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Society of American Foresters

Introduction to the Montreal Process

Background *

In February, 1995, ten nations (two more nations joined a few months later) agreed to the criteria and indicators we will use and discuss in our virtual tour:

The 1992 Earth Summit (UNCED, or the United Nations Conference on Environment and Sustainability), called upon all nations to ensure sustainable development, including the management of all types of forests. The summit produced a Statement of Forest Principles, conventions on biodiversity, climate change and desertification, and a plan of action for the 21st century called Agenda 21, all of which have implications for forest management.

After subsequent meetings in which experts discussed how to define and measure progress towards sustainable development of forests, the Montreal Process began in June 1994. The Montreal Process is the UNCED Working Group on Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests. Formed in Geneva, Switzerland, the Working Group's task was to develop and implement internationally agreed criteria and indicators for sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests.

The seven criteria identified by the Montreal Process combine to include vital functions, attributes, laws and regulations that constitute the forest policy framework. The indicators are ways to assess or describe the criteria.

Our Application

Obviously, we are not the first ones to use them. In addition to the twelve countries that have already committed to working with them, other organizations and governments move to do so on their own forest lands. In 1999 the Oregon Department of Forestry issued the First Approximation Report, which used the Montreal Process criteria and indicators in an attempt to evaluate Oregon's state and private forest lands.

What draws us to these criteria and indicators? Perhaps it is this: an important part of our heritage comes from the complex relationship we have with our local forests. Traditional economic ties, a community-wide 'sense of place' based on local forests, and myriad other ties make us deeply concerned with their sustenance. The criteria and indicators we discuss will allow us to quantify what we have (create a baseline), think about what we need from our forests, then allow us to look for changes over time that will either confirm-- or call into question-- sustainable management techniques used on these forests.

Our discussions will be based on available resources and data from the three forests we will tour. As you familiarize yourself with the Criteria and Indicators, their extensiveness will become apparent; so, too, may the gaps in our knowledge. Remember that an important part of following a set of criteria and indicators is not only to determine what is known about a specific forest system-- it also helps us determine where gaps in our knowledge exist.

One of the basic questions we will discuss during our three different site tours is: ''based on the Montreal Process, are we able to determine whether or not the different forest systems are managed in a sustainable manner?" If we can answer this question affirmatively, with confidence, then perhaps the Process will indeed be a helpful tool for all sizes and types of forests, and for all types of forest managers!

Terms to Know *

Criterion/Criteria (pl.): "A category of conditions or processes by which sustainable forest management may be assessed. A Criterion is characterized by a set of related indicators which are monitored periodically to assess change."

Indicator: "A measure (measurement) of an aspect of the criterion. A quantitative or qualitative variable which can be measured or described and which, when observed periodically, demonstrates trends."

Criteria Descriptions *

Criterion 1: Conservation of Biological Diversity

The ultimate objective of conserving biological diversity is the survival of species and the genetic variability within those species. Viable breeding populations of species and their natural genetic variation are part of interdependent physical and biological systems or processes - communities or ecosystems. The condition and distribution of forest communities are important to fundamental ecological processes and systems and the future of biological diversity associated with forests.

Important concepts discussed here include: ecosystem diversity, fragmentation, species diversity, and genetic diversity.

Indicators that the Montreal Process uses are:

Indicator 1 Extent of area by forest type, relative to total forest area
Indicator 2 Extent of area covered by different forest types and age classes or successional stages
Indicator 3 Extent of area, by forest type, in protected area categories, as defined by IUCN or other classification systems
Indicator 4 Extent of area, by forest type, in protected areas, defined by age class or successional stage
Indicator 5 Fragmentation of forest types
Indicator 6 Number of forest-dependent species
Indicator 7 The status of forest-dependent species that are at risk of not maintaining viable breeding populations, as determined by Legislative or Scientific Assessment
Indicator 8 Number of forest-dependent species occupying a small portion of their former range
Indicator 9 Population levels of representative species from diverse habitats, monitored across their range

Criterion 2: Maintenance of productive capacity of forest ecosystems

In many countries, traditional calculation of potential production of timber products is based on the forest area available for the production of commercial forest products. In those countries, forest lands are not available for timber harvesting if they do not meet minimal acceptable regeneration standards, minimal acceptable economic growing rates, or accessibility. High spiritual, recreational, scientific, or educational values may also be deemed a higher priority than commodity production.

