Canada and the International Model Forest Network
The International Model Forest Network (IMFN) is a voluntary global community of practice whose members and supporters work toward the sustainable management of forest‐based landscapes and natural resources through the Model Forest approach.
The Model Forest approach was first developed and implemented by the Government of Canada in the early 1990s in 10 sites across the country. It was a response to a period of intense conflict in Canada’s forest sector at a time when environmentalists, governments, Indigenous peoples, communities and forest workers were struggling over forest resources and how to manage them sustainably. The idea behind the Model Forest concept was to move from valuing forests for timber alone towards a vision where social, environmental, economic and cultural benefits and trade-offs are considered equally.
A Model Forest is best described as:
- a large-scale landscape encompassing many different land uses;
- a partnership-based approach to sustainable forest management; and
- a long-term process that adheres to a broad set of principles to promote sustainability.
Model Forests in Canada have partnered with federal and provincial forest agencies to advance forest research, planning, and protection. For example, Model Forests acted as pilot sites for Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)-Canadian Forest Service (CFS) work in developing local level criteria and indicators (C&I) for sustainable forest management. This expertise has since been shared with other countries, who in turn used their Model Forests as testing grounds to develop their own C&I processes.
What started as 10 initiatives across the country has now grown into a global network of more than 60 Model Forests in 37 countries on five continents, encompassing over 65 million hectares of diverse forest ecosystems and landscapes.
With its network structure, along with a commitment to knowledge exchange and capacity building, the best practices and lessons learned in one Model Forest can be shared to accelerate forest education. The IMFN collaborates to ensure lasting progress that promotes sustainable development, both locally and globally. For example, NRCan-CFS expertise in wildland fire and carbon budget modelling has been shared with other countries through Model Forests in Costa Rica, China, and elsewhere. This international forest cooperation furthers Canada’s expertise and environmental reputation while also bringing improvements to our own tools and understanding of forest dynamics.
NRCan-CFS hosts the IMFN Secretariat in Ottawa. Since 1995, the Secretariat has been providing the central day-to-day coordination of support and development services to the network.
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