Promoting responsible forest trade of lesser known timber species
Many will find it strange that WWF, the global conservation organization, would promote timber and logging -- particularly in tropical forests. But the fact is that WWF does support forest industries in all parts of the world provided that they practice socially and environmentally responsible forest management. While WWF continues work to protect the most ecologically valuable forests in reserves, we see responsible forestry as a key component of sustainable development that can and should go hand in hand with forest conservation.
The forest that pays is the forest that stays
The link between responsible forestry and forest conservation is a vital one in the developing world, where pressures on forests are great. If forests are to be preserved in regions where poverty and population growth are challenges and the need for development is acute, local people must perceive them as having economic value, or they risk being converted to farms, cattle pasture, and other uses.
Forests can generate income for people in the developing world in a variety of sustainable ways: ecotourism, non-timber forest products such as rubber, shade-grown coffee and medicinal plants, and research activities, among others. All of these can all help incentivize local people to maintain the forest as forest. But timber is the primary forest product, and in many places, responsible forestry can play a central role in conservation-based development.
Responsible forest management can work hand in hand with nature reserves and preservation, giving local people an economic stake in defending the managed forest without compromising its ecological integrity and future productivity. In Bolivia, numerous indigenous and rural communities, as well as private companies and forest concessions, work under this model. In fact, Bolivia has over 5 million acres of tropical forests certified to the stringent environmental and social standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), more than any other country.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) (www.fsc.org) is a non-profit organization whose internationally recognized Principles and Criteria provide a consistent and credible framework for independent forest certification worldwide. FSC certification is a voluntary process that ensures consumers that the wood products they buy were grown and harvested in a way that protects forests for the long term. Certifiers assess the on-the-ground forest practices of a given operation against a stringent set of environmental, social and economic criteria. Operations that meet those standards may identify their products as originating from an FSC-certified well-managed source.
Among many other things, in order to be FSC certified, a forest owner or manager must:
- Meet all applicable laws
- Have legally established rights to harvest
- Respect indigenous rights
- Maintain community well-being
- Conserve economic resources
- Protect biological diversity
- Have a written management plan
- Engage in regular monitoring
- Maintain high conservation value forests
- Manage plantations to alleviate pressures on – NOT replace - natural forests.