The concept of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) is not new, but has become popular in recent years. SFM encompasses environmental dimension relating to maintenance of the natural resources in perpetuity, economic dimensions for production of goods and services and social dimensions describing involvement of people in decision-making process and equitable benefit sharing. For operationalising SFM it is imperative to have assessment system such that deviations towards or away from sustainability can be ascertained and corrective actions can be taken. The system should evaluate the two main conditions i.e., maintenance of ecosystem integrity and maintenance and enhancement of well being of people.
Criteria and indicators (C & I) are the tools for assessing the magnitude and the direction of change in a given forestry situations and provide a forest management information system, which is important for forest managers and other actors for forestry related decision making. C & I can be used to encourage more holistic thinking when planning forest management activities, and to bring about greater vigor, openness, transparency and accountability in forest management planning, monitoring and reporting. The important eight criteria adopted in some forest divisions of India includes increase in the extent of forest and tree cover, maintenance, conservation and enhancement of biodiversity, maintenance and enhancement of ecosystem function and vitality, conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources, maintenance and enhancement of forest resource productivity, optimization of forest resource utilization, maintenance and enhancement of social, cultural and spiritual benefits and adequacy of policy, legal and institutional framework. Under each of these criteria such as for example under ecosystem function and vitality, the status of natural regeneration is used as an indicator.
Mishra et al. (2004) observed that the people are mostly dependent on trees outside forest, hence reducing the pressure on the natural forest. The sustainability index shows comprehensive impact of various indicators on overall sustainability of the forest in the forest management unit (Anon. 2005 and 2006). Village communities in Kodagu have sustained the survival value of the Devarakadu institution by contributing towards their use and existence values, and also by offering social fencing (Accava et al., 2007).
Regular monitoring and assessment through C & I helps to identify areas of concern and apply timely measures to ensure continuous availability of forest goods and services. The ultimate aim is to promote improved forest management practices overtime and to further the development of healthier and more productive forests, taking into consideration the social, economic, environmental, cultural and spiritual needs of the society.
G M Devagiri, T Nethravathi, Sathish and H S Vasudev
University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India
College of Forestry, Ponnampet, Kodagu, Karnataka, India