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Forests for the Future

Montréal Process Criteria and Indicators
December 1999

Table of Contents

Forests - Key to a Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy

Home to at least 70 percent of the world's terrestrial animals and plants, forests provide us with essentials such as timber, medicines, food, water and jobs. Forests also clean the air we breathe and, by absorbing carbon dioxide, reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. They help filter pollution from our lakes and rivers and protect against flooding, mudslides and erosion. Forests are renewable resources and rich, resilient ecosystems. When managed sustainably, they can supply us with goods and services, conserve biodiversity and stabilize the environment for generations to come.

Man standing in a forest.

At the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, world leaders recognized the importance of forests to sustainable development by adopting the Statement of Forest Principles and Agenda 21, the international sustainable development action plan. Governments and non-governmental groups soon recognized the pressing need to reach a common understanding of what is meant by, and how to achieve, sustainable forest management (SFM).

Since Rio, several national and international initiatives have been launched to improve our understanding of and measure progress toward SFM. The most comprehensive and potentially far reaching of these are the regional and international initiatives on criteria and indicators (C&I) for SFM, which now involve more than 100 countries. Criteria are categories of forest values that we wish to maintain; indicators are measurable aspects of these criteria. Never before have so many countries, with such diverse forest interests and circumstances, rallied around a single approach to assessing trends in forest conditions and forest management.

Of all the C&I initiatives, the Montréal Process is geographically the largest, encompassing most of the world's temperate and boreal forests. Similar initiatives include the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe; the Tarapoto Proposal for the Amazon Basin countries; the Central America, Near East and Dry Zone Africa regional initiatives and the International Tropical Timber Organization, which pioneered work on criteria and indicators for sustainable tropical forest management as early as 1990.

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The Montréal Process - Assessing the State of Our Temperate and Boreal Forests


In September 1993, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) sponsored an international seminar in Montréal, Canada, on the sustainable development of boreal and temperate forests, with a focus on developing criteria and indicators for the assessment of these forests. After the seminar, Canada drew together countries from North and South America, Asia and the Pacific Rim to develop criteria and indicators for non-tropical forests and, in June 1994, the initiative now known as the Montréal Process began. The European countries elected to work as a region in the Pan-European Forest Process in the follow-up to the Ministerial Conferences on the Protection of Forests in Europe.

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Montréal Process Member Countries

Twelve countries on five continents…

Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Russian Federation1, United States of America and Uruguay

Participating countries account for…

  • 90% of the world's temperate and boreal forests (as well as areas of tropical forests)
  • 60% of all forests on the globe
  • 35% of the world's population
  • 45% of world trade in wood and wood products

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The Santiago Declaration - A Commitment to Action

In February 1995, the Montréal Process countries, meeting in Santiago, Chile, issued a declaration containing a comprehensive set of seven national-level criteria and 67 indicators to guide policymakers, forest managers and the general public in the conservation and sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests. The Santiago Declaration is an important step toward implementing the SFM principles agreed to in Rio.

A forest road.

The Montréal Process C&I are intended to be applied, at the national level, to all the forests of a country, across all types of land ownership. They consider SFM in a holistic way, taking into account all forest goods, values and services. By endorsing these C&I, each participating country has made a commitment to work toward the sustainable management of all of its forests.

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Montréal Process Criteria

  1. Conservation of biological diversity
  2. Maintenance of productive capacity of forest ecosystems
  3. Maintenance of forest ecosystem health and vitality
  4. Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources
  5. Maintenance of forest contribution to global carbon cycles
  6. Maintenance and enhancement of long-term multiple socio-economic benefits
  7. Legal, institutional and economic framework for forest conservation and sustainable management

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Criteria and Indicators - Characterizing the Essential Elements of SFM

Criteria and indicators characterize the essential components of SFM, and provide a framework for answering the fundamental question, “What is important about forests?” They recognize forests as ecosystems that provide a wide, complex and dynamic array of environmental and socio-economic benefits and services. Used to monitor and assess national trends in forest conditions and forest management, C&I provide information essential to the formulation of policies that promote SFM.

Forest on a mountain top.

The seven criteria identified by the Montréal Process include vital functions and attributes (biodiversity, productivity, forest health, the carbon cycle, and soil and water protection), socio-economic benefits (timber, recreation and cultural values) and the laws and regulations that constitute the forest policy framework.

The Montréal Process indicators are ways to assess or describe the criteria. For example, the “extent of area by forest type relative to total area” and “the number of forest-dependent species” are indicators of biological diversity (Criterion 1); “forest land available for timber production” and “total growing stock” are indicators of forest productivity (Criterion 2). Many indicators are quantitative, such as the percentage of a country's forest cover. Others are qualitative or descriptive, such as indicators related to forest planning, public participation, and investment or taxation policies. All indicators provide information about present forest conditions and, over time, signal the direction of change in the forests.

Together, the seven criteria and the 67 indicators of the Montréal Process reflect an ecosystem-based approach to SFM and the need to serve human communities. They bring renewed rigour and breadth to forest management and to Report planning, monitoring, and policy development. The Montréal Process C&I are not static; they will be continually reviewed and refined to reflect new research findings, advances in technology and an increased capability to measure indicators.

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Progress to Date - First Approximation Report and Other Milestones

Apartments in a forest.

After endorsing the Santiago Declaration, the Montréal Process member countries prepared a First Approximation Report on country efforts to collect data on the C&I. They also established a Technical Advisory Committee to provide advice on technical and scientific issues. This report was compiled from national reports by member countries and presented at the 11th World Forestry Congress in October 1997. These first national reports provide baseline information and highlight gaps in the available data for each indicator. Future national and Montréal Process reports should be based on improved national forest assessments and provide a more comprehensive picture of forest conditions in Montréal Process countries.

