This report introduces some concepts about 'what is sustainability' that is intended to bring more clarity about how sustainability can be applied for the practical purposes of forest management. It is important that we manage to reduce the potential for catastrophic events emanating from the cumulative impacts of our forest practices (as has become evident recently with the outbreak of bark beetles and extensive occurrence of wildfires). It is argued that vague notions of sustainability combined with the complex nature of ecosystems has resulted in long, complicated lists of criterion indicators that are lacking in real thresholds that would in turn induce forest managers to alter their strategies. Proposals around how to define 'old growth' are used as an example of how such lists become unmanageable and are in fact ineffective. Instead its is suggested that three primary systems of classification - stand structure, tree species composition, and site classification - can accommodate many of the ecosystem complexities while reducing the number of indicators down to a manageable few. These classifications are vital for scaling information up from ground-level observations so that they may be used to reliably represent broader landscape characteristics within the inventory. They are also central to forecasting future forest conditions. Secondary systems of classification involving non-tree vegetation and life forms can also be used to further enhance the information base necessary to manage for sustainability. An example is provided of how thresholds for changing management strategies can be developed with reference to 'old growth' using stand structure classification in combination with the philosophy of natural disturbances. For those attributes where clear thresholds for change in management direction are lacking, money is better spent on research rather than (operational) monitoring. This perspective is derived from work done within the Lignum Limited Innovative Forest Practices Area (IFPA) in the Cariboo portion of British Columbia. It involves the use of a Vegetation Resources Inventory (VRI), the establishment of inventory monitoring plots and the linking of these two sources of information collected at different scales. The result is intended to provide better coordination between strategic and tactical planning.
Ian S Moss.