Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y081077

    Development of appropriate economic and social indicators of sustainable forest management
Project lead: Innes, John (University of British Columbia)
Author: Innes, John L.
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
The BC Common Ground project has shown that there is great interest in the Province of BC in the development of techniques to describe whether forests are being managed sustainably. While methods to describe the environmental aspects of sustainable forest management (SFM) are well-developed, social and economic indicators remain a challenge, particularly at the scale of the forest management unit. This is reflected in the Montreal Process criteria and indicators (C&I), which have five environmental criteria but only two social and economic criteria. The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers C&I are even more skewed, with five environmental criteria and one combined socio-economic criterion. Elsewhere, particularly in the Tropics, much greater attention has been paid to social and economic criteria and indicators, and the aim of this project is to utilize this knowledge and apply it to the BC situation. A large number of C&I for SFM have been developed globally (following C&I schemes such as the Tarapoto Process on the Sustainability of Amazon forests, the Lepaterique Process and others) and are widely applied in local- and national-level monitoring and reporting, while being continually adapted to suit local, regional and national interests.
Given that approximately 25% of forests in the developing world are community-owned or managed [1], an important question arises when merging the global dialogue on forestry principles with local-scale issues: To what extent can indicators derived for community forests and other bottom-up approaches in the tropics inform the development of social and economic indicators in British Columbia? Given the more advanced development of community forests in such countries, it seems likely that much can be learnt from them, yet the regionalization of C&I development (caused by both geographical and language barriers) has tended to lead to C&I being developed in isolation.
This project will examine the international experience, with particular emphasis on the way that community forests in the Neotropics have used regional C&I schemes. The central questions to be addressed are: To what degree are these socio-economic indicators locally relevant in a community forestry setting? Do they take into account local and community interests sufficiently? How adaptable are such indicators in taking into account local values and practices, such as long-standing forest management practices that may achieve the same objectives as the standards, or a landscape approach beyond the forest management unit, which may be more relevant to community forest practices? In areas with significant indigenous populations, how have the indicators been adapted to take the special interests and needs of indigenous groups into account, and how have the indicators been received and used by those indigenous groups?
The geographical focus of the project will be on tropical Latin America, for reasons of language proficiency, existing field contacts and time and budget constraints. However, input will be received from a team member with extensive experience in community forest management in India and Pakistan, where both co-management and community-led forest management are widely used. We will draw on several case studies from community-managed forests in tropical Mexico and the Brazilian and Bolivian Amazon. Each of these countries presents an interesting and unique political and socio-economic situation in terms of forest resources management. 80% of Mexico’s remaining forests are village-owned properties, and the country is a leader in certification among tropical countries [2]. Bolivia was one of the first tropical countries to initiate efforts promoting sustainable forest management and certification, and is considered a pioneer in Latin America through its adoption of a progressive Forestry Law in 1996 [3]. In recent years, Brazil has developed national C&I for natural tropical forest management through a participatory process that the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) aims to replicate in other Latin American countries [4]. Field research will involve semi-structured, open-ended interviews and observations of management practices. Grounded theory and content analysis will be conducted to determine where local priorities and interests lie in forest and landscape management (see methods section). This information will be used to critically evaluate the set of C&I and guidelines conventionally used to measure the sustainability of these forest practices. Using these case studies to answer the above questions, we will be able to draw general conclusions from recently-developed and also better-investigated systems of socio-economic indicators used in community forestry settings in the Neotropics. Through a consultation process involving the BC Treaty 8 Tribal Association, First Nations located on the Yukon – BC border (Champagne-Aishihik and Teslin Tlingit) and possibly others with whom we are in the process of developing long-term working relationships but were unable to bring into the project in the time available for developing this research proposal (e.g., the Wet’suwet’en, and the communities (T’exelc, Tsq’escen’, Xats’ull/ Cm’etemc and Xgat’tem/ Stswecem’c) that share boundaries and interests as a collective called the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw), we will apply this information to the development of improved social and economic C&I in BC.
1] Molnar, A., 2003, Forest certification and communities, Washington, D.C., Forest Trends. 2] Bray, D. et al., 2003 in Conservation Biology, v. 17, p. 672-677. 3] Pacheco, P., 2005, in C. Colfer, and D. Capistrano, eds., The Politics of Decentralization: London, Earthscan, p. 166-183. 4] ITTO, 2005, Brazil develops national C&I: Tropical Forest Update, v. 2005, p. 15-16.
Related projects:  FSP_Y092077FSP_Y103077
Contact: Innes, John, (604) 822-6761,


Executive Summary (17Kb)

To view PDF documents you need Adobe Acrobat Reader, available free from the Adobe Web Site.

Updated August 16, 2010 

Search for other  FIA reports or other Ministry of Forests and Range publications.

Please direct questions or comments regarding publications to