Sustainable forest management is a major issue for countries around the world. This reflects the importance role of forests in future environmental and economic development.
The concept of sustainable management was defined in the 1987 Brundtland Report "World Commission on Development’s" as "the ability of humanity to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
In the early nineties, 29 European countries met, developed and implemented the Helsinki Process. Its important outcomes were summarised in two documents:
- Helsinki Process Part (1) - General guidelines for the Sustainable Management of Forests in Europe and;
- Helsinki Process Part (2) - General Guidelines for the Conservation of the Biodiversity of European Forests.
While this European initiative was under way, a more geographically dispersed group of 12 countries including Australia met, developed and endorsed a similar framework for forests internationally in what became known as the Montreal Process.
Both the Helsinki and the Montreal Processes define a process that enables participating countries to implement and monitor sustainable forest management and maintenance of biodiversity. These processes form the underlying rationale for international forest certification schemes
In Australia, ecologically sustainable forest management is defined as:
"integrating commercial and non-commercial values of forests so that the welfare of society (both material and non-material) is improved, whilst ensuring that the values of forests, both as a resource for commercial use and for conservation are not lost or degraded for current and future generations".
Many international forest experts consider Australia a leader in sustainable forest management practices and the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is closely involved in international efforts to ensure the world’s forests are managed sustainably.