Montreal Process


New Zealand is a member of the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators Working Group which began in 1993. This is a group of 12 countries with a mutual purpose coming together to develop a set of criteria and indicators for managing temperate and boreal forests (MPCI). By using MPCI it is possible to assess a member country's progress towards sustainable forest management. The Criteria identify the main components of sustainability of forests and the indicators provide qualitative or quantitative measurements of different aspects of a criterion.

New Zealand is using MPCI to assess its progress towards sustainable forest management at the national level. The first country report on progress made was published in 2003 and work is underway on the second country report due to be completed in 2009. The second report will cover a larger number of indicators as further information on different indicators has become available which will allow for measuring progress towards sustainable forest management in an increasingly comprehensive manner.


At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio, the importance of forest ecosystems was recognized. A plan of action for the 21st century to define the sustainable management of forests was developed which was called Agenda 21. The Summit also produced a Statement of Forest Principles and The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. In addition, two legally binding Conventions were opened for signature:

  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; and

  • The Convention on Biological Diversity

Since the UNCED several government and non-government groups have been working towards a better understanding of forest ecosystems and how to measure sustainable forests management (SFM). One key development towards this was the development of Criteria and Indicators (C&I) for SFM. Currently there are nine regional and international C&I processes which nearly 150 countries are involved in.

The Montreal Process began in 1994, in Geneva.

What is the Montreal Process?

The Montreal Process is the Working group on Criteria and Indicators for measuring and monitoring forest management. In Santiago, Chile, in February 1995, the Working Group endorsed a statement of commitment known as the 'Santiago declaration' and approved the seven criteria and associated quantitative and qualitative indicators. The Working Group defines sustainable development as 'meeting the needs of today without reducing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.

The 12 member countries of the Montreal Process (Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, the Russian Federation and the United States) are from both hemispheres and the five continents and have a wide range of natural and social conditions.

These countries account for:

  • 90% of the world's temperate and boreal forests (as well as areas of tropical forests)
  • 60% of all forests of the world
  • 35% of the world's population
  • 45% of the world's trade in wood and wood products

Criteria and Indicators

The Montreal Process identifies seven criteria and 67 indicators which characterize the essential components of SFM and provide member countries with a common base for understanding SFM. They are a tool for assessing national trends in forest condition and management, as well as common framework for describing, monitoring and evaluating progress towards sustainability at both national and international levels.

The first six criteria deal with forest condition attributes or functions, and the values or benefits associated with environmental and socio-economic goods and services that forests provide. The seventh criterion addresses the broader societal conditions and the laws and regulations that support sustainable forest management:

1) Conservation of biological diversity

2) Maintenance of productive capacity of forest ecosystems

3) Maintenance of forest ecosystem health and vitality

4) Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources

5) Maintenance of forests contribution to global carbon cycles

6) Maintenance and enhancement of long term multiple socio-economic benefits to meet the needs of societies

7) Legal, policy and institutional framework

The indicators are ways to assess or describe the criteria and it is used to measure an aspect of the criterion. They could be quantitative, for example the 'total growing stock' or the 'number of forest dependant species', or qualitative 'viability and adaptability to changing economic conditions, of forest dependant communities, including indigenous communities'.

Ongoing work in New Zealand

Montreal Process is of considerable importance to New Zealand since it provides the framework for implementing measures towards SFM at the national level. New Zealand published its first approximation report of the Montreal Process called First Country Report on Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests in 1997 and the Country Report 2003 in providing data on a limited number of indicators. A second New Zealand has been prepared and will be published during the second half of 2009.

Implications for New Zealand

Forests comprise 30% of New Zealand land area. The natural forest (6.4 m ha) accounts for 23% of the total land area, and the reminder is planted forests. Around 80% of the natural forest is wider conservation, from which there is no timber harvesting. Twenty percent is in private ownership, about half which is Maori tribal land.

The New Zealand forest and wood processing industries account for 3% of the GDP, directly employing 26,000 people and are the third largest export earner with exports in excess of $3.5 billion.

New Zealand's planted forests resource covers 1.8 million hectares. Forest industries have an annual output of over $5 billion. Sustainable forest management developments in the country are very closely related to the unique characteristics of the forestry sector. There is clear differentiation in the management between the planted and natural forests and between state and private forest ownership. Measuring progress towards SFM by using the criteria and indicators needs to reflect this differentiation.

Sustainable forest management is evolving as one of the most important concepts within New Zealand's forestry sector. There is a growing demand, mostly in developed country markets, for sustainably managed timber products. The Montreal Process provides a key framework for New Zealand to measure and monitor the progress made in SFM.

The use of the Criteria and Indicators to measure sustainable management of New Zealand forests at a national level is of vital importance to the country. It would allow for the sustainable management of the forests resource without diminishing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It will also improve the forestry sector competitiveness in overseas markets.



The Montreal Process Canada


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