What is a Model Forest?
A Model Forest is both a geographic area and a specific partnership-based approach to sustainable forest management (SFM). Geographically, a Model Forest must encompass a land-base large enough to represent all of the forest's uses and values-it is a fully working landscape of forests and farms, protected areas, rivers, and towns.
A Model Forest is also a voluntary, partnership-based approach for moving toward SFM. Because forests and people cannot be separated, people are at the heart of the Model Forest concept. They are the key factor in the search to define sustainability at the local level where Model Forests are rooted. A Model Forest partnership fully represents the environmental, social and economic forces at play within the land-base.
Model Forest Network... so those forests are all similar?
The Model Forest Network is a study in diversity. Projects are found in tropical, temperate and boreal forest regions. They include various mixtures of private lands, communal lands, government-owned lands, and protected areas and parks within their borders. Model forests are found in areas with high and low population densities.
The issues faced by Model Forests are diverse and include conservation of threatened or endangered species, organic agriculture and agroforestry, development of an economic base around minor forest products, cross-cultural awareness among indigenous and non-indigenous communities, environmental education in schools and in the workforce, the application of new technologies such as GIS, GPS, biotechnology, and many others.
Although each Model Forest has a unique story to tell, they all share a common goal of sustainable forest management. What makes the Model Forest concept stand out from other like-minded forest-based development initiatives is the comprehensiveness of its approach, its scale of operation, the level of policy it can affect, and the nature and range of partnerships it unites. In addition, with 40 Model Forests in existence or under development around the world, the IMFN continues to demonstrate successes in finding innovative, low-cost, long-term solutions to the challenges facing SMF advocates and practitioners.
How are these forests selected?
The process of establishing a Model Forest is flexible, and depends on the government of the country concerned. Individual countries have followed—or are following—different approaches to site selection. For instance, in the Russian Federation, the proposal development process started with a workshop, followed by the establishment of a working group of government agencies, industry and other stakeholders which identified the most likely candidate site.
In each case, a committee of experts from different disciplines and backgrounds review proposals and identify the most promising attempts to address the local issues in the broader context of implementing sustainable development of forests. The IMFNS, or one of its regional networks where in place, reviews proposals for membership in the International Network.
How did the International Network start?
At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the Prime Minister of Canada made a commitment to extend the concept of Model Forests internationally. The 40 some international Model Forest sites established or under development are designated to translate the forest principles agreed upon as part of the UNCED into reality.
How are Model Forests run?
The Model Forests—established or under development—have taken different routes in their search for effective decision-making structures. The critical element in all cases has been the creation of wide partnership groups positive enthusiasm and innovative spirit that is far more powerful than that created when groups work against each other for single objectives.
Model forests provide solid insights into why partnership and a bottom-up approach are essential in the question of decentralized decision-making and sustainability of natural resources. On the one hand, local groups must be central in the definition of socio-economic goals, but they must also work in concert with technical and professional experts who can help them make those goals become reality.
What is unique about Model Forest partnership groups?
Each Model Forest, under the management of a partnership of an often diverse group of stakeholders, has a unique set of objectives tailored to the ecological, socio-economic, and political conditions of the forest region in which it is located. These partnership groups are formed voluntarily. One of the major objectives is to build a broad, flexible consensus concerning the application of sustainable development to forest management.
What links Model Forests to each other?
International Model Forests share a common purpose of establishing working models of sustainable forest management, and enrich the diversity of the Network with their approach. Through the IMFN, each Model Forest contributes to the work of the others by sharing knowledge, experience, and technology. The IMFN is the arena for dialogue and cooperation with respect to forest management on a sustainable basis, as much within the individual Model Forest as with the international community.
What influence does the Model Forest have on management of the land-base?
The Model Forest does not exercise decision-making or management authority over the Model Forest territory. It operates within the limits of existing laws and ownership structures. The Model Forest influences resource use in three main ways:
- Because the Model Forest partnership includes all key resource users (government, industry, private owners, and others, for example), they are participants in defining the Model Forest, its goals, and its project structure
- The Model Forest undertakes projects, research, and other activities on the land-base in collaboration and agreement with the major tenure holders. Therefore, the tenure holders are significant beneficiaries of Model Forest work
- The Model Forest's activity is relevant at a national policy level. Its activities and experiments point the way to applications in SFM within and beyond the Model Forest borders. Its influence can be considered then as being indirect, and long-term
What is the relationship of Model Forests and certification of wood products?
There is no direct relationship between Model Forests and certification of wood products, however, a Model Forest can choose to work with local harvesters and producers on certification issues.
What does the IMFN Secretariat do?
The IMFN Secretariat currently maintains a small staff based at Natural Resources Canada's Canadian Forest Service in Ottawa. Headed by an Director, the IMFNS staff is responsible for delivery of annual work plans and ongoing development of long-range plans. For more information, please go to our About Us section.
Does the IMFNS provide financial support to Model Forests?
