Topic 1: Writing a Forest Management Plan


Managing human activities in a forest in such a way that all the expected goods and services are provided over the long-term is an extraordinarily difficult task. So difficult in fact, that doing so has been described as a wicked problem, in other words, a problem with no readily identifiable solution. Adding to the complexity is the uncertainty associated with incomplete knowledge of the likely consequences of particular actions, and the added complexity of the impacts of climate change on forest ecosystems. Together, these different sources of complexity create a formidable task for forest managers.

Adaptive management is a process by which managers can continuously improve their practices through learning from the outcomes of both operational and experimental practices (but primarily the former). This is much more than “learning by doing”, since it involves a formal, structured approach to designing, implementing and monitoring management actions.

In this topic, you will examine some of the many different aspects of adaptive management. You will work with four major management questions:

  • What do we want?
  • How do we get that?
  • Is our approach correct?
  • What do we do if the approach is wrong?

Decision support

Given the complexities of forest management, and the many conflicting demands that managers have to try and meet, it is not surprising that there are a range of tools available to help them make decisions. Some of these tools, such as remotes sensing and GIS are related to the primary data collection and analysis. Others are used once all the available information has been assembled. In this topic, you will examine some of the tools that are available to you.

Decision support tools start with organizing data and other information in a structured way. The old saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees, is very apt here. The wealth of information available to a manager may simply be overwhelming, and tools are needed to try and sift through this information to determine what is the most important, and how it can be dealt with in ways that minimize potential adverse impacts on any particular components of the forest. For example, a decision to manage the amount of coarse woody debris in a forest by the use of prescribed burning may have adverse effects on the amount of carbon stored in a forest and any species that are dependent on coarse woody debris as a habitat. Conversely, long-term fire suppression, while apparently conserving timber stocks, may have a whole range of adverse effects, preventing the forest ecosystem from renewing itself. In this part of the topic, you will learn about the structured approach that needs to be taken when making difficult and complex decisions about a forest

Video Lectures

6.1.1 Management plans

6.1.2 Decision making in forestry


Textbook Reading:

  • This topic is examined in Chapters 13 and 15 of the course text.
    Innes, J., & Tikina, A. (Eds.). (2014). Sustainable forest management: From principles to practice. London: Earthscan Publications. ISBN: 1844077241

Further Reading:

A Key Reference

  • BC Ministry of Sustainable Resources Management. (2014). Writing resource objectives and strategies: A guide to preparing effective resources management plans (2nd). Retrieved from
    BC Government guide to writing resource management plans, available at the above link.
  • The British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resources Operations (FLNRO). (n.d.). Adaptive management initiatives in the BC forest service. Retrieved from
    You should read about adaptive management. The Government of British Columbia, Canada, maintains an informative website dealing with adaptive management at the above link.
  • The British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resources Operations (FLNRO). (n.d.). An introductory guide to adaptive management for project leaders and participants. Retrieved from
    In particular, you should look at their on-line guide to adaptive management, which starts at the above link.

Suggested further reading

Some of existing management plans

Two highly recommended texts on decision-making in forestry

  • Buongiorno, J., & Gilles, J.K. (2003). Decision methods for forest resource management. New York: Academic Press. ISBN-10:0121413608; ISBN-13: 978-0121413606
  • Kangas, A., Kangas, J., & Kurttila, M. (2008). Decision support for forest management. Berlin: Springer. ISBN 978-1-4020-6787-7; ISBN 978-1-4020-6786-0

Other text and journal articles on forest management planning

  • Belton, V., & Stewart, T.J. (2002). Multiple criteria decision analysis: An integrated approach. Dordrecht: Kluwer. ISBN-10:079237505X; ISBN-13: 978-0792375050
  • Hurme, E., Kurttila, M., Mönkkönen, M., Heinonen, T., & Pukkala, T. (2007). Maintenance of flying squirrel habitat and timber harvest: A site-specific spatial model in forest planning calculations. Landscape Ecology 22(2), 243-256. doi: 10.1007/s10980-006-9019-9
  • Kangas, J., Hokkanen, J., Kangas, A., Lahdelma, R., & Salminen, P. (2003). Applying stochastic multicriteria acceptability analysis to forest ecosystem management with both cardinal and ordinal criteria. Forest Science 49(6), 928-937.
  • Kangas, J., & Kangas, A. (2005). Multiple criteria decision support in forest management – Fundamentals of the approach, methods applied, and experiences gained. Forest Ecology and Management 207(1-2), 133-143.
  • Kangas, J., & Store, R. (2003). Internet and teledemocracy in participatory planning on natural resource management. Landscape and Urban Planning 62(2), 89-101. doi: 10.1016/S0169-2046(02)00125-1
  • Kangas, J., Store, R., Leskinen, P., & Mehtätalo, L. (2000). Improving the quality of landscape ecological forest planning by utilizing advanced decision-support tools. Forest Ecology and Management 132(2-3), 157-171. doi: 10.1016/S0378-1127(99)00221-2
  • Pykäläinen, J., Kangas, J., & Loikkanen, T. (1999). Interactive decision analysis in participatory strategic forest planning: Experiences from State owned boreal forests. Journal of Forest Economics 5(3), 341-364.
  • Shields, D.J., Tolwinski, B., & Keny, B.M. (1999). Models for conflict resolution in ecosystem management. Socio-Economic Planning Sciences 33(1), 61-84. doi:1016/S0038-0121(98)00003-2

Guidelines for forest management planning

There are many different guides to the development of a forest management plan. These differ among jurisdictions, as a key aspect of a plan is consistency with the law, and laws vary.

Examples of management plans