USDA Forest Service Resource Information Group

North American Test of Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forestry (CIFOR-NA)


From the instigation of the Bruntland Commission through to the Montreal Process the focus has been on assessing the national and international state of sustainable forest management. While this scale of understanding and cooperation is vital to achieving global sustainability examining sustainable forest management at the forest level is crucial. 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, has been leading the development of forest management unit (FMU) level assessments of sustainable forest management internationally. CIFOR defines sustainable forest management as a sub-set of the larger sustainability question. For the purpose of developing assessment systems, CIFOR defined sustainable forest management as: "a set of objectives and outcomes consistent with maintaining or improving the forest’s ecological integrity and contributing to people’s well-being both now and in the future." CIFOR noted that a system to evaluate the sustainability of forest management will need to assess the following two conditions:

"Ecological integrity is maintained or enhanced; and, well-being of people is maintained or enhanced."

Scale and the Forest Management Unit

Criteria and Indicators of sustainability have been considered and described at several scales. The most well known scale is associated with the Montreal Process, a system that develops reports for nations such as Canada, Mexico and the United States. These national reports are based on sub-national ecological units within which descriptive data are collected on various indicators. Numerous other scales could be used for evaluating sustainability attendant with the scale of an assessment on sustainability. The North American test reported on in this document was conducted at what has been referred to as the Forest Management Unit (FMU). The FMU is considered to be comprised of one or more ownerships that make decisions about how the landscape will be affected by land and resource management activities (10s to low 1,000s of square miles). Social and economic conditions are considered as the direct effects of actions on the FMU. Ownership size varies but in the case of the CIFOR-NA study, various ownership sizes were provided in the description of the Boise Test Site in Volume II of the report. The scale of the analysis area for evaluating criteria and indicators directly affects the definition of the individual criteria and indicators. In some cases criteria and indictors are only applicable at a small range of scales and in other cases they can apply across a wide range of scales. When criteria and indicators are considered across scales, the definition of the criteria and indicator itself may change scale or only the metric used to quantify the criteria or indicator may change with no definition change.

CIFOR has conducted a series of country-specific tests of the utility and applicability of various suites of SFM criteria and indicators including the Montreal Process indicators. Following tests in Indonesia, Germany, Cote d’Ivoire, Brazil, Austria and Cameroon CIFOR initiated a test of C&I in North America. The lead agency for this test was the USDA Forest Service with cooperating agencies including Parks Canada, the Canadian Forest Service, the US Bureau of Land Management, Boise State University and the Mexican Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agricolas y Pecuarias.The Boise National Forest (Boise, Idaho) was the heart of the study with participation from Boise Cascade Corporation and the Idaho Department of Lands.

The CIFOR-NA test (commonly referred to as the Boise Test) examined the utility, measurability and applicability of various criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management at the forest management unit scale in a North American context of mixed land ownership. The CIFOR-NA test was designed primarily to assess the individual indicators and suggest measurement protocols appropriate for an FMU scale North American assessment. The CIFOR-NA test resulted in three principles, 16 criteria and 54 indicators.

CIFOR-NA Indicator Set


C.1.1 Policy, planning and institutional frameworks are conducive to sustainable forest management

I.1.1.1 Effective instruments for inter-institutional co-ordination on land-use and forest management exists

I.1.1.2 There is sustained and adequate funding and staff for the management of forests

I.1.1.3 Institutions responsible for forest research are adequately funded and staffed


C.2.1 Ecosystem function is maintained

I.2.1.1 Ecologically sensitive areas, especially buffer zones along water courses, are protected

I.2.1.2 Coarse woody debris and snags retained at functional levelsI.2.1.3 Area and severity of area burned

I.2.1.4 Area and severity of insect attack and disease infestation

I.2.1.5 Population sizes and demographic structures of selected species do not show significant change, and demographically and ecologically critical life-cycle stages continue to be presented

I.2.1.6 The status of decomposition and nutrient cycling shows no significant change

I.2.1.7 There is no significant change in the quality and quantity of water from the catchment

C.2.2 Landscape patterns support native populations

I.2.2.1 Level of fragmentation and connectedness of forest ecosystem components

I.2.2.2 Road network density, type, use and location

C.2.3 Native species diversity is maintained

I.2.3.1 Protected areas are maintained to protect rare, unique and representative species and features

I.2.3.2 Populations of indigenous species are likely to persist

I.2.3.3 Number of known forest-dependent species classified as extinct, extirpated, endangered, threatened or vulnerable relative to the total number of known forest dependent species

