North American Test of Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forestry

Agency Involvement

This test was conducted as part of a larger program initiated by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), a non-profit research institute established in response to global concerns about the social, environmental and economic consequences of loss and degradation of forests. The Center is based in Bogor, Indonesia, and was established under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) system. It is designed to operate through a series of highly decentralized partnerships with key institutions and/or individuals throughout the developing and industrialized worlds.

The lead agency for this test was the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (USDA – Forest Service). The Boise National Forest was at the heart of the study area. Other key cooperating land management agencies were the Boise Cascade Corporation and the Idaho Department of Lands. The Project team was selected from a wide range of disciplines and agencies from throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Agencies cooperating in this test include Parks Canada, the Canadian Forest Service, and the Mexican Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agricolas y Pecuarias, the United States Bureau of Land Management, and Boise State University.

Funding for this test in southwest Idaho was provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the USDA - Forest Service Office of International Programs, and the USDA – Forest Service Research.


This final report of the North American test of criteria and indicators at the forest management unit level has exceeded my expectations.

In 1995, I first proposed the idea of the United States participating in the CIFOR research study as one of the official sites for an on-the-ground evaluation of a set of criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management. The need for such an assessment was obvious to me, and I only suspected its relevance to broader issues of accountability and performance measures, which have become more evident as the study results emerged. The study results also have relevance to broad-based efforts for engaging people in discussions of sustainability and what it means to them.

Collaboration and involvement were key factors in the success of the North American test. This became the "North American test" because of the collaboration and involvement of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Collaboration and involvement were further demonstrated, because participants in the North American test included not only scientists from all three North American countries, but also managers and on-the-ground specialists from the Boise Cascade Corporation, the Idaho Department of Lands, and the USDA Forest Service. Idaho State University, the University of Idaho, and the Bureau of Land Management were also engaged as partners in the test.

Sustainability is about values. Values, however, are difficult to define, because words often seem inadequate for expressing a value’s true meaning. I believe the CIFOR research project is providing an important means by which to engage more people about what sustainability means. The CIFOR project is helping to provide the words, and even the language, with which to define and discuss personal and societal values through the tests of the various criteria and indicators. The local level is where the majority of people can begin to understand how various forest management practices do or do not contribute to sustainability. Therefore, the CIFOR North American test is defining the boundaries of the values related to sustainable forest management that are most important to people at the local level in North America.

The North American test of criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management is an excellent contribution to the state of knowledge about criteria and indicators at the forest management unit level. It is also an important contribution to an understanding of sustainability as a statement of values.

BARBARA C. WEBER, Associate Deputy Chief for Research & Development, USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC