Chapter 1: Introduction

Forests are essential to the long-term well-being of local populations, Nations, and the earth’s biosphere. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which met in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, focused world attention on the importance of sustainable forest management as a key component of sustainable development. UNCED is also popularly known as the Earth Summit or the Rio Summit.) In adopting the Statement of Forest Principles and Chapter 11 of Agenda 21, UNCED recognized the importance of sustainably managing all types of forests, including temperate and boreal forests in order to meet the needs of present and future generations.

A year after UNCED, in September 1993 the United Nations Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe sponsored an international seminar in Montreal, Canada on Sustainable Development of Boreal and Temperate Forests. This conference provided the conceptual basis for subsequent regional and international initiatives to develop criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management.

Following the CSCE seminar, European countries decided it was important to work as a region under the framework of the Helsinki Ministerial Declaration and its four resolutions to which they were all signatories. The European effort on criteria and indicators is now known as the Helsinki Process or the Pan-European Process.

Subsequently, Canada took the lead in launching an initiative among other temperate and boreal countries, with the specific purpose of developing and implementing internationally agreed criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. This initiative led to the formation in June 1994 of the Working Group on Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests, now known as the Montreal Process.

The Montreal Process Working Group now includes Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, United States of America, and Uruguay. These countries cover five continents and together represent 90 percent of the world’s temperate and boreal forests (as well as areas of tropical forests) and 60 percent of all forests on the globe. They also account for 45 percent of world trade in wood and wood products and 35 percent of the world’s population. The Working Group is supported by a Liaison Office hosted by Canada in Ottawa.

In February 1995 in Santiago, Chile, the original ten Montreal Process countries endorsed a statement of political commitment known as the "Santiago Declaration," together with a comprehensive set of seven criteria and 67 indicators for the conservation and sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests for use by their respective policy makers at the national level. These criteria and indicators are listed at the end of this Chapter, beginning on page 1-8. Argentina and Uruguay subsequently endorsed the Santiago Declaration upon joining the Montreal Process.

The Santiago Declaration is an important step to implementing the UNCED Forest Principles and Agenda 21. It also supports the commitment made by tropical timber producer countries in January 1994 to the goal of achieving sustainable management of their respective forests by the year 2000.

The first step in the implementation of the Montreal Process criteria and indicators was an initial survey by the Liaison Office to determine the current availability of data for indicators in each country and the capacity of countries to report on indicators. Interim survey results indicate that while data availability and reporting capacity varies greatly among the 12 countries, most countries have data for and can report on 50 percent or more of the 67 indicators. The Liaison Office survey also indicates that while resolution of some of the data gaps and reporting problems would involve new research, monitoring systems, and reporting methods, others could be resolved by better defining terms and elaborating measurement approaches.

The differences in data availability and reporting capacity found by the survey reflect the wide differences among the Montreal Process countries in terms of forest character, land ownership, population, system and structure of government, and economic development. One of the great strengths of the Montreal Process is the diversity of the countries involved, which resulted in a set of criteria and indicators that should be useful to many other countries that are not members of the Working Group.

Under generally agreed guidelines, the twelve individual member countries were to produce individual first approximation reports, i.e., national reports on the conditions of the forests in each nation, to be submitted in June to the Montreal Coordinator in Ottawa. The Montreal Process Working Group would then prepare a consolidated first approximation report based on the efforts of initial country efforts to measure the criteria and indicators. The consolidated report will be distributed at the Eleventh World Forestry Congress in Antalya, Turkey, in October 1997. How the U.S. approaches its assessment of domestic sustainable forest management will be examined closely by the world forestry community and by non-governmental organizations, and judged for its honesty and thoroughness.

In preparing this report, the U.S. has obtained data from the major federal land management agencies and their dependent agencies, including the Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service in the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, US Geological Service, and US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Department of Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others. In addition, an extensive consultative process involved a wide array of stakeholders, including the National Association of State Foresters, the lumber and wood products industry, non-industrial forest landowners, Native American Intertribal Timber Council, various non-governmental conservation organizations and representatives of labor (e.g., the Pulp and Paper workers Resource Council), and forestry-related professional societies.

As expected, information for some of the indicators, while data is lacking almost completely for others. For most of the indicators, however, some information was available. In some cases, data has been collected only in recent years, making it impossible to determine trends; in other cases, data elements have not been measured in all locations using consistent definitions or methodologies, making it inappropriate to draw conclusions for the nation as a whole. Finally, in consultation with the various stakeholders in the U.S., it was discovered that a tremendous amount of data already exists, but which could not feasibly be incorporated into this first approximation report.

This document constitutes a first attempt of the United States to produce a report as agreed to under the Santiago Declaration. Our current ability to report is not complete and, in fact, many indicators have not been measured at all in the past. The first approximation report, then, represents a beginning in what will be an ongoing process to assess forest management and monitoring capability in the United States to help achieve the goal and commitment to sustainable forest management.




