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International Perspective:
Using Criteria and Indicators in Planning and Practice within the United States

by Phil Janik

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This issue of the International Program News focuses on how criteria and indicators of forest sustainability are being used in the United States at national, State, and local scales. Until the early 1990's, there was little agreement worldwide on how to characterize or assess sustainability. Building on the Rio Forest Principles developed at the Earth Summit in 1992, a number of countries began to develop criteria and indicators to facilitate the dialog on forest sustainability.

Common to each of these various efforts are the three fundamental elements of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. As a member of the Montreal Process, the United States has been actively engaged in developing national level criteria and indicators. The Montreal Process began in 1994 in Montreal, Canada, and resulted in the signing of the Santiago Declaration in 1995, which confirmed the commitment of participating countries to use the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators in decisionmaking to assess the sustainability of their nations' forests.

Twelve countries are members of the Montreal Process Working Group: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chili, China, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, the United States, and Uruguay. These 12 countries contain over 90 percent of the world's temperate and boreal forests. In concert with national level work on criteria and indicators, CIFOR began to examine a number of criteria and indicators that could be used at the field management unit level, particularly for tropical forests. The Boise test adapted the CIFOR criteria and indicators for use in temperate and boreal forests. In this newsletter, the LUCID article describes efforts to refine further these field management unit level criteria and indicators and to link them with Montreal Process implementation efforts at the national level.

This issue contains articles describing national and State efforts by the USDA Forest Service and the State of Oregon to implement the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators, as well as the USDA Forest Service's efforts to establish criteria and indicators for sustainable management of rangelands and minerals.

A variety of groups across the United States are interested in our Nation's forests. To reach any kind of basic agreement on how to monitor sustainability across our diverse ownership, as well as geographic and political boundaries, we must have broad representation in the dialog. The Sustainability Roundtable, described in the accompanying article, provides a forum at the national level for interested forest stakeholders, including State foresters, environmental groups, Federal agencies, private forest owners, forest products companies, State and local elected officials, tribal organizations, professional foresters, labor organizations, and academic institutions, to implement the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators.

Despite the divergence of perspectives on many issues, there remains a shared commitment to our Nation's forests and to creating a common framework for planning and decisionmaking. The criteria and indicators provide an opportunity for the forestry community to show leadership in applying this practical tool and to realize the compelling goal of sustainable forest management.

Phil Janik is Chief Operating Officer at the USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC.


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