An IFL is defined by FSC in the international generic indicators as “a territory within today’s global extent of forest cover which contains forest and non-forest ecosystems minimally influenced by human economic activity, with an area of at least 500km2 (50,000 ha) and a minimal width of 10km”.
IFLs are the world’s last remaining large, un-fragmented forest areas undisturbed by roads or other significant human infrastructure. Many IFLs count among the world’s richest environments for biodiversity; they are an essential source of carbon storage; and are home to millions of animal species, as well as forest-dependent communities. While IFLs occur in 60 countries, 65 per cent are found in Canada, Brazil, and Russia.
FSC and HCVs
The protection of HCV forests is included under principle 9 of the FSC Principles and Criteria (P&C): “the Organization shall maintain and/or enhance the HCVs in the forest management unit (FMU) through applying the precautionary approach”. As IFLs are a type of HCV, FSC already had some provisions for responsible forest management on these lands.
However, in 2013 Greenpeace and other members of the FSC environmental chamber pointed out that the world had lost or degraded 8 per cent of IFLs since 2000, and believed that IFLs needed certain protections above and beyond those already in place for HCVs.
FSC General Assembly 2014 – Motion 65
In 2014 environmental members successfully campaigned for FSC members to pass motion 65. The motion called for standard development groups and certification bodies (CBs) to develop, modify, or strengthen indicators within national standards and CB standards to protect the vast majority of IFLs.
Motion 2014/65 had nine key criteria that the development of IFL indicators had to adhere to, and, significantly, a ‘default clause’:
If, by the end of 2016, a relevant standard has not been implemented, a default indicator will apply that mandates the full protection of a core area of each IFL within the FMU. For this purpose, the core area of the IFL will be defined as an area of forest comprising at least 80 per cent of the IFL falling within the FMU.
At the same general assembly in 2014, motion 07 was also passed. Motion 2014/07 requested changes to the P&C, specifically the inclusion of IFLs, referred to as HCV2, to principle 9. The passing of both motions showed clear support from the FSC membership that IFLs needed to be treated separately, but in parallel, with protections for HCVs.
IFL Solutions Forum
In response to motions 2014/07 and 2014/65, FSC established an advisory group, the IFL Solutions Forum, consisting of network partners, staff, and stakeholders from key IFL areas (Canada, Russia, Amazon, Congo Basin, Indonesia) to determine how to implement the requirements of the motion. The forum has met three times to date to discuss possible IFL solutions.
Initially, the advisory group proposed that the development of IFL indicators work in parallel with the development of national standards. However, the national standard development process was more complex and lengthy than originally envisioned, and the deadline prescribed in the ‘default clause’ of motion 2017/65 was fast approaching.
Due to the potential for significant undesired side effects in IFL countries, the FSC international Board of Directors decided to revise the ‘default clause’ and provided guidance on its interpretation in the form of an advice note published on 30 December 2016.
The advice note stated that forest management operations within IFLs, including harvesting and road building, could proceed as long as they did not impact more than 20 per cent of IFLs within the FMU and did not reduce any IFLs below the 50,000 ha threshold in the landscape. This advice note ensured that 80 per cent of IFL core areas within FSC-certified forests have been placed under temporary protection as of 1 January 2017, until new national standards are in force. Meanwhile, work on national standards in IFL countries is ongoing.
Indigenous Cultural Landscapes (ICLs)
The advice note also included the introduction of a concept from the Permanent Indigenous Peoples Committee (PIPC) and the Aboriginal chamber of FSC Canada, Indigenous Cultural Landscapes (ICLs). Indigenous Peoples are present in 54 of the 60 IFL countries. FSC Canada proposes the below definition of ICLs:
ICLs are living landscapes to which Indigenous Peoples attribute social, cultural and economic value because of their enduring relationship with the land, water, fauna, flora and spirits, and their present and future importance to their cultural identity. An ICL is characterized by features that have been maintained through long-term interactions with the landscape based on land-care knowledge, and adaptive livelihood practices. They are landscapes over which Indigenous Peoples exercise responsibility for stewardship.
FSC IFL indicators will be developed to suit the differing conditions in IFL countries around the world, and the integration of ICLs are now a core consideration in those development discussions.
FSC General Assembly 2017
With the implementation of motion 2014/65 still ongoing, IFLs will play a large part at this year’s general assembly. A closed meeting of the IFL Solutions Forum will be held in Vancouver, Canada just before the general assembly, and six motions have been submitted in relation to IFLs and ICLs to date (20 September 2017).
Protecting the world’s IFLs requires a multi-stakeholder and multidimensional approach that will be in full force at the 8th FSC General Assembly 2017.