Sustainable Forest Management: What It Is, Practices, Pros & Cons, & More

In the guide below, we discuss sustainable forest management, which is also referred to as sustainable forestry.

We discuss what is is, sustainable forestry practices & examples, the pros and cons of sustainable forestry, and more.


Summary – Sustainable Forest Management

What Is Sustainable Forest Management?

We’ve provided a general definition of sustainable forest management in the guide below

We’ve also outlined what some of the main goals of sustainable forestry might be


Importance Of Sustainable Forest Management

Sustainable forest management can be important because of how it might help preserve the functions that trees and forests carry out, and also because of their role in ecosystems, economies and societies

There are links to separate guides provided below where we list what some of these functions and roles might be


Sustainable Forest Management Practices

We provide an extensive list in the guide below of potential sustainable forest management practices

Some practices might be applied on a society wide level, and some might be carried out by individual consumers


Examples Of Sustainable Forest Management

In the guide below, we’ve included multiple real life examples of where sustainable forestry practices may have been implemented, and where some sustainable forestry goals/objectives have been met


Sustainable Forest Management Certifications & Standards

Different certifications and standards exist around the world that promote sustainable forest management practices

A standard we identify and briefly discuss in the guide below is the FSC Standard


Pros & Cons Of Sustainable Forestry

We’ve provided a short list of potential pros and cons of sustainable forestry in the guide below


What Is Sustainable Forest Management? (Definition)

Sustainable forest management is also referred to as sustainable forestry

A general definition of sustainable forest management might be:

Balancing the priority to conserve the health of forests and protect the wildlife and organisms that live in them, with the priorities to satisfy economic objectives, and also human needs and wants from forests

This needs of current generations should be met without sacrificing the needs of future generations. describes the concept of sustainable forestry as:

… [a] balance between society’s increasing demands for forest products and benefits, and the preservation of forest health and diversity


What Might Be Some Of The Main Goals Of Sustainable Forest Management?

A few of the main goals might be:

– The preservation and conservation of natural forests on Earth so that they are left standing and not cut down

Deforestation for example contributes heavily to the clearing of forests


– Ensuring that natural forests are healthy and productive

This is in order to fulfil their functions for the ecosystems they are a part of, and also in order to meet the needs of the communities or groups that manage them or work with them

Disturbance from extracting resources from forests or using them in an economic sense, should be balanced with allowing forests to regenerate and also carry out natural functions 

Health of forests can be related to biodiversity (and explains the importance of ‘Forest Genetic Resource’ (FGR) and genetic diversity in sustainable forest management), regeneration capacity, vitality, tree and soil health, and so on

Productivity can refer to economic productivity, ability to provide resources, and social utility


– In some cases, ensuring that forest management is economically sustainable and feasible mentions that ‘To be economically viable, that is sustainable, revenues from sales of forest products and services must exceed costs, or subsidies are required.’


Why Is Sustainable Forest Management Important?

Individual trees, regular forests, and also tropical rainforests, all provide a range of important benefits, and fulfill important functions across ecosystems and society

The report listed goes into additional detail about the importance of forests

Managing forests in a sustainable way is therefore in the best interest of various aspects of the environment and society.


Sustainable Forest Management Practices

Sustainable management practices might be related to the key areas of forest protection, conservation and restoration, but also economic objectives where applicable.

A list of sustainable forest management practices might include, but isn’t limited to:

– Understand the importance of preserving both regular forests, but also tropical rainforests specifically


– Clearly outlining the value of preserving/conserving forests vs the value of clearing the forest


– Understanding the main causes of deforestation, and if beneficial, ban or restrict clearing forests for some of the main causes such as agriculture and farming, logging (such as restricting logging permits), using wood for fuel, mining, and so on


– Consider how man made forests and plantation forests can be utilized instead of natural forests and rainforests

Man made forests can be grown and managed only for specific commercial objectives and resources, and this might place less pressure on clearing natural forests and rainforests 


– Consider how land that has already been cleared (of forests) can be used more productively and more efficiently

This may reduce the need to clear new land


– Provide financial incentive to conserve/preserve natural forests and rainforests

This can include setting up businesses, projects, programs, and/or initiatives that provide local communities an incomes from forests that involves sustainable forestry practices

This involves balancing economic benefits from forests, with preserving forests. Another way to say this is that economic success can’t com at the expense of forest preservation and health

One example might be sustainable farming operations like food forests in permaculture

Eco tourism (and education for those using the forest for tourism), prospecting fees and resource extraction fees, and other methods to earn money might be considered

These incentives must be feasible economically for all parties involved, and social and political consideration must be considered too


– Consider how forest protection and conservation can be incorporated into government legislation, regulations, policy, institutional framework, and treaties, in a beneficial way

Examples might include expanding protected areas, and implementing surveillance and patrols of protected areas


– Consider whether it’s beneficial to give legal rights to local communities or groups who will manage the forest and it’s resources in a sustainable way 


– Form groups or commissions that monitor the management of forests, and study the forests

