Sierra Club Conservation Policies
Global Guidelines for the Protection of Forests
All the world's forests and forest species
have significant intrinsic value for the present and all future generations. Though these
basic values are universal, ecological attributes and factors vary significantly from
forest to forest, and political, cultural and socio-economic factors vary just as widely.
In this context, the following set of interrelated policies should be applied worldwide.
They represent the bottom line for all the world's
l. Forest Loss and Degradation
a. The land area covered by the world's
forests should expand and not decrease.
b. Mass conversion of forests to other purposes (deforestation) must end.
c. Further degradation of forest quality and ecological integrity must end
d. Extinction of species, ecosystems and forest types through forest loss and
degradation must stop.
e. Natural forest structures and ecological assemblages should not be converted
(i.e., significantly modified):
- from multi-species, multi-aged stands to even-aged stands or
- through introduction of non-native or genetically modified species.
- or through progressive ecological simplification.
f. Plantations should be located on land already converted or degraded and
should not replace natural forests or other ecosystems with significant conservation
value. Nor should they be located where they would prevent the continuation of local
subsistence activities, such as the gathering of foods, herbs, medicinal plants and
g. Forests must be protected against harmful external influences (e.g.,
pollution, incursions, exotic pests, etc.), and those influences should be eliminated.
2. Forest Quality
a. Forest quality should be optimized so as to maintain:
(l) natural forest structures,
(2) biological diversity (i.e., genes, species and ecosystems,
including native species important to indigenous peoples),
(3) ecological functions and services,
(4) ecological processes (e.g., maturation, nutrient flows, etc.),
(5) soil and water quality, water levels and flows, and
(6) carbon in storage over long periods.
b. In accordance with the "Precautionary Principle," these qualities
should be sustained through means that minimize risk of failure. Particularly in the
absence of adequate knowledge, monitoring, regulation and enforcement, risks should be
c. In regions and areas where forest biological diversity and other conservation
values have been heavily depleted, restoring native forests and re-introducing key species
of native forest flora and fauna should have high priority. Restoration of fragmented
forests and habitat should include connecting corridors to permit species migration
d. Supplies of wood and fiber should be derived from areas with low conservation
3. Forest Protection
a. Forest areas and landscapes with unique and/or significant conservation
values (e.g., high biodiversity, endemism, refugia, rare and endangered species or
ecosystems, etc.) should be accorded the strictest protected-area designations, such as
those described under International Union for the Conservation of Nature - World
Conservation Union (IUCN) categories I-III (i.e., nature reserves, parks and
monuments managed mainly for biological diversity, science, wilderness, ecosystem and
habitat protection, conservation of specific natural features, and recreation).
b. Ecologically viable, representative examples of all forest ecosystems and
forest types should also be accorded such designations (i.e., protected in line with IUCN
c. Forest areas with important conservation values that cannot be included in
such protected areas should be accorded effective protection through other means and
d. Forest areas of special global ecological significance should receive
international recognition, such as World Heritage designation.
e. Protected areas should be of sufficient size to remain ecologically viable,
should encompass entire ecosystems and watersheds, and should be appropriately located to
provide ecological connections with other designated conservation areas nearby. Wherever
possible, areas adjacent to minimally sized protected areas should be managed in a way
that could permit their addition to such protected areas in the future.
f. The establishment and management of all protected areas and reserves should
be carried out in close consultation with and in a manner that is respectful of the rights
and knowledge of indigenous peoples in the area, and that enables the appropriate
protection of cultural and spiritual values.
g. Important water supply catchments and cloud forests should be protected as
4. Rights of Indigenous Peoples
a. The rights of indigenous peoples to own and/or manage their traditional
territories should be recognized and respected.
b. The customary and traditional access and use rights of indigenous peoples in
areas of their historic and continuing habitation and use should be legally recognized and
c. The use of land and resources in such areas should be consistent with the
principles described herein. We will work cooperatively with indigenous peoples toward
d. Indigenous peoples should be free to decide their own futures, and their
traditional forest knowledge and their right to decide how it is used should be respected.
5. Legal and Social Institutions
a. Legal and social institutions that promote and implement the principles
described herein - regarding Forest Loss and Degradation, Forest Quality, Forest
Protection, Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Legal and Social Institutions, and Consumption -
must be established and maintained.
b. Laws, regulations, standards, norms and incentives necessary to realize the
principles described herein must be adopted, enforced and/or observed, and promoted.
c. Private operators engaged in forest management activities should be regulated
to the extent necessary to realize the principles described herein and to prevent offsite
d. Trade in endangered forest species and in forest products taken, transported
or exported illegally should be prohibited. Countries are encouraged to adopt and enforce
the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species.
e. Public policy-making, regulation and management of forests must be
transparent; the public must have full access to all relevant information in a timely
manner; and all interested parties must be meaningfully consulted and enabled to
participate in decision-making processes, including, where appropriate, those pertaining
to co-management arrangements.
f. Generally, economic activities in forests should not be subsidized by
governments unless such subsidies promote the principles described herein.
g. Public policies should promote the forms and patterns of land ownership that
will most effectively realize the principles described herein. Such policies should
prevent monopolization of land ownership, promote fair and equitable distribution of
lands, assure environmentally-sensitive public and private land stewardship, and encourage
innovative arrangements where appropriate.
a. The continued growth in demand for wood products, as well as current
consumption levels, should be significantly reduced. To relieve pressure on forests, and
until the forest sources of wood products on the market are sustainably managed and
adequately protected, purchases of wood products should be limited and preference given to
environmentally preferred alternatives.
b. Preference should be given to recycled and post-consumer forest products.
c. Subject to the principles described herein, the harvesting, production and
consumption of forest products should be as efficient as possible and should minimize
d. Sustainable use of non-wood forest products (e.g., foods, medicines, fibers,
resins, etc.) should be encouraged and should occur in a manner that is ecologically and
socially responsible. Legal norms and social institutions needed to assure this should be
established and maintained.
e. Independent, third-party verification (certification) of forest management
performance, and accurate and truthful labeling of forest products can help assure
consumers that forests are managed to certain standards. When wood and other forest
products are acquired, purchasers should ensure that such products are certified by a
credible body as meeting high standards of environmental performance and social
responsibility. Credible certification programs must incorporate such standards and be
transparent, participatory, and independent from parties owning or managing the forests.
Government procurement programs should also rely on credibly certified sources of supply.
f. Additional product information that could assist consumers in making wise
purchasing decisions (e.g., labels identifying species, area-of-origin, etc.) should also
g. Wood and other forest products from endangered forest ecosystems or species
should not be purchased.
Adopted by the Board of Directors, February 17-18, 2001