Over 30 million hectares around the world are protected by Model Forests—an approach that is spreading the seeds for sustainable forest management
The sustainable management of natural resources is no longer a utopian vision. It has become the everyday life in a Model Forest, an innovative approach that provides holistic solutions to environmental problems and is prospering in 40 sites across 19 countries, protecting over 30 million hectares.
Since the launching of the Canadian Model Forest Program in 1992, the Model Forests initiative has spread over the five continents as a process of participatory resource management on a landscape scale. With the goal of improving the quality of life, each Model Forest develops projects that respond to the needs of the communities involved and promotes participation by all sectors of society.
This is the approach shared by all members of the International Model Forest Network (IMFN), comprising Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Cameroon, France, Indonesia, the Philippines, Russia, Sweden, Thailand, China, India, Bolivia, Honduras, and Japan.
Canada alone has 11 Model Forests, the largest being the Foothills Model Forest, covering 2.75 million hectares of mountainous boreal forests; one of its main features is a program for protecting the habitat of the grizzly bear. A group of 24 landowners in the Eastern Ontario Model Forest (1.5 million hectares) has obtained certification that helps to ensure proper forest management and wildlife protection.
“Model Forests are the driving force for implementing hundreds of projects dealing with such issues as water resources, climate change, carbon accounting, traditional ecological knowledge, fire prevention, forest practices and the protection of wildlife habitat,” explains Christa Mooney, head of Communications at the IMFN Secretariat in Canada.
Partnerships produce results
Argentina is the country in Latin America with the most Model Forests: Formoseño, Futaleufú, and Jujuy Model Forests, as well as the Norte de Neuquén Model Forest, which is in the process of development.
The Formoseño Model Forest, located in the province of Formosa, covers 800,000 hectares and is engaged in a number of activities promoted by the indigenous Toba peoples. One of the key results has been the recovery of degraded soils through the establishment of 250 hectares of native trees and the planting of trees that can produce over 80 000 seeds per year.
Chile has three Model Forests. The Chiloé Model Forest was the first to be established and covers 980,000 hectares. It has been fostering community initiatives for sustainable development in areas such as forest management, rural tourism, environmental education, non-wood forest products, cultural recovery, and the sale of handicrafts.
Within this context, the Chiloé Model Forest currently has 120 projects approved and close to 200 microcredits arranged. It has created the Biodiversity Trade Fair to showcase handicrafts by some 400 women and men of Chiloé. Over 110 people have been involved in the annual Biodiversity Trade Fair for five consecutive years, displaying the products they have manufactured in a sustainable manner and using regional resources.
Last October, the first site in India and the seventh in Asia joined the IMBN: the Kodagu Model Forest in the state of Karnataka. With a total area of 410 800 ha, Kodagu is valued for the richness of its forests and its biodiversity. The Kodagu Model Forest has been designed as a model for conservation and sustainable forest management. A significant portion of its land base consists of protected areas.
In the Philippines, the Department of Forest Management of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources is applying a strategic planning framework influenced by the Ulot Watershed Model Forest. The environmental protection and monitoring concepts key to Model Forests as applied are therefore influencing policy and decision-making.
Europe has had its first experience with the Vilhelmina Model Forest in Sweden. New proposals for helping to solve land-use conflicts between Sami reindeer herders, land owners, logging companies, and the municipality of Vilhelmina. Reindeer husbandry depends on continuous areas of natural forests, which is not always compatible with modern forestry practices. This is another example of how the Model Forest activities are fostering the development of sustainable forestry, which can be adapted to the needs of indigenous peoples as well as to those of other sectors of society.
In Africa, Cameroon has selected two sites for developing Model Forests: Campo-Ma’an and Dja-Mpomo. Both sites are currently in the process of collecting data, promoting awareness among key stakeholders with respect to the Model Forest concept, and working together towards a common vision of sustainability for the region.
Although each of the Model Forests cited manages its own projects, they all share the common goal of attaining the sustainable management of resources and making environmental conservation their daily concern.
Representatives from the 40 sites will meet at the Model Forest Global Forum from November 7–11 in Costa Rica, in the province of Cartago, to share experiences and plan strategic directions for the future.