|Biological Diversity||Ecosystem Condition and Productivity||Soil and Water||Role in Global Ecological Cycles||Economic and Social Benefits||Society's Responsibility|
|Aboriginal and Treaty Rights||Aboriginal Traditional Land Use and Forest-based Ecological Knowledge||Forest Community Well-being and Resilience||Fair and Effective Decision Making||Informed Decision Making|
|Indicator 6.3.1 Economic diversity index of forest-based communities||6.3.2 Education attainment levels in forest-based communities||6.3.3 Employment rate in forest-based communities||6.3.4 Incidence of low income in forest-based communities|
6.3 Forest Community Well-being and Resilience
Sustainable forest management is particularly important to rural forest-dependent communities, as they are more likely to suffer the high potential social costs of unsustainable practices than larger urban centers. Many of these rural communities are Aboriginal communities that depend on the surrounding forests for their economic and social well-being. Decision-making processes must consider the needs of forest-based communities to contribute to sustainable forest management.
Historically, the relationship between forests and forestdependent communities has focused on a stable flow of forest resources to provide employment and other economic benefits in a local economy. Today, with the emergence of ecosystem-based management, the concept of human ecosystems has blossomed. The relationship between forests and their dependent communities now focuses not only on the flow of benefits into the community, but also on the ability of the community to cope with external stresses and disturbances as a result of social, political, and environmental change.
One popular method of understanding the sustainability of forest communities involves an assessment of community capacity. Community capacity is understood by many social scientists in terms of specific assets or capitals within a community that provide the resources needed to respond to constant changes in social, economic, or environmental systems. These capitals can be natural (e.g., clean air and water), human (e.g., education and health), economic (e.g., physical and financial assets in the community), and social (e.g., organizations and networks that facilitate social action) (Beckley et al. 2002).
The four indicators in this element provide information that can be used to assess the human, economic, and social assets in forest-dependent communities. Collectively, they provide insights into forest community well-being and resilience.
The reported information for Element 6.3 shows significant variation in the relationship between forest dependence and community well-being. Non- Aboriginal forest-dependent communities enjoy higher than average levels of economic diversity, suggesting that they are better able to withstand a downturn in one sector of the economy than are other non- Aboriginal rural communities. Other indicators, however, show that with few exceptions, forest-dependent communities report lower than average education attainment levels, lower employment rates, and a higher incidence of low income compared with other rural communities. This suggests that non-Aboriginal forest-dependent communities are associated with lower levels of well-being and resilience than other non-Aboriginal rural communities across the country.
Similar to non-Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal forest-dependent communities also enjoy higher rates of economic diversity than their nonforest-dependent compatriots, suggesting that they are better able to weather shocks to their local economy. Unlike non-Aboriginal communities, however, Aboriginal community education attainment rates and rates of employment tend to be the same between forestdependent and forest-nondependent communities. The information on incidence of low income is incomplete for Aboriginal communities making it difficult to draw conclusions.
Researchers have been studying the relationship between forest dependence and community well-being (Stedman et al. 2005 and Parkins et al. 2003), but there remains a limited understanding of multiyear trends in these relationships. More research is required to understand the dynamic nature of well-being and resilience in forest-based communities and their relative levels of well-being compared with other rural locales. Canada’s National Forest Strategy 2003–2008 (NFSC 2003) calls on forest stakeholders to address the issue of forest community sustainability by:
In addition, Ontario’s Northern Boreal Initiative aims to protect and promote sustainable development of lands and natural resources in the province’s northern boreal area, in partnership with several First Nations, to foster sustainable economic opportunities in forestry and conservation.
In its 2004 Speech from the Throne, the federal government committed to support regional and rural economic development through skills upgrading, support for research and development, community development, and modern infrastructure such as broadband communication.
Through these and other initiatives, the foundation for a better future in forest-dependent communities is being put in place, both in Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal communities.