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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 forests.

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 worldwide.

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 monocultures,

  • 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 fodder.

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 avoided.

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 pathways.

d. Supplies of wood and fiber should be derived from areas with low conservation values.

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 categories I-III).

c. Forest areas with important conservation values that cannot be included in such protected areas should be accorded effective protection through other means and mechanisms.

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 watershed reserves.

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 protected.

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 this goal.

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 impacts.

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.

6. Consumption

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 waste.

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 be promoted.

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

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