When conducting a study that spans multiple countries, the only way to ensure the comparability of data is by establishing clear definitions for the information being collected. In the case of a recently published report on forest governance in Eastern Europe and Russia, the term ‘local forest’ presented some issues.
Forest governance can be a complex issue. Stefan Michel, the author of a recently published report called Governance of Local Forests in the ENPI East Countries and Russia, found out just how complex when he set out to define what a local forest is during an investigation of forest governance systems in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. While working on the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument-East Countries Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (ENPI-East FLEG) Program report, this IUCN-supported project sought the very meaning of ‘local forest.’
The concept of local forests is not new to the region. Different management schemes for forests have been employed throughout the years, and the idea of what a local forest is has changed with them. “The concept of local forest is multifaceted and very difficult to define” says Michel. “In the seven ENPI-FLEG countries, local forests include diverse areas and must be understood as a broad and flexible concept.”
Although the definition of ‘forests’ was generally clear, in light of such a diversity in the concept of ‘local forests,’ an acceptable and comparable definition was needed. When considering such an issue, Michel warned that, “The absence of a clear definition can hinder the effective management of the forests, which represent an important economic resource to local communities.”
Beyond definitions, the overall purpose of this study was to: “Contribute to policy review and reforms by documenting and analysing the existing schemes of governance of local forests in the region.” (p.ii)*
In the end, the following definition was suggested and applied to the study, “forests located in close distance to rural and urban settlements and of special importance for the wellbeing of the respective local people in terms of provision of forest resources and ecosystem services.” For more on defining local forests and results of the study please see the original web story posted on the ENPI-FLEG website, or click on the published report below.