Global Forest Initiative

Primary forest, Lamington National Park, Australia - SCB members published a ground-breaking article in Conservation Letters on the importance and fate of the world's dwindling primary forests and called for stepped up international actions to preclude industrial-scale development and road building within them (photo: D. DellaSala)
The following was prepared by Dominick DellaSala, Ph.D., Chair, SCB Trans-sectional Policy Subcommittee

SCB’s global mission to advance the science and practice of conserving the Earth’s biological diversity has never been more urgent given runaway natural resource consumption and climate change now poised to trigger the Earth’s sixth great extinction. The global policy committee together with SCB’s regions (coordinating on what we call “trans-sectional” projects) have been using the latest science, much of it published by our members, to issue joint policy recommendations and statements of regional and global significance on the biodiversity and climate change, particularly regarding the fate of the world’s primary forests. 
“Primary” (unlogged) forests are of special interest to SCB members, conservation groups, and Indigenous People as they are well-springs of biodiversity, provide irreplaceable natural life-support systems, sustain forest dependent communities and their way of life, help stabilize climate and purify drinking water, and support plant pollinators important in myriad forest uses.
Primary forests have become exceedingly rare in some parts of the planet, such as in Europe and North America, where impacts by human land-use have been pervasive in space and time. Under such circumstances, pragmatic conservation approaches also include “old-growth forests.” Old-growth forests have been managed by people so long ago or only to an intensity so low that they have retained – and regained – most characteristics of a primary forest, as well as their services to humanity.
SCB Europe Region Policy Committee members in Bialowieza Forest near the Poland / Belarus border. Left to right Adam, Nuria Selva, Stefan Kreft, Anna, Francisco Moreira, and Willem Laermans. Photo: Guy Pe'er

In all our policy work, we develop, synthesize, and translate the best science on forest conservation to decision makers, land managers, and others with the intent of involving our members in science to policy outcomes. Our priorities are determined first by bottom-up planning at the region level and then global coordination via the trans-sectional subcommittee of SCB’s global policy committee. Our interest in primary forests conservation and sustainability spans all forested continents that exemplify SCB’s unique global reach and regional coordination.
Following are examples of SCB global and regional policy efforts focused on conservation of the world's primary forests.

SCB Global Statements on Forests

  • SCB Calls on the United Nations to Sustainably Manage and Protect World’s Forests (2011-12)
    All seven SCB regional sections issued a joint statement on priority actions for sustainable forest management during the United Nation’s International Year of Forests 2011. The statement was initially announced at a press conference held after the global forest symposium at the International Congress on Conservation Biology (ICCB) in New Zealand, was published in the journal Conservation Biology in 2012 (link), and sent to UN delegates attending the climate summit in Durban, South Africa. The policy statement continues to aid SCB sections in developing comparable regional forest sustainability principles, including, most recently, the Africa Section’s statement on protecting rainforest biodiversity from industrial oil palm expansion, and a general policy statement on protecting forests from introduced pests and plant pathogens.
  • SCB’s Global Effort on Mapping Roadless and Low Travel Corridors (2013)
    Each of the SCB Sections along with a European Member of Parliament and Google Earth presented at the SCB global roadless area symposium during the ICCB in Baltimore. The symposium jointly made the case for protecting the world’s roadless landscapes in conservation reserve design. Efforts are underway to submit a manuscript on the first global inventory of roadless landscapes, which will be presented at ICCB 2015 by section representatives, and the sections will be crafting a joint policy statement in 2015 on roadless area importance following the lead of SCB Europe Section’s work on this issue. 
  • SCB Endorses Protection of World’s Primary Forests (2014)
    SCB members published a groundbreaking article in the journal Conservation Letters (link) on policy priorities for the worlds’ dwindling primary forests. The article provided the necessary scientific foundation for development of a new coalition of conservation groups, Indigenous Peoples, and scientists called INTACT (International Action for Primary Forests) that is now spotlighting international efforts to protect primary forests as part of global biodiversity and climate change accords. An SCB statement endorsing INTACTs statement of principles was approved by most of the sections (with the exception of the Latin America and Caribbean section) and is helping to guide forest policy statements of the society (here).
Logging roads like these outside Borneo's Danum Valley are fragmenting forests and disrupting wildlife movements. SCB's regional sections are involved in the first global assessment of roadless areas as fundamental to conservation planning during this time of unprecedented land-use and climate change impacts. (photo: D. DellaSala)

