2. Complexity and Scientific Connections

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The general framework of forest policy formulation and development is complex. Numerous historical factors, institutional circumstances, other policies and social demands (and in particular the markets with their demand and supply components) have influences on forest policy formulation processes. Forest research also has a substantial impact on forest policies. Figure P1 (modified from the original of Miller (1999) illustrates the wide range of factors influencing forest policy making. Many of these factors and issues have already been discussed earlier in this course module.

Figure P1: A model of the complexity of policy development (modified from Miller 1999)

Documentation of forest policy

Forest policy should be publicly stated and transparent. It may be a public document which combines all the essential goals (i.e., political and those given in forest laws) and means (i.e., regulations, subsidies, extension activities, etc..) for every stakeholder or citizen to see.1

Forest policy can also be a new or updated policy document in the form of the national forest programme. The advantage is that different and prior conflicting aims are integrated (as much as it is possible to do so) with each other. The means are planned in accord with aims and sufficient financing is secured to make the implementation of the plan realistic (more in POLICY8).

A similar but broader and more general policy document can be called a national forest strategy. It describes the strategic orientation of forestry development and outlines the policy changes and means required for the envisioned development to become a reality. However, it may be less detailed and less operational with regards to implementation, which often requires more planning and political decisions.

Both national forest programmes and forest strategies need principal commitments from the government or parliament. Otherwise, even a carefully formulated programme or strategy may remain a "paper tiger", without real impacts on the forest and forestry development.

Scientific connections to forest policy

Forest policy science belongs to the applied sciences. Applied sciences have practical orientations. The results of forest research used in forestry, is to improve the productivity of the forest or its products, as in the case of better saw log quality or more beautiful landscapes. The results of forest policy science are also meant to be applied practically by improving the performance of forestry with regards to chosen goals. This can be achieved and research suggests strategies to either better use the existing instruments of forest policy or develop new effective incentives such as guidance (i.e., the silvicultural behaviour of forest owners).

Forest policy science is a social science because politics and policies are considered to be a social phenomena. It is a social science since it focuses on people and their behaviour within forestry or with respect to forests. There is also a concern on the performance of institutions created by people and the role of forestry and forests in improving human and social welfare.

Miller (1999) outlines the subjects of forest policy studies and rightly emphasizes the importance of including the historical context. He argues that "... the study of forest policy encompasses the factors that should be taken into account when formulating (or changing) forest policy and the means of implementing the policy (often both) studied in the context of an historical progression together with a consideration of the success of these policies".

Theoretically, policy sciences are more diverse and create more room to be reflective, argumentative and can even have conflicting theories and discourses much more than any other forest science. This particularly holds true when one is concerned with (forest) politics (as referred to earlier).

Learn more about sustainability in POLICY4 and plans concerning forest programme's in POLICY 8.

1. It can consist of all the elements above but can be documented without combining or including all the elements in a tangible document. Forest policy exists but it is not always easy for the general public to see what it is all about.

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