Compiling seven years' work completed
by the Sustainable Forest Management Network (SFMN) into a comprehensive
summary may have seemed like a fairly straightforward task when
first proposed in 2001, but no one anticipated that the project
would grow to become a 1,000-page book that required four editors
and 75 researchers to construct.
The project, originally proposed by Dr. Christian Messier to
provide a single source of information on boreal forest management,
culminated with the Network's launch of Towards Sustainable Management
of the Boreal Forest, at the World Forestry Conference in Quebec
City in 2003.
"The publication," recalls former SFMN director Dr. Wiktor
Adamowicz, was to cover four areas: "What we know at this point;
the management practices or policies that we should think about
changing or implementing now; some areas where we still need research
before recommending change; and some longer-term research questions."
Almost everything from A to Z
The state of the art in sustainable management of the
Among themselves, SFMN researchers sometimes joke
that their network runs from A to Z – anthropology
to zoology, that is. Their 1,000-page "summary"
of the state of the art in sustainable forest management
meets that description too.
Organized in five parts and 23 chapters, the book offers
more than a summary of SFMN's work to date: it also
reviews the state of the art around the world.
Part 1 outlines the Goals
of Sustainable Forest Management, starting
with a brief history of its evolution, followed by an
exploration of sustainability within the boreal forest
Part II examines the Social
and Economic Dimensions of Sustainable Forest Management
as the "ultimate drivers" for forestry-related
developments in research, management, and engineering.
Part III, Forest Ecology and
Management, explores the processes and effects
of natural disturbances such as wildfires and insect
outbreaks, comparing their effects on aquatic and terrestrial
ecosystems with the effects of timber harvesting on
the same systems.
Part IV, Minimizing Impacts
of Forest Use and Fibre Processing, focuses
on technical solutions to pollutants generated by the
pulp and paper industries.
The target audience included forest managers; professionals concerned
with forest policy issues; resource managers; private sector companies
working in the forest sector; and Aboriginal communities –
in essence, all of the Network's partners.
"So the target audience," explains Dr. Adamowicz,
“naturally led to a certain group of authors who were comfortable
in writing for that target.” Some of the chapters, he points
out, were jointly authored by SFMN researchers and members of the
Network's partner community.
Dr. Philip J. Burton, at the time a consultant who owned Symbios
Research & Restoration, was contracted to coordinate the book
project and heads its list of editors (Doctors Messier, Daniel W.
Smith and Dr. Adamowicz are the others.)
Dr. Burton, who has since become a manager with Natural Resources
Canada's Canadian Forest Service, points out that the SFMN had several
longer-term goals in mind for the book. One was to establish benchmarks
that could be used to evaluate further advances in forest management
practices. Another was for the book to become a catalyst for accelerating
change in the forest management policies and practices of not only
Canada but also other countries with boreal forests, such as Finland
and Sweden. The book attracted great interest in Russia, for example,
when Dr. Burton reviewed its key messages in his keynote address
at a conference on Boreal Disturbance Dynamics.
While Dr. Burton emphasizes that it's too early to determine
whether the book is meeting these goals, he says the indicators
are promising. "Sales in North America topped 1,400 in the
first year, and in many jurisdictions – such as the United
States and Scandinavia –we're seeing general recognition of
the benefits of solutions that promote environmental conservation
simultaneously with promoting economic efficiencies."
Furthermore, Dr. Burton feels that the book's specifically
Canadian focus contributes to its potential for making a difference
in future management of Canada's boreal forests.
"There are other compendiums," he explains, "but
they are usually published as the proceedings of conferences or
workshops related to specific topics, such as conservation of old-growth
forest or ecosystem management for Pacific Northwest forests. None
have an exclusive Canadian or boreal focus."
In addition, forest managers and other potential users need no
longer search Web sites and publication listings to access SFMN's
seven years of research results specific to Canada's boreal
forests: highlights of the approximately 300 technical publications
produced by the Network to date are all in the book.
Finally, the book can serve as a textbook for educators in the
field. "While we didn't deliberately plan it to become a textbook,
we did have the university audience in mind. I don't know if it
is being used in universities yet, but it is already a required
text for a forestry continuing education program in Alberta,"
says Dr. Burton. He hopes it will be used to support a senior
or "capstone" course in many of the country's forestry
As Dr. Adamowicz commented during the publication's September
25, 2003, launch at the 12th World Forestry Congress in Quebec City,
"This book illustrates in a profound way what the SFM Network
is really all about. The book sheds light on many ecological, social,
and economic issues that we investigated and researched from 1995