Some time ago, the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Indonesia surveyed its Policy Experts (POLEX) recipients to find out which publications they thought had influenced forest policies the most. Number two in the list was Poore et al.’s 1989 report “No Timber Without Trees”, commissioned by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). This study had shown that only a tiny share of tropical forests used for timber were being managed on a sustainable basis.
Now ITTO’s new report called “Status of Tropical Forest Management 2005” looks at what has been achieved since the 1989 Poore et al. report (survey done in 1988) published almost two decades ago [Note: Update yourself with the “Status of Tropical Forest Management 2011”, available online at ITTO webpage!]
- It found major progress, but not as much as one might hope. Back then, Poore et al. had trouble finding even one million hectares of natural forests that were managed on a sustainable basis to produce timber.
- In contrast, the new report identified at least 5 million hectares that fit the bill. India and Malaysia alone account for 40% of that. Most of the rest is in Bolivia, Brazil, Congo, Gabon, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, which each have between one and three of the 25 million hectares.
- By 2006 Malaysia, Bolivia, Gabon, Brazil, and Guatemala had about 10 million hectares that were independently certified by certifiers such as SGS, SCS, Rainforest Alliance, and UK Soil Association, accredited by FSC.
- Things have also advanced on other fronts. There is greater consensus these days about which criteria and indicators should be used to assess if a forest is managed in a sustainable manner, and more information is available about forests in general.
- Many more forests have management plans, and there are a lot more plantations and protected areas. Still, according to the ITTO new report, only about 7% of the 352 million hectares of the natural forests that tropical countries have slated to produce timber on a sustainable basis are truly being used that way.
- Many FMUs with management plans don’t actually follow them, and much of the tropical timber on the market comes from illegal sources.
CONSTRAINTS TO SFM – Various constraints to SFM, which still exist today:
- Probably the most important and generally applicable, is that sustainable natural forest management for the production of timber is less profitable to various parties involved – such as government, concessionaires, and local communities – than other possible ways of using the land. Intensive management of natural forests is not a new idea at all, but its implementation needs a big investment. Several researchers have argued that investment in natural forest management does not pay. Many tropical countries neglect natural forest management in favor of plantations for financial reasons, especially if grant aid is available for plantation establishment. Plantations also are more visible and look like “development”.
- Many of the FMUs in which SFM (and particularly, in some countries, certification) has been established have benefited from external financial and technical support from development assistance agencies and NGOs. The economic viability of SFM within these FMUs will be tested once such support is withdrawn.
- The governments and companies that have been striving to improve forest management, even when they have not yet been wholly successful, merit the long-term support of markets, development assistance agencies, NGOs, and the general public.
- There have been advances in many countries in committing forest for either production or protection and in establishing a PFE, but without long term land tenureship, SFM is unlikely to succeed.
- Illegal logging and the illegal trade of timber are significant problems that have been increasingly exercised the international forest policy and community in recent years. Hence, improved laws and forest law enforcement are ultimatum in minimizing the problems, which in many cases will require increased support from governments in both producer and consumer countries.
Wiens (1992) stated that there is enough blame to go around for the failure to practice sustained yield forestry and implement forest policies:
- Politicians for putting pressure on forest departments to keep the annual allowable cuts high, royalties low, and the implementation of logging regulations tardy.
- Forest departments for pretending the residual forests are in good shape and regenerating, logging regulations are being enforced, protected areas protected, and gazetted areas are forested.
- NGOs for pursuing narrow objectives, annoying tactics, and one-sided arguments.
Wan Razali (1992) argued that sustainably forest management is technically feasible but technological constraints limit its successes:
- Diversity of tree species has limited the success of management practices developed under low biodiversity environments of European forests. Uniform management systems are out of place; for example, the Malayan Uniform System (MUS) developed for regenerating dipterocarps in the rich lowlands of Peninsular Malaysia cannot be applied to hill forests, which now comprise the bulk of production forests.
- Incomplete data on the value – realized and intangible – of natural forests can lead to poor land use classification, and often conversion to plantation crops, and other uses.
- Much of the growth data presently available come from small plots, often not representative of the forest and measured for a limited time (frequently, less than half of the cutting cycle).
- Moreover, the early growth rates, usually high as a result of forest opening, can decline after the first few years, leading to cutting cycles that are far too short.
- Improper planning, controls, and execution of tree harvesting – which lead to excessive damage to the residuals – constitute another set of limitation.
- Exacerbating the damage problem is the excessive use of heavy equipment and wrong type of timber extraction methods, particularly on steep slopes, and usually ends in severe soil compaction and erosion and other ecological and environmental problems.
- Controls over harvest volumes, extraction practices, and adherence to sustainable logging guidelines need to be strictly enforced.
- Premature harvesting of regenerating forests, or over harvesting, needs to be avoided to prevent damage to the forest.
Slides Summary: Epilogue of SFM
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