Commissions for example might set standards for using the forest

Research facilities might also be built for training local scientists


– Consider how different tools and programs can help sustainably manage forests

Tools and programs might help more effectively manage forest, or, help with data collection, reporting and monitoring of forests

As one example, mentions ‘… the Sustainable Forest Management Toolbox [was developed and launched] in 2014, [and is] an online collection of tools, best practices and examples of their application to support countries implementing sustainable forest management’


– Developing a stronger and more diversified overall economy for the country so that there is less of a need to clear forests for income


– Consider how tree planting projects and reafforestation projects can support new or existing forests


– Controlled tree and forest burning indicates that controlled forest burnings (that do not spread in a dangerous manner like some wildfires) may be an important part of management to sustain some forests


– Individual consumers can consider actions they can take

These actions might include but aren’t limited to:

Reducing or eliminating products that come from forests or rainforests (wood and paper, oil, beef, palm oil, and other products can all come from the clearing of forests)

Using products that don’t involve the clearing of forests (bamboo, recycled paper, seafood, etc. might all be options)

Don’t buy from companies that engage in deforestation

Invest in or buy from local communities preserving rainforests

Join a rainforest preservation group 

Donate to a rainforest preservation group who offers incentive-based initiatives for local communities, education and conservation programs. The Rainforest Alliance for example provides training to forest communities


– Consider the impact of environmental issues like a changing climate of forests, and consider how best to address these issues


– Be aware of practices that might be ineffective against sustainable forest management

For example, some reports indicate that simply closing or fencing off rainforests doesn’t work


– Other potential practices includes other potential practices in their report also lists other potential practices such as privatisation, delegation, devolution, deconcentration, and more


Sustainable Forest Management Examples

A few examples of sustainable forestry management being applied in reality are:

Costa Rico is one example of a country who brought deforestation to zero using a range of practices and solutions


In some parts of Brazil, giving legal rights to some local communities has resulted in sustainable forestry management, and decreased deforestation


– Rainforest Alliance has used an approach to conserve forests mentions that the Rainforest Alliance has led a ‘… conservation-and-livelihoods approach … since the late 1980s, and [it has] already proven successful on nearly half a billion acres of land around the world’


When it comes to palm oil production, some countries have pledged to limit forest clearing, and some certification groups may promote the prevention of deforestation


– Other examples

In their guide, gives more examples of how sustainable forestry management has been implemented in Canada, Indonesia, Cameroon, Congo, and also how REDD and LEAD have been used in developing countries


Sustainable Forest Management Certifications & Standards

There’s a range of both domestic and international sustainable forestry certifications and standards that have been developed.

Currently, the two largest umbrella certification programs are PEFC, and FSC. These umbrella programs endorse separate certification standards.

We have described some basic details about the FSC Standard below.


FSC Standard

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is perhaps the most recognised standard for forests

They certify businesses that uphold specific standards, and also award FSC Chain-Of-Custody (CoC) certificates for tracking of wood and other raw materials from forests along the supply chain

The standard is applied differently in different regions, but there are consistent principles includes more information about the FSC standard 


Pros & Cons Of Sustainable Forestry

Potential Pros

The benefits and functions of trees and forests are preserved

Sustainable forestry helps preserve the benefits and functions that trees and forest provide

We’ve provided links to reports that list the benefits and functions of trees and forests in the guide above

These benefits and functions span across several aspects of environmental ecosystems and society


Some sustainable forestry practices produce feasible businesses whilst at the same time conserving the forest being used to operate these businesses

Sustainable food forests, low impact rainforest tours and accomodation, and low disturbance/low impact resource extraction, are all potential examples of this


Local communities may benefit from sustainable forestry

Sustainable forestry practices may mean that local communities aren’t displaced, or that they don’t lose their income or livelihood from deforestation or damage to forests


Potential Cons

There’s not always agreement on what sustainable forestry should involve, or what the objectives and desired outcomes should be

There’s conflicting priorities, needs and desires of different stakeholders (like citizens, businesses, organizations and other interested parties)

For example, some groups may want to prioritize economic objectives, whilst other groups may want to prioritize environmental and wildlife objectives


There might be more money to be made from converted forest to other land uses

For example, it might be more profitable financially for local governments and decision makers (such as corporate bodies) to approve the conversion of forests to industrial agriculture and farming operations, logging operations, or mining operations.

If locals are able to obtain jobs and income from these new land uses, it can be hard to make a stronger case against it


There might currently be a forest ownership issue that is a barrier to more effective sustainable forest management

For example, indicates that ‘Governments formally own majority of forests worldwide, but effective forest governance is independent of ownership’


There can be potential drawbacks to local governments and communities having more control over forests

For example, mentions that local governments may be short on resources

Some local groups may also lack some training and knowledge about some parts of forest management


All benefits don’t always flow to locals and individual

For example, under some deforestation mechanisms, governments and corporations profit financially without sharing those profits with individuals and local communities


Sustainable forest management certification may not be available everywhere mentions that certified forestry operations are only located in some major countries, and some developing countries may ‘… lack the capacity to undergo a certification audit and maintain operations to a certification standard’




1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides










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