In the early 1990s, in an effort to find solutions to the many challenges of sustainable forest management, Canada began an experiment that brought together different interest groups as active partners to create the first model forests.
A model forest is simultaneously a place, a partnership and a process. The place is a large landscape or ecosystem that typically contains a forest. The partnership is voluntary and inclusive, with partners ranging from local farmers to national policy-makers. And the process is a journey towards sustainability, through dialogue, experimentation and innovation.
What started as 10 model forests across Canada has now grown into a global network of 60 model forests in 30 countries on five continents, which encompasses 100 million hectares of a wide variety of forest ecosystems and landscapes.
The International Model Forest Network (IMFN) is a dynamic global learning network that shows how landscapes and ecosystems can be managed sustainably through inclusive partnerships. Housed at the Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada in Ottawa, the IMFN Secretariat leads network-wide initiatives focused on community sustainability, climate change and ecological goods and services, all initiatives that will support resource-based communities over the long term. Over the past 20 years, this collaborative approach has contributed significantly to our knowledge base of natural resource management and demonstrated the on-the-ground application of the principles of sustainable development.
While each model forest operates at the local level, it simultaneously involves regional and global partners and stakeholders through the IMFN and its six regional networks. Moving from local to global, model forest members are able to address key international forest issues, such as biodiversity, climate change, and forest restoration, through coordinated research agendas and joint projects.