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Oregon's Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management - tools for evaluating Oregon's forests
Forest sustainability – a worldwide, unifying concept in forest management that resonates with the public - is an idea that the Oregon Board of Forestry and the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) have embraced for many years.
 
ODF’s earliest laws and policies sought to create sustainability, initially in protecting Oregon’s forests from the devastating effects of wildfire, and later, by acquiring cut- and burned-over forestlands that are today’s sustainably managed state forests. Oregon’s original Forest Practices Act of 1971 was the first state law in the nation to mandate sustainable forest management principles. Through the years, sustainability notions and principles have evolved and matured, as has the work of the Department and the Board, and our vision for Oregon’s forestlands.
 
Reflecting this evolution, the seven strategies of the Oregon Board of Forestry’s 2003 strategic plan - the Forestry Program for Oregon - form a framework around which forest sustainability issues can be organized and discussed, and also identify statewide outcomes the Board wishes to achieve. The Forestry Program for Oregon recommended that Oregonians achieve consensus on a set of “indicators” as useful tools to measure progress towards the goal of sustainably managed forest resources. Indicators can inform the Board, other policy-makers, and the public about the environmental, economic, and social conditions of Oregon’s public and private forests, and are a cost-effective way to consistently collect important data needed to monitor changes in these conditions over time.
 
What are indicators, and how can they help us talk about sustainability?
Indicators can be viewed as measuring sticks. They are a way to make Oregon’s forest conditions and trends measurable and understandable. They can tell us what the current conditions are, and track how those conditions change over time.
 
Oregon’s Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management are intended to address all of the state’s public and private forestlands. They also provide valuable linkages to other sustainability conversations and forest resource assessments at community, regional, national, and international scales.
 
The department’s 2007-2009 Oregon Forests Report introduces the 19 indicators of sustainable forest management that the Board endorsed in January 2007. State, federal, tribal, and local governments, and private partners in Oregon can use these indicators in ongoing monitoring, policy development, and communications efforts.
 
Also included in the report are the desired trends for each indicator, questions the data will be designed to answer, and statements by the Oregon Board of Forestry that further describe their vision.
 
Are Oregon’s 28 million acres of forests being sustainably managed? And how will we know?
Many of these indicators address questions Oregonians have been asking for many years. Work to collect the data needed to answer the questions raised by these indicators will be ongoing over the next several years. Much of this work can only be done by collaborating with partners - other natural resource agencies, and national, state, and local organizations.
 
Ultimately, these indicators will feed into the information being collected for a comprehensive assessment of Oregon’s forests. In 2010, this assessment will be used during an Oregon Board of Forestry symposium on the state of Oregon’s forestlands that will be held to kick off the next strategic planning process for the future of Oregon’s forests.
 
It has been said that sustainability is a journey, not a destination. With these indicators in place, we will be able to see where we have been and begin to foresee where we are going. We will know what our successes have been and where we need to focus our efforts. We can lead and plan for the future of Oregon’s forests -achieving the Board’s vision to provide a sustainable flow of environmental, economic, and social benefits from Oregon’s forests for all Oregonians.