Important concepts discussed here include: timber production, non-timber forest products, planted forests.

Indicators that the Montreal Process uses are:

Indicator 10 Area of forest land and net area of forest land available for timber production
Indicator 11 Growing stock of both merchantable and non-merchantable timber
Indicator 12 The area and growing stock of plantations of native and exotic tree species
Indicator 13 Annual removal of wood products, compared to the volume determined to be sustainable
Indicator 14 Annual removal of non-timber forest products, compared to the level determined to be sustainable

Criterion 3: Maintenance of ecosystem health and vitality

People have multiple impacts on forest ecosystems. These impacts include land conversion, harvesting, species introductions, suppression of natural fire cycles and floods, and the introduction of nonnative species (pathogens can be particularly troublesome). These changes to the forest system can in turn influence ecological processes. Forest health is often assessed by determining how closely the current ecological processes are maintained to be within the historic range of variation.

Important concepts discussed here include: historic range of variation, human impacts, pollution, ultraviolet radiation, and nutrient cycling.

Indicators that the Montreal Process uses are:

Indicator 15 Area and percent of forest affected by processes or agents beyond the range of historic variation
Indicator 16 Area and percent of forest land subject to specific levels of air pollutants (e.g., sulfates, nitrates, ozone) or ultraviolet b that May cause negative impacts on the forest ecosystem
Indicator 17 Area and percent of forest land with diminished biological components, indicative of changes in fundamental ecological process and/or ecological continuity

Criterion 4: Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources

Soil and water resources are fundamental components of all terrestrial ecosystems. Changes in these resources will influence the vitality and species composition of forest ecosystems. For example, extensive areas of soil erosion can have a major effect on aquatic ecosystems associated with forests, recreational opportunities, potable water supplies and the life span of river infrastructure such as dams.

This provides a measure of forest land allocated primarily for the protection of valuable environmental amenities associated with clean air, water, soil, flood and avalanche protection, etc. (public health and safety functions).

Important concepts discussed here include: hydrological cycles, surface and ground water flow, soil organic matter, and nutrient and water availability.

Indicators that the Montreal Process uses are:

Indicator 18 Area and percent of forest land with significant soil erosion (rill, sheet, gully, mass wasting, and roadside)
Indicator 19 Area and percent of forest land managed primarily for protective functions
Indicator 20 Percent of stream kilometers in forested catchments in which stream flow and timing has significantly deviated from the historic range of variation
Indicator 21 Area and percent of forest land with diminished organic matter or soil chemical properties
Indicator 22 Area and percent of forest land with significant soil compaction or changes in soil physical properties, resulting from human activities
Indicator 23 Bodies of water with significant variance of biological diversity from the historic range of variability
Indicator 24 Water bodies in forest areas with significant variation in acidity or alkalinity (pH), dissolved oxygen (DO), sedimentation, or temperature
Indicator 25 Area and percent of forest land experiencing an accumulation of persistent toxic substances

Criterion 5: Maintenance of forest contributions to global carbon cycles

There is increasing concern worldwide about the role of "greenhouse gases" in global warming. Questions remain as to how much of a role individual gasses play, but there is little doubt that levels of certain greenhouse gases are increasing in the Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities.

Carbon dioxide is receiving considerable attention as a greenhouse gas because there are discreet actions we can take to minimize human contributions. Some actions reduce CO2 production, while others increase process of CO2 "sequestration". Forests have an amazing ability to absorb atmospheric CO2, and certain management strategies enhance this ability.

This criterion helps us understand how important the McDonald-Dunn Forests is in the process of capturing carbon dioxide. Basically, how much of a sink is the forest? Important concepts discussed here include: carbon source, carbon sink, and sequestration.

Indicators that the Montreal Process uses are:

Indicator 26 Total forest ecosystem biomass and carbon pool, and if appropriate, by forest type, age class, and successional stage
Indicator 27 Contribution of forest ecosystems to the total global carbon budget, including absorption and release of carbon
Indicator 28 Contribution of forest products to the global carbon budget

Criterion 6: Maintenance and enhancement of long-term multiple socioeconomic benefits to meet the needs of societies

Human communities place a myriad of values on forests and forest resources. These values can potentially conflict with one another. Sustainable forestry must provide for all values, for the long run, in a way that the forest systems are sustained; the more value humanity places on our forests and forest resources, the greater chance our communities will sustain them

