Sustainable forest management

Technology group
Sustainable forest management (SFM) is the management of forests according to the principles of sustainable development.


Sustainable forest management promotes local community development while conserving biodiversity and sequestering carbon; it can even eliminate deforestation and restore forest cover. This is achieved through practices like reduced-impact logging, respecting conservation areas, protecting seed trees, censusing and mapping commercial trees, protecting against fires and promoting natural forest regeneration (selective pruning and clearing). It is based on the recognition of land tenure, proper resource use and management as well as community participation and commitment (CCMSS, 2010).


Sustainable forest management is of particular interest to forest regions and communities where its implementation can promote sustainable forest use and community-based forest conservation. In particular, it applies to areas with small, degraded forests and regions with high deforestation rates where the intention is to revalue the forest as a resource.

Threats and Impacts Addressed

Sustainable forest management lessens the impact on people, crops and the surrounding environment of frost, drought, strong winds, flooding, landslides, intense rainfall, changing rainfall patterns, extreme heat and fire through the various ecosystem services provided by conserved forests. These services include climate and water regulation, soil generation, erosion prevention and nutrient recycling. In addition, capturing and storing CO2 in forests helps mitigate climate change.

Implementation Steps

  1. Identify the area to be managed and establish usage rights among the community.
  2. Map the site and conduct a forest inventory to identify productive areas (high and medium forest), protection areas (rivers, trails) and regeneration areas (degraded zones).
  3. Determine the current and potential inventory of trees for logging (natural regeneration inventory).
  4. Design a forest management plan based on the classification of species by commercial group, species to be utilized, logging cycle and the administrative division of the area.
  5. Establish a monitoring system.
  6. Incorporate timber and non-timber products into value chains.

Inputs and Costs

Approximate annual cost of maintenance and management of 10 ha of forestland. The main expenses relate to labour for maintenance, clearing, cleaning and logging. Fifteen days of training on mapping and inventorying, community management, production chains, conservation practices and formulating a management plan are included.

Sustainable forest management on 10 ha/year US$
Labour 3225
Materials 1610
Training 900
Total 5735

Economic and Ecosystemic Benefits

The economic benefits of ecosystem and biodiversity services—such as provision services (food, water, energy, raw materials and genetic resources), regulation services (climate, water, erosion prevention) and cultural services (recreation, tourism)—generated by 1 ha of tropical forest have been valued at more than US$ 16,000, with an average of US$ 6,120 in 2007 (TEEB, 2009). The main economic benefits are the direct creation of formal jobs and the distribution of the earnings from community forest management to households. The extraction, processing and sale of forest products generate annual income of between US$ 1000 and US$ 2000 per member of the community forest enterprises (Sabogal, 2008). This income is generally additional to that obtained from individual productive activities.

Limiting Factors

Sustainable forest management requires certainty regarding land tenure and organizational capacity within the community. There is also a need for the support of forestry engineers to formulate management plans and provide training to establish community production enterprises. A lack of awareness of this alternative leads the owners of community lands to make choices that are socially and environmentally disadvantageous, which conveys the false idea that it is not possible to make a living off of the forest.

Lessons Learned

Sustainable forest management creates the conditions to promote economic equity, social peace and justice, democratize power and improve forest ecosystem management. The experience in Mexico demonstrates that, with the required support, rural communities can manage complex industrial, administrative and commercial processes. In addition, communities may utilize and sell several non-timber products, such as honey, resin, mushrooms and earth.

Additional Considerations

Some organizational aspects that have allowed for more efficient forest management are the establishment of community forest monitoring councils and the institutionalization of professional administrators, along with encouragement of young people so they may acquire the necessary training (Brady and Merino, 2004). Forest certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a useful tool for positioning, differentiating and valuating products in the market. Wood that bears the FSC's seal has been produced according to environmental sustainability and social equity principles, with differentiated criteria for plantations and the conservation of natural forests. The target public is responsible consumers.

Units to Monitor Project Progress

Area under sustainable forest management (ha).

Unites to Monitor Measure's Impact

  • Wood production (m3)
  • Income per worker (US$)
  • Preserved area (ha)


  • Consejo Civil Mexicano para la Silvicultura Sostenible (CCMSS) (2010). El Manejo Forestal Sostenible como Estrategia de Combate al Cambio Climático: Las Comunidades nos Muestran el Camino.
  • Brady, D.B. and L. Merino (2004). La experiencia de las comunidades forestales en México: Veinticinco años de silvicultura y construcción de empresas forestales comunitarias. Mexico: Instituto Nacional de Ecología (INE-SEMARNAT).
  • Sabogal, C., and others, eds. (2008). Manejo forestal comunitario en América Latina: Experiencias, lecciones aprendidas y retos para el futuro. Brazil: Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
  • The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (2009). TEEB Climate Issues Update (Sept.).