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  • Dave Iverson

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January 20, 2006


Forest Pundit

I get the sense that some in the Forest Service view EMS as something that will revolutionize the forest policy planning of the agency. The new NFMA planning regulations seem to place a lot of trust in EMS to move toward adaptive management. The reasoning seems to be that the check and react functions in EMS’s “plan-do-check-react” are viewed as forcing long-term adaptation in forest policy planning.

I think a review of the various ISO standards, and especially the development of EMS, will indicate that EMS is first and foremost a “management system.” Its primary goal is to get the organization to write down what it intends to do, then relentlessly checks whether it does what it said it would do. The point of doing that is that the organization acts consistently and measures results. Managers can see the results and make changes to the manuals, which will then get consistently implemented and measured. Managers can review the results and make more changes, which will then get consistently implemented and measured, etc. and etc.

The "policy" element of EMS is very rudimentary, especially for a government agency that has reems of environmental policy for many decades. The EMS policy element is more valuable for an organization which has not thought about its environmental policy and whose employees do not think the environment is important to the organization.

Sharon Friedman

Dave- once again I have to point out is that everything I have heard about the development of the ISO is that the forestry sector was involved all the way along. So the whole idea behind ISO is that it's a management system which should improve environmental performance of any kind. And the Canadians have very carefully linked the social issues and the company's performance with continual improvement in using their forestry standard- in a way that I think is a fairly open and adaptive system.

Now we don't have to do it that way in the FS...but I think these examples show that the Canadians have worked on a system that ties all these ideas together..fairly elegantly, in my opinion.

Here's an article that talks about the whole scope of ISO and its history:

Note that it links SFI as a performance standard in the forestry sector in the same way that Responsible Care guidelines are linked to ISO in the chemical industry.

This is from the Certification Canada website: http://www.certificationcanada.org/english/iso_14001/:

"In addition, to sustainable forest management certification success in Canada, almost 170 million hectares have been certified to ISO 14001 Standard. It is noteworthy that the internationally recognized ISO 14001 Environmental Management System Standard (ISO) is a generic standard applicable for use in all industry sectors and applications, unlike CSA, SFI and FSC which are specific forest certification standards. However, the International Organization for Standardization itself recognized that there is great interest in its application to forestry and as such prepared a special technical report, ISO 14061, Information to Assist Forestry Organizations in the Use of Environmental Management Systems Standards ISO 14001 and ISO 14004. There are many reasons and benefits associated with implementing ISO 14001 in forest operations."

Canada-Wide ISO 14001 Certification Status, Detailed Report - December 20, 2005 (PDF) http://www.certificationcanada.org/_documents/english/dec20-05_ISO%2014001_canada_forest_certification_details.pdf

At the small scale, here’s an ISO for a community tree farm in BC:

You can see an example of how one large forest uses the Canadian standard with the requirements for public involvement, etc. and audits :

Note the different kinds of audits, because they are certifying under several systems, they do a lot more (!!!) than we would do for ISO but it’s still interesting, for example a description of forest issues:

“Forest Access The provision of forest access has been an issue on the Spruce River Forest over the past ten years or more as the pressures on public forests have increased. The creation and closure of forest access roads have created controversy as competing uses differ on how best to manage forests. New directions in wildlife management have encouraged temporary forest access. Abitibi has been proactive in developing use-management strategies that meet a range of needs across the Spruce River Forest. During the 1996-2001 planning term, the company planned to decommission or actively abandon (through water crossing or road removals) a number of roads, often in the face of vocal criticism.” PP 7-8
This seems similar to some of our issues..

This very holistic audit is like a forest-wide review of on the ground and "working with the public" practices:
Here’s more of an EMS-like audit report: http://www.abitibiconsolidated.com/aciwebsitev3.nsf/Site/en/images/pdf/ACI_FW_audit_report.pdf/$file/ACI_FW_audit_report.pdf.

The Canadian Forestry Standard itself can be found at
Here’s something from the discussion of how they revised their standard (originally developed in 96- when the Canadians decided they wanted a performance standard in forestry to link to the system EMS standard):

“What do the revised CSA SFM Elements deal with? In short they address important Canadian forest and sustainability values. The 17 CSA SFM Elements speak to:
i) Conserving ecosystem diversity
ii) Conserving species diversity
iii) Conserving genetic diversity
iv) Respecting protected areas and identifying sites of special biological significance within the DFA and implementing management strategies appropriate to their long-term maintenance.
v) Conserving ecosystem resilience
vi) Conserving forest ecosystem productivity and productive capacity
vii) Conserving soil resources
viii) Conserving water resources
ix) Maintaining processes that take carbon from the atmosphere and store it in forest ecosystems
x) Protecting forestlands from deforestation or conversion to non-forests
xi) Managing the forest sustainably to produce an acceptable and feasible mix of both timber and non-timber benefits.
xii) Contributing to the sustainability of communities by providing diverse opportunities to derive benefits from forests and to participate in their use and management.
xiii) Promoting the fair distribution of timber and non-timber benefits and costs
xiv) Recognizing and respecting Aboriginal and treaty rights
xv) Respecting traditional forest values and uses identified through the Aboriginal input process
xvi) Demonstrating that the SFM public participation process is designed and functioning to the satisfaction of the participants.
xvii) Providing relevant information to interested parties”

I’m not saying that the Canadian situation is identical to ours, but I think there are some obvious similarities and we can potentially learn from their experiences in looking at sustainability and tying it to systems for continual improvement.

For those who are worried about the monitoring in EMSs not including effectiveness monitoring, you can see how it all links together for them in their SFM report which you can find a link to on this site.


Dave Iverson

I hear you Sharon and I hope that we will find value in what the Canadians have been up to. But last November I wrote "Whiskey Jack Forest and A Simpler Way" wherein I argue that we ought to be rightfully careful not to over-complexify things. http://forestpolicy.typepad.com/ems/2005/11/whisky_jack_for.html

We have over-complexified things far too often in the past, and our Canadian friends may have done so too.

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