The land area of the United States currently includes 737 million acres (300.8 million ha) of forest land. These forests are complex communities of plants, animals and often people living within them or nearby. They are a significant component of the country's landscapes and vital to the ecosystems to which they contribute. Their diversity, both biologically, and in terms of the goods and benefits they provide, play a major role in the health and welfare of the nation as a whole and in particular to local watersheds, communities and economies.

These lands vary in character from the boreal forests of Alaska, to the temperate forests of most of the continental U.S., to the tropical forests of Puerto Rico and Hawaii. As such, they vary in their associated plant and animal associations, and the amenities for which they are valued.

Some 42 percent of the forest lands in the United States are owned by Federal, State or local governments. Of the remaining 58 percent, 10 percent is owned by industry and 48 percent by non-industrial private forest owners. Of this total however, 6 percent or 47 million acres (19.2 million ha) of U.S. forest land, is set aside as reserves and managed for wilderness, parks, or other classifications that exclude commercial timber harvest.

Today's forests are in part the legacy of this continent's European settlement, agriculture, and industry-driven development that began with the arrival of the first settlers. Native American subsistence-driven alteration of these lands, was by European standards, relatively small. By the close of the 19th century however, European population had expanded from 5 to 76 million, significantly changing the land's appearance. Forests were cleared for agriculture and to supply wood and other products (bark for tanning leather, fuel for household and industrial use, etc.) for the young nation's growth. This process significantly reduced most Eastern forest area but established forest-associated communities and economies that survive to the present day.

With the beginning of the 20th century, events combined to alter future forest use patterns. Westward migration placed increasing numbers of new settlements in locations lacking assured year-round supplies of quality water. Watershed protection thus became an important issue. Coincidently, the clearing of Eastern forests prompted a westward move of the nation's timber industry. These developments focused the public's attention on the need for resource conservation. This public awareness significantly altered subsequent forest use patterns by elevating the role of government in the management of the nation's natural resources. The development of a national conservation ethic in turn led to the creation of Federal and State resource conservation laws, reserves, and management agencies.

Today, forests cover more area and are more economically productive than those of one hundred years ago. Overall water quality is better assured because of public ownership in mountain areas. Some plants and animals, once thought to be endangered, have recovered. Science, laws, and regulations provide better management guidance.

These successes are not complete however. Not all forests are healthy or productive. Many species populations are declining and, while some have not yet been formally listed on the endangered species list, they none-the-less, have become biologically rare or imperiled. Past practices (especially fire exclusion from fire-dependent ecosystems), current economics, introduced exotic plants and animals, elimination of old growth forests and unroaded areas, forest conversion to other uses, and a variety of development pressures, all combine to form stern challenges to private, State and Federal management practices. At the same time, however, the public's interest, appreciation, and involvement in natural resource issues has never been greater nor more effective in the shaping of both local and national natural resource management decisions.



The vegetative cover of the U.S. varies greatly and is directly related to annual precipitation levels and available moisture. Those areas receiving substantial precipitation are predominantly forested, while semiarid and arid locations support grasses and shrubs and are often associated with irrigated agriculture and/or rangeland.

Forests are widely, though unevenly distributed across the continent. They range from the sparse scrub lands of the arid interior West, to the highly productive forests of the South and Pacific Coast. They include pure hardwood and softwood stands as well as mixtures of both. Distribution varies by state, from North Dakota with less then 1 percent of its area forested, to Maine with 89 percent of its area in forests.

To better differentiate the character and status of forests, the following definitions have been used throughout this report: Reserves is a formal designation of forest lands which are set aside for purposes other than the production of lumber and/or a particular dedicated use, e.g. watershed, habitat, and other values. Timberlands have been defined as forests capable of producing at least 20 cubic feet per acre of industrial wood annually. Woodlands are defined as forests that are incapable of this level of productivity.

Roughly 212.6 million hectares (525 million acres), or two thirds of the nation's forests are classified as timberlands, and the remaining 85.8 million hectares (212 million acres) are classified as woodlands. Almost 19 million of these 298.4 million hectares of forests have been set aside to be managed for primary purposes other than timber production. In total, today's forests have recovered to an area equal to 70 percent of that thought to be originally forested in 1630, or approximately one third of the nation forested at present. This level has remained essentially stable with variations of less the 0.1 percent recorded over the last 30 years.

For the most part, forest growth nationally has exceeded harvest since the 1940's, with overall volume per acre growth figures increasing by one third since the early 1950's. Regional variations continue with both minor increases and declines driven by local as well as national influences.

