There has never been more of an urgent need to protect nature and people than today. In spearheading the High Conservation Value Approach, 20 years ago, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was a frontrunner in addressing conservation and the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) into its forest management requirements.
The FSC is a multi-stakeholder organization that unites citizens, businesses, governments, and NGOs under a common goal: protecting healthy, resilient forests for all, forever. The FSC has been a Member of the HCV Network since membership was introduced in 2014, and currently sits on the 2020-2023 Management Committee.
Last week, the HCV Network Secretariat attended the FSC General Assembly as an observer. The Secretariat hosted a panel discussion on HCV Management and Monitoring, participated as speaker in a panel about FSC regenerative rubber, and met many HCV Network Member organizations during the week to discuss the challenges and opportunities of protecting High Conservation Values (HCVs) in forestry and other commodity contexts.
However, the biggest highlight of last week was the passing of several motions which will strengthen the protection and restoration of High Conservation Values (HCVs) in the FSC system.
Scaling-up HCV protection across the landscape – Motion 23
Motion 23 will improve the protection of Intact Forest Landscapes (HCV 2), using landscape-wide approaches adapted to local conditions. The solutions presented in the motion, which include a landscape perspective, stakeholder engagement and best available data, are already core principles of the HCV Approach.
This motion will help to further embed these principles to achieve inclusive landscape management approaches, improving the protection of all HCV categories within and beyond the boundaries of FSC certified management units.
In recent years, landscape and jurisdictional approaches have become a centre-point discussion topic in many voluntary sustainability standards and initiatives, to address the increasing need for resource-efficient screening of risks to HCVs and mapping, focusing on priority areas, and the broader recognition on the importance of trans-sectoral collaboration involving multiple commodities in landscape-level conservation efforts.
Motions to improve accessing incentives and benefits for protecting HCVs
FSC recently began work on revising its Ecosystem Services Procedure. Motion 49 on the FSC Ecosystem Service Procedure as a mitigation mechanism to meet global market demand for net-zero and net-positive targets will form part of this revision.
Robustly identifying and managing High Conservation Values (HCVs) supports ecosystem services such as biodiversity, storing carbon, and purifying water. The FSC ecosystem services claims will help forest managers quantify the intangible value of their forests and accessing payments will help improve protection and restoration of HCVs.
Motion 53 supports Indigenous Peoples by incorporating the recognition of cultural services and practices (HCV 6) into ecosystem services.
Motions to scale up the restoration of forests and conservation values
Motion 37 (Required changes to the FSC Principles and Criteria to implement the Policy to Address Conversion) and Motion 45 (Enhance and Improve the Conversion and Remedy Package to Protect FSC’s Credibility) will enable FSC to expand its membership while retaining credibility.
As the 1994 cut-off date prevented plantations on lands converted after 1994 to become FSC-certified, this limitation posed a major challenge for FSC to influence forest management of plantation forests especially in the global south, where many plantations were established post-1994.
The newly passed motions open the possibility for plantations established between 1994 and 2020, provided there is a strong commitment for remediation and restoration, to enter the FSC system and becoming a part of a leading global initiative in responsible forestry.
While this presents a major step by FSC towards the right direction, it is important to keep in mind that there may be new plantations being established in the future, therefore there needs to be a system in place to ensure that the establishment of future plantations will not convert any natural forest nor damage HCVs, so that history doesn’t repeat itself again.
There is currently no process to analyse past damage or destruction to High Conservation Values (HCVs) over time. A robust baseline will be essential to ensure consistency of the studies that will underpin all FSC remediation plans.
Panel Discussion on HCV Management and Monitoring
In a session hosted by the HCV Network Secretariat, Meriel Robson from the Soil Association, Markus Pfannkuch from Precious Woods, Maggie Fitzherbert from the Zoological Society of London, Marcus Colchester from the Forest Peoples Programme, and Olivia Scholtz from the HCV Network Secretariat discussed management and monitoring of High Conservation Values in the FSC system.
Facilitated by Adrian Choo from the High Carbon Stock Approach, panelists provided their perspectives on the value of the HCV Approach, challenges, as well as strategies and solutions.
Key take home messages from panelists and the audience to improve the protection of HCVs included:
• The need to effectively engage with local stakeholders to they understand the benefits of protecting HCVs,
• Promoting synergies between land users in a landscape, to promote the protection of HCVs beyond the management units,
• Awareness of guidance and tools for managers for HCV monitoring, including simple tools like the Forest Integrity Assessment (FIA) tool, that local communities can also use to have greater ownership over monitoring and management actions,
• The potential for Payment for Ecosystem Services to help managers see the tangible benefits and offering an opportunity to improve the long-term protection of HCVs.
FSC Regenerative Natural Rubber side session
Rubber plantations can be FSC-certified, and the newly passed Motion 37 provides an avenue for FSC to eventually certify rubber plantations established between 1994 and 2020.
Arie Soetjiadi from the HCV Network Secretariat participated in a side session to share the HCV Network’s experience as a Founding Member of the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) and active involvement in several working groups and caucuses since early 2019. Arie reiterated that GPSNR and FSC complement each other and highlighted the importance of trans-sectoral collaboration.
Finally, Preferred by Nature, an active member of the HCV Network, interviewed Olivia Scholtz about how the HCV Approach is used in the FSC system and beyond, and the opportunities that lie ahead, such as scaling up efforts to protect High Conservation Values in landscapes and jurisdictions.
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