Sustainable Forest Management


In the second half of the 20th century, it became clear that the existing rate of forest destruction can no longer continue. But it was not until the 1980s and 1990s when the principles of sustainable forest management were finally adopted by most countries all over the world.

Sustainable forest management refers to management of forests that follows the principles of sustainable development which in turn refers to a broad concept of economic, environmental and social principles. These principles were adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and gave the forestry a set of criteria and standards which should ensure sustainable forest management in the future with the main goal to slow down the rate of loss of the world forests and continue to meet the rising demand for timber at the same time. The guidelines that were set by the UNCED have evolved since 1992 but the goal and general principles remain the same.

The main goal of the sustainable forest management is to create an optimal balance between the increasing demand for wood and preservation of forests which in turn is crucial to preserve the world’s biodiversity and wildlife habitat, for waterway control, avoidance of deforestation-related soil erosion and land degradation, control of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and to help forest-dependent communities to retain their culture and way of living. There are several ways to achieve sustainable forest management that meets the mentioned principles including planting a new tree on the site of the tree that was cut down, creation of commercial plantations, etc. As a result, there is no single forest management system that would be followed by all countries.


With the development of sustainable forest management also emerged certification of timber which is harvested from sustainably managed forests and plantations. It guarantees that the source of the timber from which a particular wood product is made complies with the standards of sustainable forest management. But since there are several systems of sustainable operation of the forests, there are several certifications that guarantee that the producer follows the best practice.

As many as 150 countries have embraced the criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management that were set by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, however, forest certification which ensures the customers that they have bought an environmentally friendly product rises very slowly. To date, most of the certified timber originates from Europe and North America. The developing countries are making progress when it comes to both implementation of sustainable forest management standards and certification of sustainable forests, however, many are having difficulties to establish and maintain forest management at the certification level.

Besides limiting human activities which threaten the existence of forests, sustainable forest management also includes reforestation, and protection of tree species and forests wildlife in regard to disease, insect infestation and wildfire.