Canadian Council of Forest Ministers

BACKGROUND – The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers’ Framework of Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management, 2003.

The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers’ (CCFM) Criteria and Indicators (C&I) framework is composed of criteria that define a set of values Canadians want to enhance and sustain, and indicators that identify scientific factors to assess the state of the forests and measure progress over time. Together, the C&I characterize the essential components of sustainable forest management in Canada.

The criteria encompass six areas of forest sustainability:
1. Biological diversity;
2. Ecosystem condition and productivity;
3. Soil and water;
4. Role in global ecological cycles;
5. Economic and social benefits; and,
6. Society’s responsibility.

Since the CCFM C&I were first published in 1995, the capacity of information systems has increased, approaches to forest inventories have changed, data availability has improved and advances in science have improved our understanding of forest ecosystems. Recognizing that sustainable forest management is an adaptive process and that the development of criteria and indicators is a continuous process based on accumulated knowledge and experience, the CCFM initiated a review of the indicators in the framework in September 2001.

The review was a three-step process involving participants from the Aboriginal community, academia, industry, environmental, and other special interest groups. First, focus groups were convened across Canada to identify Canadians’ values with respect to sustainable use of the forest. Second, six technical working groups were established, composed of technical experts drawn from various organizations, to review the framework and recommend a revised suite of indicators. Third, various government and non-government organizations that use the C&I framework were invited to provide feedback on the revised indicators. This three-step process provided a broad exchange of views that ensured the revised indicators are based on the best available knowledge.

To facilitate this review and assist in identifying the best possible indicators, the CCFM developed a list of five attributes that each revised indicator should possess, namely:

  1. Relevant – each indicator must relate clearly to a particular criterion, and should represent significant information about the values embodied by the criterion. An indicator must be sensitive and responsive to change in the sense that management actions and other forces can readily influence its behaviour
  3. Measurable - an indicator should be based on available or easily obtainable, scientifically valid, empirical measurements that can be consistently repeated over time to observe trends. Obtaining indicator data must be practical and fiscally feasible. The data may be already collected for other purposes, or may need to be collected specifically for the purposes of gauging progress towards sustainable forest management.
  5. Understandable - indicators must be understandable, not only to forest managers but also to the informed public, especially if public interests are to be incorporated into forest planning exercises. Simplicity and clarity are important.
  7. Can be Forecast - Future indicator behaviour should also be predictable with reasonable accuracy if the indicator is to guide management or policy decisions. It must be possible to make an assessment of future indicator behaviour, given certain management actions, policies or other factors.
  9. Have Reference Values - indicators often have their strongest meaning when forest managers or policy makers are able to compare indicator performance against reference values, and subsequently to design actions to induce indicator performance in some desired future direction. Where feasible, indicators should include reference values/conditions.

The number of indicators in the revised framework has been reduced, compared to the 1995 framework, by focusing on indicators that have the above attributes. Links between the criteria are also better described and repetitive indicators have been combined. In some cases, a single revised indicator may address several values under different criteria.

In addition, to make the framework more understandable to non-technical audiences, 36 indicators in the revised framework that relate to values, issues or concerns that are of great interest to Canadians have been identified as Core indicators. These indicators raise public awareness and focus public attention on what sustainable forest management means. Ten Supporting indicators complement the Core indicators by providing more detailed information.

The revised indicators are designed for reporting at the national level. While some indicators lend themselves to reporting at the provincial/territorial level, the indicators in the CCFM framework are not intended to assess sustainability directly at a local or forest management unit level. Still, in the past, the CCFM C&I framework has provided a starting point for developing sub-national C&I frameworks, and the revised framework should continue to do the same.

The CCFM C&I are also used for reporting to the international community on sustainable forest management in Canada. The framework is compatible with the Montréal Process C&I, a framework used by Canada and 11 other boreal and temperate countries to report collectively on the status of their forests. Information from the revised CCFM C&I will provide the basis for Canada’s contribution to future Montreal Process C&I reports, while still providing more detailed information on issues of particular interest to Canada.