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Montréal Process Milestones

June 1992
Countries participating at the Rio Earth Summit, Brazil, agree to Forest Principles and Agenda 21.

September 1993
More than 60 countries attend Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) Seminar on temperate and boreal forests in Montréal, Canada.

June 1994
Montréal Process Working Group launches, in Geneva, Switzerland, development of C&I for temperate and boreal forests.

February 1995
Montréal Process countries endorse the Santiago Declaration and commit to use agreed-upon C&I as assessment and monitoring tools at the national level.

June 1996
Montréal Process countries establish a Technical Advisory Committee and agree to prepare a joint First Approximation Report by October 1997.

February 1997
Montréal Process publishes a progress report, and distributes it at the 4th Session of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Forests in New York, USA.

October 1997
Montréal Process publishes its first approximation report and presents it at the 11th World Forestry Congress in Antalya, Turkey.

December 1999
Montréal Process countries publish "Forests for the Future", a brochure describing the purpose and objectives of the Montréal Process.

April 2000
Montréal Process countries publish their Year 2000 report: “Progress and Innovation in Implementing Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests”.

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Criteria and Indicators - Easy-to-Use Tools to Assess National Progress

Examination of periodic national reports on the various indicators will help the public and decision-makers in the Montréal Process countries identify current status and trends in almost all aspects of forests. Over time, they will document the changes and outcomes that result from forest management.

Cabins in a forest.

These reports, already being produced by Montréal Process member countries, may include information on indicators such as the percentage of forest cover by forest type, forest hectares burned by wildfire, jobs in the forest sector and populations of threatened (or formerly threatened) wildlife species.

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Future Challenges - Building Partnerships to Improve Forest Management

n addition to Governments, the Montréal Process has also involved environmentalists, the forest industry and other stakeholders in the development of national level C&I and, in some cases, the preparation of the first national reports. The Montréal Process has maintained close contact with the other international initiatives using C&I to assess the state of the world's forests, and will continue to do so.

River flowing through a forest.

Work on the First Approximation Reports revealed gaps in available data. It also showed that much useful information is available inside and outside the forest sector, which, because of time constraints, could not be included in the first national reports. Such data can be incorporated into future national reports, as well as in the First Montréal Process Forest Report, to be produced in 2003. As countries move to collect data and monitor and report on indicators more comprehensively, it will become increasingly critical to engage the active participation of the full range of interested parties. Indigenous people, local communities, private forest owners, industry, academia and others can help provide the data needed for assessment. They can also make decisions about the use of forest land, and they have a stake in and can influence policies affecting forest management.

As national trend forest data for individual Montréal Process countries become available through application of C&I, the challenge will be to interpret the trends in relation to sustainable forest management and to make changes, as required.

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The Outlook - Influencing Decision-Making on Forest Policy

Achieving meaningful results in SFM requires a long-term commitment by governments and other forest owners. Forests are complex and dynamic ecosystems; only better knowledge, experience, and understanding can lead to more effective approaches to forest assessment and management.

A forest road.

Implementation of the Montréal Process C&I is now a priority for member countries. Ongoing monitoring will provide the information necessary to assess national trends in forest conditions and to make the policy decisions needed to move countries toward the sustainable management of their forests. Work on C&I requires continuous adaptation to new information, experience, greater capabilities and changing needs of societies. As we move into a new millennium, the Montréal Process C&I have the potential to be a leading innovation in forest management.

The decision to apply C&I reflects a recognition of their value and their utility for measuring progress; ultimately, they will be meaningful only if countries are committed to using them to make needed national policy changes in response to trends in the indicators. The ultimate contribution by C&I to the protection and management of the world's forests will therefore be determined by the citizens and decision-makers of each country.

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The Montréal Process Working Group is supported by a Liaison Office hosted by Canada.

  • Ms Kathryn Buchanan, R.P. F.
    Montréal Process Liaison Office
    Tel: 1 613 947 9061
    Fax: 1 613 947 9038

For more information on country contacts, please contact the Liaison Office or the Montréal Process Website.

  • Argentina
    Direction de Forestación
    Buenos Aires
    Fax: 54 11 4349 2102

    Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Pesca y Alimentacion
    03 Buenos Aires
    Fax: 54 11 4349 2103

  • Australia
    Assistant Secretary
    Forest Industries Branch, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry
    Fax: 61 2 6272 4875

  • Canada
    Policy, Planning & International Affairs, Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada [Forests]
    Fax: 1 613 947 9038

  • Chile
    Corporación Nacional Forestal (CONAF)
    Fax: 56 2 671 5881

  • China
    Department of International Cooperation, State Forestry Administration
    Fax: 86 10 6421 3184

    Chinese Academy of Forestry
    Fax: 86 10 6287 2015

  • Japan
    Department of International Cooperation Office, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries
    Fax: 81 3 3593 9565

  • Republic of Korea
    International Cooperation Division, Korea Forest Service
    Fax: 82.42.481.4009

  • Mexico
    Fax: 52 5 554 3599 (658 3556)

    Fax: 52 5 554 3599 / 658 3556

  • New Zealand
    International Forest Policy Office
    Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
    Fax: 64 4 498 9891

  • Russian Federation
    Department of International Cooperation, Federal Forest Service of Russia
    Fax: 7 095 953 0950

  • United States of America
    Assistant Director for Policy,
    Office of International Programs, USDA Forest Service
    Washington, DC
    Fax: 1 202 273 4750

  • Uruguay
    Division Forestal
    Fax: 598 2 401 9706