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Rotorua Hosts International Forestry Experts

Rotorua-based Forest Research is presently hosting 15 international experts from 12 countries for the 5th Montreal Process Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting.

“This is quite a coup for Forest Research, and indeed for New Zealand,” said Sustainability and Risk Manager Paul McFarlane.

“Between them the countries involved in the discussions manage 60% of the world’s forests, and 45% of its trade in wood and wood products. The decisions they make are going to have major implications for the future of forestry world-wide, and indeed for the planet as a whole.”

The Montreal Process grew out of the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, which drew attention to the urgent need to manage the world’s resources in a sustainable way. A seminar at Montreal the following year focussed specifically on boreal and temperate forests, and the need to develop indicators to help monitor their condition and management systems.

“Sustainability is all about meeting the needs of today without hurting the ability of future generations to meet their needs,” says Paul McFarlane.

“To ensure that we are doing that, we need a system of criteria and indicators that will describe the condition of our forests now, and let us compare that with their condition as time passes. Implementing such a system is the responsibility of the TAC, and this is what they will be doing here.”

The Committee views forests not just as producers of wood, but as vibrant ecosystems that play a vital role in preserving the health of the planet. The Montreal Process has developed a list of seven criteria that must be monitored, including biodiversity, forest health, soil and water conservation, timber production, recreation and cultural values, and the laws and regulations under which forests are managed.

To monitor these criteria, participating countries will be reporting on 67 indicators in their first Montreal Process reports, which will be produced in 2003. Many of these indicators are measurable (for example, area in forest, number of species living in the forest, volume of standing trees), while others relate to activities such as forest planning, public participation, and investment and taxation policies. Taken together, the indicators provide a snapshot of the forest at present, and over time, signal the direction of any change.

“We talk about managing forests sustainably,” says McFarlane, “and consumers are increasingly demanding sustainably-produced products, but until we have an internationally agreed set of measures against which we can judge our practices, we have no way of knowing whether we are going backwards or forwards. It is the job of the Technical Advisory Committee to help countries report on their performance against these measures”.

Following the 3-day meeting, Forest Research are taking the delegates on tour with a 1½-day field trip looking at a number of aspects of New Zealand forestry systems including agroforestry, coastal sand dune rehabilitation, indigenous forestry, sustainable plantation forestry, central processing yards and harvesting sites.

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