More than 80 percent of the nation's current domestic timber harvest comes from private lands, including about 30 percent from industrial ownerships and 50 percent from nonindustrial ownerships. While recent declines in harvest levels from public lands, especially federally owned, may be compensated for through increased imports, harvest levels from private ownerships may be called upon to make up any long term deficits. Total harvest levels continue at historically high levels, in excess of 16 billion board feet, with averages increasing regularly since the 1950's.


Forest Cover Types

The forest land of the United States spans a wide range of latitudes, elevations, precipitation levels and soil types. As a consequence, the species composition of these forests varies significantly across the continent. However, relevant geographic classifications have been developed.

The six sub-regions of Eastern forest land include 151.4 million hectares (374 million acres) of unreserved forest, in both conifers and hardwoods (Table 1-1). In the Lake States, 20.6 million hectares are forest; the Central States have 10.1 million; New England has 13 million; the Mid-Atlantic States have 24.7 million; the Atlantic States have 35.6 million; and the Gulf States have 54 million hectares.

The five sub-regions of Western forest include 127.5 million hectares of the unreserved forest, mostly in conifers (Table 1-2). In the Great Plains States, 1.7 million hectares are in forest land; in the Intermountain States, 55.1 million; Alaska has 52.2 million; the Pacific Northwest has 19.4 million; and the Pacific Southwest has 15.8 million ha).

All of the nation's forests provide some range of the multiple uses for which they are actively managed. While most of the nation's highest wood producing forests exist in the Pacific Northwest and the South Central softwood forests, other forested areas are highly productive in terms of water, habitat, recreation, or non-wood forest products such as foliage of fungi. Over the years, this array of goods and services has helped focus a history of policies designed to deal with the management of both public and privately owned lands. Several management themes are addressed in these policies:

Fire suppression, prevention and public education to protect the forest;

Establishing and expanding forests for sustained multiple use; and

Improving understanding of the science of forest culture and management by research at federal and state experiment stations and universities;

Improving the efficiency with which wood products are designed, manufactured, marketed, employed and recycled;

Disclosure to the public of proposed activities and probable related environmental impacts, and public participation in decision making processes;

Strong cooperation among agencies, associations, individuals, and other organizations to facilitate the management of the nation's natural resource base.

Establishment of tree nurseries to improve the productivity of commercial forests on both public and private lands;

Establishing and enhancing the profession of forestry and other natural resource disciplines by the establishment of accredited natural resource schools, professional societies, and the like;

In summary, the dynamics of this nation's relationship with its natural resources has generated a plateau in area and growing stock that appears to be both stable and maintainable in the face of growing demand for diversity of goods and services. Today's overall recovery of many forested ecosystems of the United States are the result of a resilience and responsiveness to management. Policies and science appear to facilitate this dynamic.





Criterion 1: Conservation of biological diversity

Ecosystem Diversity

1.Extent of area by forest type relative to total forest area.

2.Extent of area by forest type and by age class or successional stage.

3.Extent of area by forest type in protected area categories as defined by IUCN or other classification systems.

4.Extent of areas by forest type in protected areas defined by age class or successional stage.

5.Fragmentation of forest types.


Species Diversity

6. The number of forest dependent species.

7. The status (rare, threatened, endangered, or extinct) of forest dependent species at risk of not maintaining viable breeding populations, as determined by legislation or scientific assessment.


Genetic Diversity

8.Number of forest dependent species that occupy a small portion of their former range.

9.Population levels of representative species from diverse habitats monitored across their range.


Criterion 2: Maintenance of productive capacity of forest ecosystems.

10. Area of forest land and net area of forest land available for timber production.

11. Total growing stock of both merchantable and nonmerchantable tree species on forest land available for timber production.

12. The area and growing stock of plantations of native and exotic species.

13. Annual removal of wood products compared to the volume determined to be sustainable.

14. Annual removal of non-timber forest products (e.g. fur bearers, berries, mushrooms, game), compared to the level determined to be sustainable.


Criterion 3: maintenance of forest ecosystem health and vitality

15. Area and percent of forest affected by processes or agents beyond the range of historic variation, e.g. by insects, disease, competition from exotic species, fire, storm, land clearance, permanent flooding, salinization, and domestic animals.

16. Area and percent of forest land subjected to levels of specific air pollutants (e.g. sulfates, nitrate,

ozone) or ultra violet B that may cause negative impacts on the forest ecosystem.

17. Area and percent of forest land with diminished biological components indicative of changes in fundamental ecological processes (e.g. soil, nutrient cycling, seed dispersion, pollination) and/or ecological continuity.


Criterion 4: Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources

18. Area and percent of forest land with significant soil erosion.

19. Area and percent of forest land managed primarily for protective functions. e.g. watersheds, flood protection, avalanche protection, riparian zones.

20. Percent of stream kilometers in forested catchments in which stream flow and timing has significantly deviated from the historic range of variation.

21. Area and percent of forest land with significantly diminished soil organic matter and/or changes in other soil chemical properties.