The IMFNS is not a grant-making institution and does not typically provide direct financial support to Model Forests. If requested to do so, the IMFNS will work with Model Forests to seek funds for project activities, however, it does so in a supportive rather than lead role. On occasion, the IMFNS has acted as an executing agent on behalf of a grant-making agency. As the Secretariat does not engage a large permanent staff its capacity to act as a delivery agent is limited. All such arrangements are therefore considered on a case-by-case basis.
How much money is needed to establish and operate a Model Forest?
The cost of establishing and operating a Model Forest is highly variable. It depends on the existing physical, technical, and information infrastructure of a given region (the starting conditions), as well as on the ambitiousness of the Model Forest project proposal (its objectives and goals). If, for example, the Model Forest territory has a detailed database on resource and socio-economic conditions that can be made available to the partnership there will be considerable cost and time savings.
Some costs will be recurring, such as administration, participation in annual or other IMFN forums or meetings, information management and updating, and long-term projects (for example, monitoring indicators of sustainability over the long-term).
Leveraging resources for Model Forest is important. The benefit of broad-based partnerships is not simply acknowledging and accommodating the rights of others to work through difficult problems. Model forest partnerships have demonstrated very convincingly that these partnerships also bring new resources, such as ideas, facilities, data sets, professional services, access to policymakers and community leaders, and cash—resources that were not previously in place or not directed toward addressing the challenges of SFM.
What role (if any) does the Model Forest play in resolving conflict over resource management?
The Model Forest program began at the height of a spirited and emotional debate over forest resource use and questions of sustainability. Today, there continue to be strong opinions across the management spectrum, and a need to focus these opinions to constructive ends. A positive by-product of the Model Forest has been its role in creating a respected forum and process to deal with conflict over resource use where no functional forum or process existed before. The model forest has shown itself valuable in providing neutral settings in which traditional antagonists can engage in constructive debate.
What is meant by "consensus-based management"?
First, consensus-based management does not mean unanimous agreement. It is commonly understood to mean that a decision has been arrived at which all partners find acceptable (some may abstain from a vote for example, while others will agree to support without being enthusiastic, but in both instances the decision would be accepted). It assumes two things: first, that there is complete information available to all partners, and second, that the issue is fully debated before a decision is made.
Consensus-based management does not apply to all Model Forest issues. Day-to-day management of a Model Forest would not be included, for example, nor would technical committee decisions (unless the partnership decided otherwise). The main forum in which consensus-based management is used is the full partnership meeting. It is at this level that strategic issues are deliberated, that broad financial questions are resolved, and that program activities are identified. It is to these types of questions that consensus is needed as a way of ensuring the continued support of the partnership as the program evolves.
What is the Model Forest relationship to international conventions and agreements?
The relevance of what Model Forests are doing to national and international policy objectives is striking. In fact, the work being done by model forests is directly related to several key conventions and agreements, including:
- National Forest Programs (NFP)
- Millennium Development Goals (MDG)
- Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
- Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD)
- UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
- United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF)
What are the benefits of participating in the IMFN?
Participating in the IMFN offers a chance to gain access to talents and knowledge that will help managers in policy formulation and implementation at a time when many forest agencies are understaffed and under-funded. The Network—even with its inherent risks and its experimental nature—is an exciting and innovative concept that fits with the information age.
The reality is that many resource managers are already heavily involved with the core elements that comprise the model forest concepts, for example participatory forestry, ecosystem-based management, and collaborative networks. An extensive new knowledge base is being developed within many countries through people-place experiences that could and should be shared. Indeed, relevant knowledge is no longer the domain of "experts" but includes those who claim knowledge by virtue of a history of connection with place. An open, honest exchange of knowledge in all forms, and an examination of that knowledge by all stakeholders, creates the best potential of learning from one another.
1) In joining the Network, countries, agencies, and individual partners will:
- Foster collaborative stewardship among countries through access where knowledge is shared, science and technology made available, and ideas and experiences exchanged
- Have access to the social processes already developed for consensus-building in the existing model forests. In fact, demonstration of social elements—e.g., empowerment in decision-making, respect for cultural differences, equity and sharing of benefits—is the most tangible benefit of the Model forest Program to date. (There is probably as much to learn from these processes and working relationships as from the physical results)
- Participate in a transparent continuing evaluation process to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of Network activities, and the attainment of goals and objectives
2) Participating countries are offered a chance to:
- Provide leadership in the promotion of sustainable forest values
- Be part of a transparent process whereby others can freely obtain real-world experience in their Model Forest initiatives
- Test National Forest Program strategies and other innovative approaches that can then be applied outside of the Model Forest boundary
- Challenge existing approaches and change existing institutions, policies and legislation
- Share lessons learned
- Enhance community capacity-building and consensus-building
3) Bilateral and multilateral donor agencies are also potential beneficiaries from the Network because of key elements related to sustainable development within Model Forests:
- Poverty alleviation
- Increased participation of women and indigenous peoples
- Food security and energy availability
- Healthy ecosystems - healthy communities
- Institution and capacity building, education, training
- Technology assistance and exchanges
How can I contact the IMFN Secretariat?