Institute for Sustainable Forestry

About ISF


Audio Archives


sustainable forestry

community economic development

markets, trade and policy

Donate to ISF

What is the Institute for Sustainable Forestry?

In 1990 a group of foresters, environmental activists, landowners, loggers, natural resource scientists, woodworkers, and forest practitioners gathered in northern California to consider the challenging question of how to create a forestry model that would both protect and preserve all forest values. Everyone shared a common belief that a body of management guidelines could be assembled that would enable a landowner to harvest trees without degrading stream quality, damaging fisheries, destroying wildlife habitat, precipitating erosion and slope failures, and upsetting the delicate balance of the forested ecosystem, even if prevailing industrial timber practices argued otherwise.

The challenge was a formidable one. All around the Pacific Northwest were examples of seriously damaged watersheds, reduced water quality, wildlife and plant species that had been pushed to the brink of extinction as well as other consequences of traditional forestry activities. Not only that, but many areas no longer supported what had once been a booming timber industry, simply because softwood timber had been liquidated and was not being replenished. These formative discussions were premised on the belief that ecologically based forestry activities could both restore the forest, watersheds and wildlife habitat while also creating a positive economic effect on forest dependent communities. Out of these conversations emerged:

The Ten Elements of Sustainability

  1. Forest practices will protect, maintain and/or restore the aesthetics, vitality, structure,and functioning of the natural processes, including fire, of the forest ecosystem and its components at all landscape and time scales.
  2. Forest practices will protect, maintain and/or restore surface and groundwater quality and quantity, including aquatic and riparian habitat.
  3. Forest practices will protect, maintain and/or restore natural processes of soil fertility, productivity and stability.
  4. Forest practices will protect, maintain and/or restore a natural balance and diversity of native species of the area, including flora, fauna, fungi and microbes, for purposes of the long-term health of ecosystems.
  5. Forest practices will encourage a natural regeneration of native species to protect valuable native gene pools.
  6. Forest practices will not include the use of artificial chemical fertilizers or synthetic chemical pesticides.
  7. Forest practitioners will address the need for local employment and community well-being and will respect workers’ rights, including occupational safety, fair compensation, and the right of workers to collectively bargain, and will promote worker owned and operated organizations.
  8. Sites of archaeological, cultural and historical significance will be protected and will receive special consideration.
  9. Forest practices executed under a certified Forest Management Plan will be of the appropriate size, scale, time frame, and technology for the parcel, and adopt the appropriate monitoring program, not only in order to avoid negative cumulative impacts, but also to promote beneficial cumulative effects on the forest.
  10. Ancient forests will be subject to a moratorium on commercial logging during which time the Institute will participate in research on the ramifications of management in these areas.

The Ten Elements became the basis for the Institute for Sustainable Forestry (ISF). These guiding principles underwrote the country’s first ecological forestry certification program. The Institute also pioneered a program of restoration forestry that focused on improving forest health by creating uses and markets for under- utilized species. ISF devoted a considerable amount of time and energy to researching and implementing ways to process hardwoods (one of the main products of restoration forestry), and ISF managed Wild Iris Forest Products, a hardwood processing facility, for a number of years. Throughout this time, ISF has continually responded to the needs and interests of non-industrial forest landowners with a wide array of technical assistance.

Exploring answers to the original questions is still very much at play. What is ecological forestry? How can landowners both enhance and harvest their land? What are the best ways to protect forest values such as water quality, wildlife habitat and soil productivity? How can value be added to the products of restoration forestry to maximize benefits to the landowner and the community? Over the years ISF has brought together practitioners and academics, foresters and loggers in numerous workshops and exploratory conferences to develop implementation practices with respect to these values. Among the areas in which the Institute has aided landowners are:

  • Forest stand evaluations, inventories and restoration prescriptions
  • Watershed issues including watershed assessment; road improvement, maintenance, de-commissioning; salmonid habitat improvement; erosion control; monitoring and testing
  • Fire hazard reduction, fuels treatment, utilization of the products of fuels treatment, homeowner protection
  • Wildlife habitat enhancement
  • Hardwood management and utilization
  • Biomass utilization
  • Non timber forest products

The Institute continues to respond to the shifting currents and trends. Currently the non-industrial landowner finds themselves in a situation where global level market forces are determining market opportunities for all timber owners in the region. ISF is monitoring these trends and working on a series of policy suggestions that will aid the smaller landowner continue to operate in an ecological manner and still find markets for their forest products, both timber and non-timber.