I.2.3.4 Assessment of changes in the distribution of native aquatic fauna

C.2.4 Ecosystem diversity is maintained

I.2.4.1 Percentage and extent, in area, of vegetation types and structural classes relative to the historical condition and total forest area

I.2.4.2 Rate and total area of forest land converted to non-forest land cover, classed by major forest type

I.2.4.3 Representation of selected key and sensitive guilds occur in the community guild structure

C.2.5 Incidence of disturbance and stress

I.2.5.1 Pollutant levels in the ecosystem

I.2.5.2 Area and severity of occurrence of exotic species detrimental to forest condition

C.2.6 Genetic diversity is maintained

I.2.6.1 Population sizes and reproductive success are adequate to maintain levels of genetic diversity

I.2.6.2 Use of scientifically-based seed transfer rules and seed orchard zones in planting native species

I.2.6.3 Management does not significantly change gene frequencies

C.2.7 Physical environmental factors

I.2.7.1 Percentage of harvested area having greater than 25% of the area with degraded soil quality, including soil compaction, displacement, erosion, puddling, and loss of organic materia

lI.2.7.2 Trends and timing of events in stream flows from forest catchments


C.3.1 Forest management provides ongoing access to the resource

I.3.1.1 Access to forest resources is perceived to be fair and secure

I.3.1.2 Ownership and use rights and responsibilities to resources (inter and intra-generational) are clear and respect pre-existing claims

C.3.2 Concerned stakeholders have a right to participate in open and meaningful public participation processes in order to influence management

I.3.2.1 The process should be inclusive with all interests represented

I.3.2.2 Stakeholders should have detailed and meaningful reciprocal background information necessary to provide quality input into the public participation process

I.3.2.3 Management staff and stakeholders should recognize and respect the interests and rights of each other

I.3.2.4 The decision-making processes must be transparent such that participants are confident that their opinions and values will be considered during the process and be reflected in the final product

C.3.3 Forest-based human health issues are recognized

I.3.3.1 Forest managers cooperate with public health authorities regarding illnesses related to forest management and potable water related concerns

I.3.3.2 Forestry employers follow ILO working and safety conditions and take responsibility for the forest-related health risks of workers

C.3.4 Recognition and respect for Aboriginal roles in sustainable forest management (Aboriginal rights, Treaty rights and aboriginal values)

I.3.4.1 Extent to which forest planning and management processes consider and meet   legal obligations with respect to duly established Aboriginal and treaty rights

I.3.4.2 Extent of Aboriginal participation in forest-based opportunities

I.3.4.3 Extent to which forest management planning takes into account the protection of unique or significant Aboriginal social, cultural or spiritual sites

I.3.4.4 Area of forest land available for subsistence purposes

C.3.5 There is equitable access to and distribution of economic rents

I.3.5.1 Mechanisms exist for sharing the economic benefits derived from forest management

I.3.5.2 Wages and other benefits conform to national and/or ILO standards

I.3.5.3 Employment of local population in forest management

I.3.5.4 Estimated distribution of rent capture

I.3.5.5 Number of communities with a significant forestry component in the economic base


C.6.1 Forest management provides for sustainability of goods and services

I.6.1.1 Policy and planning are based on recent and accurate information

I.6.1.2 Objectives are clearly stated in terms of the major functional areas of the forest, with respect to their spatial distribution

I.6.1.3 Silvicultural systems are prescribed as appropriate to forest type, production of desired products and condtion, and assure forest establishment, composition and growth

I.6.1.4 Harvesting systems and equipment are prescribed to match forest conditions in order to reduce impact on wildlife, soil productivity, residual stand conditions and water quality and quantity

I.6.1.5 Annual and periodic removals calculated by area and/or volume prescribed

I.6.1.6 Mean annual increment for forest type and age class

I.6.1.7 Distribution of, and changes in, the land base available for timber production are identified

C.6.2 Forest management is socially efficient

I.6.2.1 Availability and use of recreational opportunities are maintained

I.6.2.2 Total expenditures by individuals on activities related to non-timber use

I.6.2.3 Existence of economic rents: Total harvesting revenues exceed harvesting costs

C.6.3 The management plan is implemented and effective in moving toward stated goals

I.6.3.1 Actual vs. planned performance is measured and recorded

I.6.3.2 An effective monitoring and control system audits management's conformity with planning

I.6.3.3 Continuous inventories established and measured regularly

I.6.3.4 Documentation and records of all forest management activities are kept in a form that makes monitoring possible

USDA Forest Service
Ecosystem Management Coordination (EMC)
1400 Independence Ave.
Mailstop: 1104
Washington, DC 20250-1104

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Last modified: Wednesday, 12-Oct-2016 09:46:16 CDT