following reasons:

This means that, sooner or later, timber and all of the other values that we derive from forests will be insufficient to meet our demands. Therefore, all forest management organizations, government and industrial, will be socially and/or economically obligated to extract, on a sustainable basis, the largest volume of the highest quality wood from the world's forests, over the shortest periods possible. Current extensive and basic forest management practices, even with practical backlog land reforestation/ afforestation, can increase total forest yields only marginally. They do little, if anything, to improve timber quality. Intensive and elite forest management, on the other hand, offer the opportunity to increase significantly both total forest yields and wood quality levels. Yield increases and quality enhancements of at least 10% are achievable from tree breeding programs alone (Dennis Joyce, pers. comm.). Other IFM treatment strategies offer increases equal to or greater than that.

What are the costs of such a program? Undoubtedly, they would be significant, although not much greater than those already incurred through conventional forest management. Conversely, what are the costs of not adopting IFM? Timber would be produced on a gradually shrinking landbase, with similar or even poorer quality, on the same or shorter rotations, to satisfy the demands for the least stringent markets (economy studs, particle-board, strand-board, cheap papers, chemicals, etc.). These are the easiest markets to satisfy in terms of material quality, but have the lowest profit margins, and are subject to the greatest competition globally. The result would be continued mill closures, job losses and social disruption. Conversely, IFM will provide more, higher quality wood, help to keep mills operating profitably, stimulate employment in the woods and ensure social stability in forest-dependent communities.

Who should pay for IFM? Ultimately, the beneficiaries must pay. If IFM is used to provide more and higher quality wood fibre, greater yields of non-timber products, better recreation opportunities, more stability in forest communities, and/ or improved wildlife habitat, then all of the people who benefit from those enhanced values should pay in proportion to the size of those increases. Furthermore, if IFM is undertaken on public lands, then governments must acknowledge a potential for conflicting interests. Enhancement of specific forest attributes at the expense of others will probably favour the interests of certain users over those of other users.

Visionary governments concerned with the well-being of their citizens must acknowledge the need to plan for the future. This future will include more people and less wood. Since wood has been a key ingredient in the standard of living throughout the world, governments will have to ensure that supplies of high quality wood are either maintained or depleted at the slowest rates possible in order to affect the standards of living minimally. Therefore, to maintain the volume and quality of wood, governments must start to remove unnecessary regulatory obstacles, implement IFM practices, and oversee the adoption of IFM by their wood-producing industries as soon as possible.

Intensifying Forest Management

IFM suggests a specific level of forest management, with clear demarcations between it and other orders of management. Undertaking IFM in its entirety in one step may not be feasible. The definition and constituents of IFM are still being debated, resulting in a shifting standard with which it is difficult, at best, to comply. Consequently, intensifying forest management is a legitimate means of achieving the effects of IFM on an incremental basis. Notwithstanding the need to recognize IFM as having four essential components, the near impossibility of undertaking IFM from a basis of extensive or basic forest management in one massive step should be appreciated. Accordingly, the adoption of IFM in stages with the firm commitment to gradually undertake all of the components should be recognized as an acceptable forest management strategy.

IFM - Where and on What Scale?

Logically (and eventually), for the reasons mentioned above, 100% of productive forest lands (exclusive of parks and protected areas) should be managed under IFM. Practically, however, because of the controversy, cost and community reluctance to have the entire forest subjected to IFM, this will not be possible for many years, if at all. Therefore, initially (i.e. within the first ten years), up to five to ten percent of the forest should be brought into IFM. Over time (ten to twenty years, or so), as the costs and benefits of this type of management are realized, then the scale of implementation may be enlarged, or not.

Areas initially selected for IFM should be those which promise the best returns in terms of increased yields and higher quality wood, in the shortest possible time. This does not necessarily mean using just the best stands for IFM. Rather, it would mean using the sites capable of supporting the best stands, and managing them for that purpose.

Additionally, areas in which to demonstrate IFM should be carefully selected, to ensure the highest chance of success. Candidate forests should consist of those in which the achievement of increased yields and higher quality wood, in the shortest possible time, are the principal objectives. This would leave out of IFM, for the time being, multiple use forests in which wood production is only one of several, equally-important objectives.

How does IFM integrate with Canada's self-image and promotion of its "naturalness"? We should be aware that the image of Canada has evolved considerably over the past century. It is still changing. Canada once had the image of a vast, snow-covered spruce and pine wilderness. This image, like most others, is false, and is gradually being changed into a more accurate one. We can still maintain the central theme of this image, however, as a nation dominated by managed forests. The essential difference between the two images, is that in the latter image, much of the forest, the impacts on it, and the threats to it are managed. This does not mean rigidly controlled. The image of Canada as "natural" would not suffer in conversion to one of a managed forest with enormous parks and protected spaces.

When Should IFM Start?

Foresters, by their calling, are expected to plan for both the present and next rotations. We know the present state of the forests and forest management, and consider the likely withdrawals from the land base, other losses (fire, insects, disease, including new pests), and the increase in human population. Are we really satisfied, then, that the current management scheme will provide society with the wood that it needs in 40 to 100 years? If not, planning and selection of candidate areas for IFM must begin immediately. Failure to act now will mean that future shortages will become more extreme. Waiting for "more propitious circumstances" would only aggravate the situation with respect to the state of the forest and the people and communities dependent on it.

Literature Cited

Bell, F.W., D.G. Pitt, M. Irvine, B. Parker, L. Buse, N. Stocker, B. Towill, H. Chen, F. Pinto, K. Brown, D. DeYoe, T. McDonough, G. Smith, and M. Weber. 2000. Intensive Forest Management Science Workshop Summary. Ont. Min. Nat. Resour., Sci. Devel. Trans. Ser. No. 003

Bryant, Peter J. 2001. Biodiversity and Conservation: A Hypertext Book by Peter J. Bryant School of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA. (http://darwin.bio.uci.edu/~sustain/bio65/Titlpage.htm#Table%20of%20contents) (Peter J. Bryant)

Dunster, Julian and Katherine Dunster. 1996. Dictionary of Natural Resource Management. UBC Press, Vancouver, BC. (xvi + 364 pp).

Environmental Assessment Board. 1994. Reasons for Decision and Decision - Class Environ-mental Assessment by the Ministry of Natural Resources for Timber Management on Crown Lands in Ontario (EA-87-02). (xiv + 562 pp)

Joyce, Dennis - Forest Geneticist, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, (personal communication).

Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forestry Service. 1995. Silvicultural Terms in Canada (Second Edition (revised)), ISBN 0-662-61680-4 Cat. No. Fo42-170/1995.

Natural Resources Canada State of the Forests - 1995. Glossary of Forestry Terms. (Internet access: http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/cfs/proj/ ppiab/sof/sof95/toc.shtml).

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. 2001. Silvicultural Effectiveness Monitoring Manual for Ontario. Toronto: Queen's Printer for Ontario. (vi + 42 pp).

Sutter, G.W. 1993. Ecological Risk Assessment. Lewis Publishers. Boca Raton, Florida. 560 pp. In Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 2001 Silvicultural Effectiveness Monitoring Manual for Ontario.

Website: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/MNR/forests/organization/contact_us.htm

[1] Boreal Silviculturist, Forest Health and Silviculture Section, Forest Management Branch, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 70 Foster Drive, Suite 400, Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, Canada, P6A 6V5. Tel:(705) 945-6622; Fax: (705) 945-6667; Email: [email protected];