INTRODUCTIONForests and forest resources are an integral part of Canadian life. As stewards of 10% of the world’s forests, Canadians have a strong commitment to sustainable forest management. But pressure on the resource is growing and the values of different forest users often conflict. Consequently, Canadians are demanding more information, more options, more involvement in decision making, and more equitable sharing of benefits. The marketplace also seeks assurances that Canadian products come from forests that are managed sustainably. To meet these challenges, policy makers, decision makers, and the public need tools to define and measure progress toward sustainable forest management.
The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers’ (CCFM) framework of criteria and indicators (C&I) provides such a science-based tool. Developed through a process of broad consultation, the criteria reflect the values of Canadians and identify the forest features and uses they want to sustain or enhance, while the indicators identify scientific factors to assess the state of the forests and measure progress over time. The C&I enable a common understanding of what sustainable forest management means. Collectively, they provide a framework for reporting on the state of forests, forest management, and achievements toward sustainability.
National Status 2005 is the second report by the CCFM on Canada’s progress toward sustainable forest management using its C&I framework. This report provides information that will improve public dialogue and decision making on the outcomes desired and the actions needed to continue to move the nation toward sustainable forest management. Although the indicators were revised in 2003, much of the information presented in this report can be compared with similar information presented in National Status 2000, allowing readers the opportunity to see changes and assess progress for themselves. The principal audiences for this report are forest policy makers and decision makers in Canada as well as individuals interested in sustainable forest management in Canada and abroad.
This report is an important contribution to Canada’s continued commitment to develop and implement a credible framework to define, measure, and authoritatively report on progress toward the sustainable management of its forests. The report provides the best available information on Canada’s progress toward sustainable forest management and is the result of extensive collaboration and cooperation between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments. Many experts from across the country helped write this report. The information contained herein is comprehensive, reflecting the increased capacity to measure and report on sustainability within the expert community as well as improvements in data collection and management that have occurred in recent years. Where national data are not currently available or feasible to expect, experts have creatively woven together relevant information from regional research results or case studies to provide reasonable information about the indicators and a better understanding of future reporting needs. Throughout the report, experts have sought to provide balanced, science-based interpretations of the information to help reliably inform Canadians about both the achievements as well as challenges faced in progressing toward sustainability. To aid in interpretation, information in the report is linked, where possible, to visions or goals that Canadians have for their forests as expressed through the National Forest Strategy or other national or international agreements and conventions. This report, and the C&I process as a whole, will help governments to evaluate the effectiveness of existing regulations, orient future policies, identify and prioritize information and research, guide forest practices, and clarify expectations of sustainable forest management in Canada.
Considerable progress has been made since the CCFM committed to develop their first set of national indicators in their 1992 National Forest Strategy, Sustainable forests: A Canadian Commitment. In 1995, the CCFM released their C&I framework. In 2000, they released their first full C&I report. In 2003, they released their revised framework. The National Forest Strategy 2003–2008 once again renewed Canada’s commitment to sustainable forestry. One of the actions in the strategy was to establish capacity for credible and authoritative reporting to the public on C&I. National Status 2005 provides tangible evidence of how this commitment is being met. Credible and authoritative reporting is also ensured through less tangible benefits provided by the C&I initiative. For example, through their involvement in the process, the forest community and stakeholders have increased their ability to express their values. This in turn has promoted more meaningful participation in the debate about sustainable forest management and helped to ensure that the indicators are relevant. Likewise, by sharing information and resources, the CCFM member governments have ensured that the best available data from across the country are used for reporting while reducing their reporting costs and increasing their expertise.
Looking forward, it is important to recognize that the C&I process is one of continual learning. In the future, change in society’s values can be expected, the scientific understanding of ecosystems will change, technological improvements will be made in data collection and management, and the capacity to report will increase as will the expectations for more comprehensive reporting. As experience and knowledge grow, improvements will be made in the way Canada defines, measures, and reports on its progress toward the sustainable management of its forests.
Revised CCFM C&I framework
In 2003, following consultation with Canadians, the CCFM released its revised C&I framework, consisting of 6 criteria and 46 indicators. The six criteria are 1. Biological Diversity, 2. Ecosystem Condition and Productivity, 3. Soil and Water, 4. Role in Global Ecological Cycles, 5. Economic and Social Benefits, and 6. Society’s Responsibility.
The revised framework has fewer indicators than the original 1995 framework, focusing on those indicators that are most relevant to the values of Canadians; are most often found to be measurable with available data; and are understandable to policy makers, forest managers, and an informed public. However, some continuity with the 1995 framework has been maintained, and many of the values addressed by quantitative indicators in the original framework are addressed by similar indicators in the revised framework.
To make the framework more understandable for nontechnical audiences, 36 indicators in the revised framework that relate to values, issues, or concerns that are of great interest to Canadians have been identified as core indicators. These indicators can be used to raise public awareness and focus public attention on what sustainable forest management means. Ten supporting indicators complement core indicators by providing more detailed information.
No single criterion or indicator alone indicates sustainability. Rather, the individual criteria and indicators must be considered in the context of other criteria and indicators. Also, the revised indicators are designed for national reporting. Although some indicators lend themselves to reporting at the ecozone level or the provincial/territorial level, the indicators are not intended to assess sustainability directly at a local or forest management unit level. Still, in the past, the CCFM C&I framework has provided a starting point for developing subnational C&I frameworks, and the revised framework should continue to do the same.
Organization of this report
Six chapters address the six criteria that Canadians have agreed are essential components in defining sustainable forest management. Each chapter begins with a description of the criterion and an overview of the information contained therein. To help organize information within the criterion, indicators that deal with related matters are grouped together. These groupings are called “Elements”. Element descriptions provide a synthesis of the information presented in the indicator reports, showing the relevance of the indicator information to sustainable forest management.
For each indicator, where possible, trends are highlighted and additional data or research needs noted. Since the report aims to provide information to improve dialogue and decision making, the indicators highlight areas where progress toward sustainability has been made as well as areas where improvement is needed. To aid the reader in understanding the implications for sustainability, experts have provided science-based explanations of the trends observed. Because most of the forest management decision-making responsibility resides at the provincial and territorial level in Canada, few identifiable national targets or thresholds have been established for most indicators. Still, where possible, information presented in the report is related to visions or goals expressed in the National Forest Strategy or other national or international agreements or conventions. In addition, comparing values of past performance to current performance, where data are available over time, provides important context for indicators, allowing for the determination of the direction of a trend and the rate of change in a trend, which are important in guiding policy and management decisions.
Data availability and completeness
Due to the specific and comprehensive nature of the indicators, the information in this report was compiled from various federal, provincial, and territorial agencies and institutions. Data were limited or not available for some indicators because the necessary monitoring and management systems were not always in place, so data may have been incomplete, not collected, not centrally collated, or not available for this report. Where national data do not exist, information from regional or local research studies or other qualitative information has been compiled and synthesized to provide the reader with a reasonable understanding of the status of the indicator.
To help readers interpret the information presented in the report, an assessment of the availability and completeness of the data for each of the 46 indicators in this report is provided at the beginning of each indicator and in the Appendix. The assessment covers three categories: geographic coverage (ranging from nationally complete to case studies only), data currency (how current the information is), and frequency with which the data are collected. In the detailed discussion for each of the indicators throughout the report, three data assessment categories are presented in the format explained in the legend on page 14. In some cases, indicator reports rely on data compiled from several sources that may have different coverage, currency, or frequency. This information will also help guide and prioritize efforts to improve data gathering and direct scientific research requirements for future reporting.