SCB Regional Statements on Forests

  • SCB Europe Supports Efforts to Protect the Bialowieza Forest (2003-2010)
    Bialowieza Forest is the last lowland primeval forest in temperate Europe. It is a unique biodiversity hotspot and a fascinating source of scientific knowledge. It represents a much-needed ecological blueprint for the restoration of forests throughout Europe. In 2003, SCB’s European Section delivered a resolution concerning the preservation of the Bialowieza Forest to the Polish Minister of the Environment. The Resolution was resubmitted in 2008 to the Polish Ministry of Environment.  In 2010, the Polish Minister of the Environment imposed a restriction on logging in Bialowieza Forest that limited timber extraction to an amount sufficient to support local needs as well as sustainable in safeguarding both the ecological and cultural uniqueness of this European and World Heritage Site. SCB-Europe also sent a letter to the Minister of the Environment encouraging the government to retain this limit and to avoid logging of the remaining old growth.  The minister finally approved the new forest management plan that secures low levels of timber extraction and protects remaining old-growth forests from logging. Read the letter to the Minister of the Environment here. Read SCB's 2003 resolution concerning the preservation of the Bialowieza Forest here
  • SCB Europe Expresses Concern about the Poor Conservation Status of the Forest in Šumava National Park (NP)
    Šumava National Park is one of the most important sites of natural and old-growth forests still remaining in Central Europe. The Šumava forest forms the largest non-intervention area in the Central-European cultural landscape. SCB Europe has addressed its importance and imminent threats to its conservation in official statements on several occasions: 1) in a letter sent to the Czech Prime Minister on 5 September, 2009, 2) in a resolution concerning the preservation of the Šumava National Park in 2012, 3) in a letter sent to Czech Prime Minister on 27 March 2012, 4) in a letter sent to the Czech President of the Chamber of Deputies on 18 September 2014. Following a visit of the Policy Committee of SCB Europe in 2013, in the letter sent to Czech Prime Minister on 27 March 2012, SCB Europe warned that the measures taken for bark-beetle control are not only intensive, but likely also ineffective, while damaging the forest ecosystem and the protected species within it. In its efforts directed at the Czech Chamber of Deputies, the Section strongly contributed to the rejection of a bill likely to enable activities of great potential to cause serious damage to the nature of Šumava National Park. 
  • SCB Latin America and Caribbean Section (LACA) in 2012 asks the President of Brazil to Veto Forest Code Amendments
    The Presidents of the Society for Conservation Biology and its Latin America and the Caribbean Section delivered a letter and a formal resolution to Brazil President Dilma Rousseff asking her to veto amendments to the Brazilian Forest Code that would weaken measures in place since 1965 that protect against deforestation in the Amazon. On May 25, 2012, President Rousseff used her line-item veto on strike down 12 amendments to the Brazilian Forest Code, and modified 32 other sections of the legislation that would alter the Forest Code, which the government stated would prevent increased deforestation.  While the vetoes struck down those sections that would have exacerbated the worst forest clearing practices, President Rouseff permitted alterations to the Forest Code that will require less reforestation efforts from smaller farm operations than under the existing code. Until recent years the Forest Code was not well enforced. However, when enforcement of the Forest Code increased under former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, powerful agricultural interests in Brazil began work to loosen restrictions in the code. 
Supporters of the bill, overwhelmingly from the small but powerful agricultural sector, say it reduces regulatory burdens on small farmers, simplifies an overly complicated and confusing forest code that has been amended numerous times since 1965, and will ultimately lead to less deforestation by legalizing properties lacking land titles, thus making it easier to track illegal clearing.  The legislation approved by Brazil's legislature would have changed restrictions on clearing trees from riverbanks and hillsides as buffer zones, which would be calculated according to dry-season river flows, dramatically reducing the size of the buffer zones in many cases. Loopholes in the bill could also allow landholders in some states to reduce in other ways the amount of forest cover required by current law. 
  • SCB North America Calls for Stricter Protections of USA Roadless Areas and Intact Forests
    The North America Section has a long history of weighing in on forest management and policy decisions mostly within the USA. Over the years, we (1) issued a policy position paper on behalf of the unique biodiversity found in fire-adapted forests of the Western United States; (2) communicated policy suggestions to the newly minted Obama Administration in 2008 concerning the need to restore scientific integrity in decisions affecting the nation’s endangered species that led to policy reforms; (3) called on the Obama Administration to enact stricture rules to conserve forest ecosystems on the 155 National Forests and 20 Grasslands managed by the U.S. Forest Service; (4) conducted a policy briefing on forest carbon management attended by decision makers and federal agencies that include a presentation in the U.S. Senate and a press statement calling on President Obama to protect public forests as part of climate mitigation efforts; and (5) peer-reviewed what was deemed a scientifically flawed spotted owl critical habitat determination that eventually lead to policy reforms protecting millions of hectares of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. 
Peer-review of the northern spotted owl recovery plan and critical habitat determination by SCB, the American Ornithologists' Union, The Wildlife Society, and spotted owl scientists played a key science role in making improvements to owl recovery efforts in the Pacific Northwest. (photo credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service)