Indicator 29 Value and volume of wood and wood products, including value added through downstream processing
Indicator 30 Value and quantities of production of non-wood forest products
Indicator 31 Supply and consumption of wood and wood products
Indicator 32 Value of wood and non-wood products as a percentage of GSP (Gross state product)
Indicator 33 Degree of recycling of forest products
Indicator 34 Supply and consumption/use on non-wood forest products
Indicator 35 Forest land managed for general recreation and tourism, in relation to the total area of forest land
Indicator 36 Number and type of facilities available for general recreation and tourism
Indicator 37 Visitor days attributed to recreation and tourism
Indicator 38 Value of investment in forest health and management, reforestation, wood processing, recreation, and tourism
Indicator 39 Level of expenditure on forest-related research and development, and education
Indicator 40 Extension and use of new and improved technology in the forest industry
Indicator 41 Rates of return on investment in forests
Indicator 42 Forest land managed to protect cultural, social, and spiritual needs, in relation to the total area of forest land
Indicator 43 Non-consumptive use forest values, including social/cultural, recreational, and biological values
Indicator 44 Direct and indirect employment in the forest sector, and forest sector employment as a proportion of total employment
Indicator 45 Average wage rates and injury rates in major employment categories within the forest sector
Indicator 46 The viability and adaptability of forest-dependent communities, as they respond to changing economic conditions
Indicator 47 Area and percent of forest land used for subsistence

Criterion 7: Legal, institutional and economic framework for forest conservation and sustainable management

Good intentions often run amuck when there is not a strong, binding framework to support them. In the United States, the type of ownership (public versus private, state versus federal) dictates which laws and regulations are used to govern the land. Understanding this framework allows us to glimpse how a single forest fits into the mosaic of forests that are part of the sustainability picture.

Indicator 48 The extent to which the legal framework clarifies property rights, provides for appropriate land tenure arrangements, recognizes customary and traditional rights of indigenous peoples, and provides means of resolving property disputes by due process
Indicator 49 The extent to which the legal framework provides for periodic forest-related planning, assessment, and policy review that recognize the range of forest values, including coordination with relevant sectors
Indicator 50 The extent to which the legal framework provides opportunities for public participation in policies and decisions related to forest, and supports public access to information
Indicator 51 The extent to which the legal framework encourages "best practices" codes for forest management
Indicator 52 The extent to which the legal framework provides for the management of forests to conserve special environmental, cultural, social, and/or scientific values
Indicator 53 The extent to which the institutional framework supports the capacity to provide involvement activities and public education, awareness, and extension programs, and make available forest related information
Indicator 54 The extent to which the institutional framework supports the capacity to undertake and implement periodic forest-related planning, assessment, and policy review process, including cross-sectional planning and coordination
Indicator 55 The extent to which the institutional framework includes the capacity to develop and maintain human resource skills across relevant disciplines
Indicator 56 The extent to which the institutional framework has the capacity to develop and maintain an efficient physical infrastructure, in order to facilitate the supply of forest products and services and support forest management
Indicator 57 The extent to which the institutional framework has the capacity to enforce laws, regulations, and guidelines
Indicator 58 The extent to which investment and taxation policies and the regulatory environment recognize the long-term nature of investments in forests, and the extent to which these policies and regulations permit capital to flow in and out of the forest sector in response to market signals, non-market economic valuations, and public policy decisions, in order to meet long-term demands for forest products and service
Indicator 59 The extent to which the institutional framework supports non-discriminatory trade policies for forest products
Indicator 60 The availability and extent of up-to-date data, statistics, and other information important to measuring or describing indicators associated with criteria 1-7
Indicator 61 Scope, frequency, and statistical reliability of forest inventories, assessments, monitoring, and other relevant information
Indicator 62 Compatibility with other countries in measuring, monitoring, and reporting on indictors
Indicator 63 Development of the scientific understanding of forest ecosystem characteristics and functions
Indicator 64 Capacity to develop methodologies to measure and integrate the environmental and social costs and benefits of forest management into markets and public policies; and also the capacity to reflect forest-related resource depletion or replenishment in national accounting systems
Indicator 65 Capacity to develop new technologies and to assess the socio-economic consequences associated with the introduction of new technologies
Indicator 66 Capacity to enhance the ability to predict the impacts of human intervention on forests
Indicator 67 Capacity to predict the impacts of possible climate change on forests

*(Adapted from the Montreal Process Working Group. Indicators are as described by the Montreal Process.)