On Day 1 of the global forum, participants from around the world explore the potential environmental and societal benefits of forest landscape restoration, as well as IUCN and WRI’s recently released framework for assessing restoration opportunities. By Maggie Roth, IUCN Global Gender Office
More than 150 people from 24 countries gathered on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. for the first day of a three-day workshop on Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR). Participants convened to discuss their recent experiences engaging in FLR, brainstorm new opportunities, and build capacity for those starting assessments with FLR potential. The event was organized by IUCN’s Global Forest and Climate Change Programme (GFCCP), in collaboration with the World Resources Institute (WRI).
FLR is a long-term process of regaining ecological integrity and enhancing human wellbeing in degraded and deforested lands. There is no magical, one-size-fits-all blueprint for FLR—a restored landscape can accommodate a mosaic of different land uses. In comparison to tree farms, FLR involves a diversity of tree types planted to restore a balanced package of forest functions and the result is a healthy, productive landscape that is sustainable and climate resilient.
Stewart Maginnis, Global Director of IUCN’s Nature-Based Solutions Group and Director of the GFCCP, kicked off the Forum by describing what FLR is and is not. He explained that FLR is not about just forestry, trees or planting sites; it requires integration with other land uses, offers delivery of a broad range of societal benefits, and provides a vision for a better-managed landscape.
Sean de Witt, Director of the Global Restoration Initiative at WRI, walked participants through the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) and gave a brief overview of the steps and processes involved. IUCN and WRI recently published ROAM with the goal to provide a framework and tools for countries to rapidly identify and analyse FLR potential at the national and sub-national levels. De Witt believes the ROAM methodology is key because it pushes the environmental movement beyond commitments and towards reality. He also emphasized the importance of stakeholder engagement, which underpins all other components of ROAM.
Participants then broke into groups to exchange experiences on ROAM and other assessment methods, as well as have broader discussions on FLR. Lessons learned from these sessions include:
What works: using a diversity of approaches, a focus on landscapes, community forestry programs, and emphasizing people’s prosperity and benefits to society
- Challenges: tenure, governance, competing land uses, poverty, lack of data, political will and awareness/understanding, and markets
- Uncertainties: financing, role of private sector, scientific parameters, political and funding commitments, migration, climate change, tenure, and best practices around the world
- Enabling environment: a clear message and understanding of FLR, knowledge sharing—especially with local population, a multi-stakeholder and cross-sectoral collaborative approach, defining stakeholders and incorporating a gender, political will and stability, and adequate cash flow and benefit streams
The day’s activities continued with sessions on building capacity and learning about ROAM. Participants discussed identifying stakeholders, deciding whether ROAM is best utilized at the national or sub-national level, and studied opportunity assessments and data gaps, mapping, and ecosystem services. Questions remained, however, including who should be the lead agency or institution, how is “restoration” defined, where will funding come from, what is the appropriate scale, and how to prioritise actions. Many of these concepts will be elaborated and debated in the coming days of the Forum.
An important aspect of the FLR Forum is its website—www.flrforum.org—which was designed specifically for the event, but aims to become a platform for a global community of practice. Forum participants are the “bridge” for conveying their newfound learning to colleagues and peers in their home countries and organisations. Participants were encouraged to log into the website after sessions in order to upload content and engage in interactive discussions.
The workshop concluded its first day with a short wrap-up and a tour of the National Mall. Day two of the Forum will continue with a deeper examination of FLR themes, including synergies between FLR, ecosystem-based adaptation and disaster risk reduction; financing for FLR; food security; stakeholder engagement and governance; and much more.
Stay tuned for more blog posts from the Forum, and follow @IUCN_Forests on Twitter for live updates.