1. Goal Setting

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The importance of goals

The purpose of forest policy is to guide the development of forestry and the forest sector towards a “better state of affairs.” This development requires a formulation of goals on forest policy. However, the analysis of forest policies may often conclude as Worrell (1970) explains:

"the objectives of forest policies are often not clearly stated and probably (in many cases) not even clearly known. From practical and theoretical points of view, the compilation of goals on forest policy should be regarded as one of the most important single phases in the process of the formulation of forest policy. Accordingly, these explicit goals should compose the fundamental component of any declared national forest policy. The importance of goals for forestry policy can be stated briefly: "Without declared goals forest policy has no direction.”

Concepts and terms

There are different concepts that indicate the direction of policies (i.e., aims, ends, targets, goals, objectives, purposes, and even values and principles).

Goals Aims and Ends Objectives Targets
Usually denote more than general statements of purpose Understood to be goals that are very wide and unspecified in a sense Specific and measurable Treated as low level goals, operational,measurable and usually given for shorter terms
Goals, aims and ends are the closest concepts to be used interchangeably in policy making to indicate "what we want" and their probable purpose could be included to this list. The statement of purpose in policy making usually clarifies the "proposed" goals and direction of the actions of a policy maker.


Issues behind the goals

Prior to the possibility of formulating goals for a rational forest policy, it is essential to identify urgent forestry issues which require immediate consideration and government response. The identification of such issues and problems may be seen via increased conflicts or media attention around some topics. It may also come from forest authorities, stakeholder groups, citizens, or forest scientists. It is important to understand how (and as holistically as possible) and why these issues or conflicts arise, and to understand how they interact (Grayson 1993, 231).

What about the degree of goal specifications?

Goal specification is not as straightforward as one would think. The advantages of a clear statement of purpose are obvious, but most statements leave critical issues to be resolved at a later date (Cubbage et al.,1993). When drafting legislation, legislators often find it advantageous not be overly specific. The uncertainty fostered by imprecision may be necessary to put together the coalition that is needed to pass the legislation. Krott (2005) claims that the definition from the MCPFE (Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe) on sustainable forest management signals a greater degree of consensus than actually exists due to its general objectives and ambiguous formulation.

Vague policy goals (i.e., multiple uses which have different contents for environmentalists and the timber industry) call for a gradual policy change from the status quo but precise policy objectives tend to prevent agreement on policies (Cubbage et al. 1993). The previous legislation concerning the state forests in Finland, expressed that one of the goals was "to take into consideration the general interest." This much referred to statement was used both for limiting timber production for environmental reasons and for its increase towards employment creation.

Sustainable forest management as the general goal of forestry

The non-legally binding “Forest Principles” accepted at the UNCED in 1992 are composed of a wide set of propositions that can be called a mix of moral principles and political recommendations. Item 2b of these Principles can be called the new “moral constitution” under this new concept of sustainability (Saastamoinen 2005). It states:

"Forest resources and forest lands shall be managed and used sustainably to fulfill social, economic, ecological, cultural and spirituous needs of the present and future generations. These needs are for forest products and services, such as wood and wood products, water, food, fodder, medicine, fuel, shelter, employment, recreation, habitats for wildlife, landscape, diversity, carbon sinks and reservoirs, and for other products." (UN 1992).

This new concept and its dimensions of sustainable forest management (SFM) were confirmed by the post-Rio processes. For example, in 1993 the Second Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) that was held in Helsinki1 produced the “General Guidelines for the Sustainable Management of Forests in Europe.” By recognising the Forest Principles from the UNCED, the European countries agreed that:

"sustainable management’ means the stewardship and use of forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfil, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems" (MCPFE 1993)

1. The first was in Strasbourg in 1988. Later Conferences in this series, in Lisbon (1997) and Vienna (2003), have further confirmed and developed the criteria and indicators of SFM as well given more specific attention to new and "old" dimensions of SFM.

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