22. Area and percent of forest land with significant compaction or change in soil physical properties resulting from human activities.

23. Percent of water bodies in forest areas (e.g. stream kilometers, lake hectares) with significant variance of biological diversity from the historic range of variability.

24. Percent of water bodies in forest areas (e.g. stream kilometers, lake hectares) with significant variation from the historic range of variability in pH, dissolved oxygen, levels of chemicals (electrical conductivity), sedimentation or temperature change.

25. Area and percent of forest land experiencing an accumulation of persistent toxic substances.


Criterion 5: Maintenance of forest contribution to global carbon cycles

26. Total forest ecosystem biomass and carbon pool, and if appropriate, by forest type, age class, and successional stages.

27. Contribution of forest ecosystems to the total global carbon budget, including absorption and release of carbon.

28. Contribution of forest products to the global carbon budget.


Criterion 6: Maintenance and enhancement of long-term multiple socio-economic benefits to meet the needs of societies

Production and consumption

29. Value and volume of wood and wood products production, including value added through downstream processing.

30.Value and quantities of production of non-wood forest products.

31.Supply and consumption of wood and wood  products, including consumption per capita.

32. Value of wood and non-wood products production as percentage of GDP.

33. Degree of recycling of forest products.

34. Supply and consumption/use of non-wood products.


Recreation and Tourism

35. Area and percent of forest land managed for general recreation and tourism, in relation to the total area of forest land.

36. Number and type of facilities available for general recreation and tourism, in relation to population

and forest area.

37. Number of visitor days attributed to recreation and tourism, in relation to population and forest area.


Investment in the forest sector

38. Value of investment, including investment in forest growing, forest health and management, planted forests, wood processing, recreation and tourism.

39. Level of expenditure on research and development, and education.

40. Extension and use of new and improved technology.

41. Rates of return on investment.


Cultural, social and spiritual needs and values

42. Area and percent of forest land managed in relation to the total area of forest land to protect the range of cultural, social and spiritual needs and values.

43.Non-consumptive-use forest values.


Employment and community needs

44. Direct and indirect employment in the forest sector and the forest sector employment as a proportion of total employment.

45.Average wage rates and injury rates in major employment categories within the forest sector.

46.Viability and adaptability to changing economic conditions, of forest dependent communities, including indigenous communities.

47.Area and percent of forest land used for subsistence purposes.


Criterion 7: Legal, institutional and economic framework for forest conservation and sustainable management

Extent to which the legal framework (laws, regulations, guidelines) supports the conservation and sustainable management of forests, including the extent to which it:

48. Clarifies property rights, provides for appropriate land tenure arrangements, recognizes customary and traditional rights of indigenous people, and provides means of resolving property disputes by due process.

49. Provides for periodic forest-related planning, assessment, and policy review that recognizes the range of forest values, including coordination with relevant sectors.

50.Provides opportunities for public participation in public policy and decision making related to forests and public access to information.

51. Encourages best practice codes for forest management.

52. Provides for the management of forests to conserve special environmental, cultural, social and/or scientific values.


Extent to which the institutional framework supports the conservation and sustainable management of forests, including the capacity to:

53. Provide for public involvement activities and public education, awareness and extension programs, and make available forest related information.

54. Undertake and implement periodic forest-related planning, assessment, and policy review including cross-sectoral planning and coordination.

55.Develop and maintain human resource skills across relevant disciplines.

56. Develop and maintain efficient physical infrastructure to facilitate the supply of forest products and services and support forest management.

57. Enforce laws, regulations and guidelines.


Extent to which the economic framework (economic policies and measures) supports the conservation and sustainable management of forests through:

58. Investment and taxation policies and a regulatory environment which recognize the long-term nature of investments and permit the flow of capital in and out of the forest sector in response to market signals, non-market economic valuations, and public policy decisions in order to meet long-term demands for forest products and services.

59.Non-discriminatory trade policies for forest products.

Capacity to measure and monitor changes in the conservation and sustainable management of forests, including:

60. Availability and extent of up-to-date data, statistics and other information important to measuring or describing indicators associated with criteria 1-7.

61. Scope, frequency and statistical reliability of forest inventories, assessments, monitoring and other relevant information.

62. Compatibility with other countries in measuring, monitoring and reporting on indicators.


Capacity to conduct and apply research and development aimed at improving forest management and delivery of forest goods and services, including:

63. Development of scientific understanding of forest ecosystem characteristics and functions.

64. Development of methodologies to measure and integrate environmental and social costs and benefits into markets and public policies, and to reflect forest related resource depletion or replenishment in national accounting systems.

65. New technologies and the capacity to assess the socioeconomic consequences associated with the introduction of new technologies.

66. Enhancement of ability to predict impacts of human intervention on forests.

67. Ability to predict impacts on forests of possible climate change.



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