An indicator for Criterion 7: Legal, Institutional, and Economic Framework for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Management
What is the indicator and why is it important?
Market processes allocate many forest resources. Laws, rules, and regulations are needed, however, to provide the framework necessary to maintain competitive markets even for private forests, and more than one-third of U.S. forests are publicly owned. Effective laws, regulations, and guidelines should promote tenure rights, sustainable forest management, environmental protection, and a competitive market environment.
What does the indicator show?
Laws, regulations, and guidelines for sustainable forest management in the United States are enforced adequately. U.S. laws differ widely among regions and landowner types, ranging from detailed laws and regulations for national forests and for all lands governed by the State forest practice acts in the West Coast to voluntary Best Management Practices in the Southern and Midwestern States.
Federal Government forest lands have complex laws and policies governing forest management, biodiversity, public input, and workforce diversity. Private landowners must comply with the relevant mandatory and voluntary standards. State forestry agencies monitor compliance with forest practice acts, BMP use, and water quality laws. These regulations directly affect private and public lands, and may involve up to several thousand inspections of forest operations each year in many States.
Education, technical assistance, and research are used to help in the training of forestry professionals, monitoring of laws and regulations, and continuous improvement of the mandatory and voluntary practices. These policy mechanisms are used both for the public and private forest land managers who implement the laws, and for the professionals who monitor, inspect, and enforce the rules and regulations.
Private sector firms comply with mandatory laws and with voluntary guidelines. Frequent surveys have found that BMP compliance rates are very high in all States, as is compliance with laws and regulations. Similarly, forest certification provides a clear means to demonstrate that private and public forestry organizations conform to the standards and guidelines for sustainable forest management.
What has changed since 2003?
No major Federal or outstanding laws have been enacted that affect forest law enforcement and governance. Continued pressure on Federal budgets, as noted regarding the fire budgets, may have reduced U.S. forest law enforcement capacity, but no empirical studies are available. Compliance with Federal, State, and local laws is a required indicator in all of the U.S. forest certification systems.