Applauding Progress on IFLs

By Gabriel Bolton, Forest Management Specialist, Rainforest Alliance

There is broad support for a smart, practical system that protects remaining intact forest landscapes. We at the Rainforest Alliance feel strongly, as do most FSC members, that IFLs are important resources and are critical for conservation. The contention around the issue comes from the need to get it right from the start; there is no debate on the value of IFLs in the FSC system.

After years of debate and compromises, we are pleased to see the progress and alignment at the 2017 GA. It is time to implement. In the end, we hope to see a single motion that will address the important issues of regional application and economic viability.

The regional approach is necessary: there is no one-size-fits-all, global policy that will work when the environmental, social and economic contexts are as diverse as the northern boreal forest and the Congo Basin. A framework that defines high-level criteria that allows for regional or even national definitions and implementation will be critical.

Just as importantly, we must make these IFLs “work” for forest companies and communities, else we stand to lose the opportunity to grow FSC certification in these important areas. The “wait-and-see” approach has been adopted by many potential certified operations, and our solution must result in a system that allows FSC certificate holders to grow and thrive.

Finally, we recognize the difficulty in coming up with a balanced solution and applaud the hard work that has gone into many stakeholder discussions and working groups over the years to get this point. This landscape-level issue must be taken up by civil society, and we anticipate there will be an opportunity for these groups to learn from our conclusions.

We are cautiously hopeful that, come Friday, we will be able to vote “yes” on a framework that will protect IFLs on a regional basis, in a way that makes sense for companies and communities, and such that it is auditable.