1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003   
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Sustainable forest management

Sustainable forest management (SFM) is a primary objective for those agencies concerned with the management of Australia's forest resources. The Ecologically Sustainable Development Working Groups (ESDWG 1991) defined SFM as 'optimising the tangible and intangible social and economic benefits which forests can provide to the community, with the goals of maintaining the functional basis of forested land, biodiversity and the options available for future generations'. To achieve SFM, the challenge for forest managers is to strike a reasonable balance between the economic, ecological, social and cultural values of forests for current and future generations.

Australia is promoting its SFM interests in a number of international forums and mechanisms. They include the United Nations Forum on Forests, the International Tropical Timber Organisation and the Montreal Process. Australia's initiatives, including the publication of a summary of internationally agreed forest actions, are regarded as providing practical solutions for advancing SFM. Another key activity is the development of an Australian Forestry Standard as an objective benchmark for forest management. The standard will enable Australia to compete in the international marketplace.

The Montreal Process: monitoring sustainable forest management

The Montreal Process, established in 1994, is being used as a tool to assist in the monitoring and reporting of Australia's progress toward SFM. The Montreal Process was established with the specific purpose of developing and implementing internationally agreed criteria and indicators for sustainable management of the world's temperate and boreal forests. The Montreal Process includes 12 countries on five continents, including Australia, which account for 90% of the world's temperate and boreal forests, and 45% of the world trade in forest products. Participation in the Montreal Process is voluntary and not intended to be legally binding.

The group has developed a comprehensive set of seven criteria (categories of forest values that are desirable to maintain) and 67 indicators (measurable aspects of these criteria) to characterise the state of a nation's forests and assess progress towards the goals of SFM. The seven criteria include vital ecosystem functions and attributes, socioeconomic benefits, and the laws and regulations that constitute the forest policy framework (AFFA 2002). The criteria are as follows:

  1. Conservation of Biological Diversity
  2. Maintenance of Productive Capacity of Forest Ecosystems
  3. Maintenance of Ecosystem Health and Vitality
  4. Conservation and Maintenance of Soil and Water Resources
  5. Maintenance of Forest Contribution to Global Carbon Cycles
  6. Maintenance and Enhancement of Long-term Multiple Socioeconomic Benefits to Meet the Needs of Societies
  7. Legal, Institutional and Economic Framework for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Management.

The indicators have been modified to specifically address Australian conditions. They are divided into three broad groups for implementation at a regional level within Australia:

Category A - already implemented or to be implemented in the short term

Category B - require some development

Category C - require longer term research and development.

Australia's Montreal Process Implementation Group began drafting a progress report on implementing criteria and indicators of SFM in 2000-01, using a framework based on Montreal Process criteria and indicators. Joint projects with the states and territories have also improved the Commonwealth's SFM reporting capacity. This work will lead to the preparation of Australia’s country report to the Montreal Process, and Australia’s second State of the Forests Report, both of which will be published in 2003.


AFFA (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia) 2002, Sustainable Forest Management: Criteria and indicators for sustainable management of Australia's forests, Montreal Process Implementation Group.

ESDWG (Ecologically Sustainable Development Working Groups) 1991, Final Report - Forest Use, 1991.