For more than 20 years, the International Model Forest Network (IMFN) has been implementing a participatory, landscape-level approach to the sustainable management of natural resources.

The Model Forest approach offers an effective and flexible process that creates broad partnerships and represents the environmental, social and economic forces at play on the landscape.

alternatemapIMFNshort2017SMALLThe IMFN includes more than 71 large-scale landscapes, in six regional networks covering 84 million hectares in 31 countries.

Within the IMFN, regional Model Forest networks were created to more effectively define, articulate and manage regional programs of work by those who know the area best.

Each site is intended to be a “model” from which others could learn and advance their sustainability goals.

History of the IMFN

The Model Forest approach was first developed and implemented by the Government of Canada in the early 1990's, on 10 sites across the country.

It was a response to a period of intense conflict in Canada’s forest sector at a time when environmentalists, governments, indigenous peoples, communities and forest workers were struggling over forest resources and how to manage them in a sustainable manner.

The approach showed immediate promise as people came to the table to find common solutions to the issues they faced, including logging practices, biodiversity conservation and economic stability among others.

The development of an International Model Forest Network was announced by Canada’s prime minister at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro. 

From the beginning, Model Forests promoted the idea of forming partnerships to provide a neutral forum where a range of values and interests could be represented, and where a desire to experiment with new ideas under a common goal of sustainable development could occur.


To support the sustainable management of the natural resources through a participatory, landscape-level approach that reflects environmental and socio-economic issues from the perspectives of local needs and global concerns.


The primary objective of the IMFN is to establish a global network that represents most of the major forest ecosystems of the world and promotes participatory, landscape-level sustainable resource management.

The IMFN strives to ensure that all partners, regardless of political or economic status, can contribute to and share in the benefits of the Network. Key objectives are:

  1. To foster international exchange of ideas and solutions for the sustainable management of natural resources in forested landscapes
  2. To support cooperation on critical issues that underlie new solutions to sustainable landscape and natural resource management
  3. To support ongoing international policy discussions on the criteria and principles of sustainable natural resource management and development

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A world in which natural resources are sustainably managed through a participatory, landscape-level approach reflecting environmental and socio-economic issues from the perspectives of local needs and global concerns.

1 - Partnership

Each Model Forest is a neutral forum that welcomes voluntary participation of representatives of stakeholders interests and values on the landcsape.

Model Forest stakholders represent diverse values and interest from various sectors of society who work towards a common vision for the sustainable management of the area.

The Model Forest aims at having representatives from the public, private and volunteer sectors, community organizations, academia and research institutions involved in its activities.

Involvement in all aspects of governance in the Model Forest is vluntary and inclusive.

No discrimination against groups or individuals exists within the Model Forest partnership.

2 - Landscape

A large-scale biophysical area representing a broad range of forest values, including social, cultural, economic and environmental concerns.

The natural resources in the Model Forest are recogniuzed by the stakeholders in social, cultural, economic and ecological terms.

The Model Forest has a geopgraphically defined area encompassing diverse ecosystems, resources management administrations and tenure agreements.

Forest and other natural resources provide communities with a range of goods, services and values.

The Model Forest is a working landscape reflective of the diverse interests and values of the stakeholders and the uses of the area`s natural resources.

3 - Commitement to Sustainability

Stakeholders are committed to the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources and forested landscapes.

Sustainable management practices promote the generation and equitable distribution of economic and social benefits derived from natural resources.

Model Forests foster economic growth and diversification aimed at sustainable community development.

Model Forests promote innovative mechanism for pursuing the sustainable management of natural resources within a framewoork of just and equitable distribution of costs and benefits.

Model Forests support actions for maintaining ecological integrity on a landscape.

Model Forests explore and promote practices that contribute to maintaining and/or restoring the ecological integrity of the landcsape.

4 - Governance

The Model Forest management process is representative, participative, transparent and accountable, and promotes collaborative work among stakeholders.

Stakeholders work together using consensus-based processes to attain the Model Forest`s objectives.

A vision for the sustainable management of the landscape and its natural resources is developed jointly by the stakeholders.

The Model Forest is a forum for exploring options to effectively address natural resources management conflicts.

The actions of the Model Forest are governed by principles of trust, transparency and collaborative decision-making, while respecting various interests and values.

Clear policies, procedures and practices are in place for stakeholders to express their views and influence decision-making.

The Model Forest has a structure that is transparent and accountable, sets priorities and manages activities effectively.

Committees, staffing and other executive mechanism for developing and implementing activities are in place.

5 - Program of Activities

The Activities undertaken by a Model Forest are reflective of the Model Forest`s vision and stakeholder needs, values and management challenges.

Model Forest management processes include effective planning and monitoring systems.

A strategic plan, with a program of activities reflective of stakeholder needs, values and issues, considers national forest programme objectives and other plans developed by borader jurisdictions.

Practical mechanisms for implementing and monitoring the strategic plan are in place.

Model Forests facilitate innovation in trhe sustainable management of natural resources.

Model Forest facilitate and promote research and the implementation of new and innovative idead, processes, approaches and techniques in the sustaible management of natural resources.

Model Forest planning processes make use of best available traditional and scientific knowledge.

The Model Forest process generates information and synthesizes knowledge that informs local and national policy-making and global sustainability initiatives.

6 - Knowledge-sharing, Capacity-building and Networking

Model Forests build stakeholder capacity to engage in the sustaibale management of natural resources, and collaborate and share results and lessons learned through newtorking.

Model Forests contribute to local and national capacity-building in the sustainable management of natural resources.

Model Forests undertake and promote trainings and mentorship activities.

Model Forest communication and outreach activities have demonstrable influence on stakeholders and the general public.

Model Forests exchange experiences and lessons learned with other Model Forests and organizations.

Model Forests share their achievements and lessons learned nationally, regionally and internationally using various activities and approaches.

Model Forests develop and participate in networking activities.

Model Forests engage in collaborative activities with other Model Forests.

Model Forests participate in activities and governance structures aimed at strenghtening national regional and international Model Forest networks.

Further IMFN values:

Conflicts Resolution

Growth, Innovation & Trade

Feminism, Gender Equity and Equality, Inclusiveness


Global Forum

The IMFN Assembly is comprised of all member Model Forests.

Representatives of the IMFN Assembly, IMFN Secretariat, Regional Network secretariats, and IMFN Committees meet at the IMFN Global Forum (hereinafter referred to as “Global Forum”) every three (3) years, resources permitting. The Global Forum is open to observers, in consultation with the IMFN Secretariat.

The Global Forum is a business, technical, and networking meeting in which members share knowledge, review their accomplishments, address challenges, and agree on Network‐wide and other strategic plans and initiatives for the three‐year period following the Global Forum. Functions of the Global Forum are three‐fold:

  1. For the IMFN Assembly to take decisions on specific matters;

  2. To strengthen collaboration and synergies among members;

  3. To strengthen collaboration and visibility for the IMFN among other relevant initiatives and programmes, including international forest policy priorities, in support of IMFN and member goals and objectives.

The Global Forum is convened and organized by the IMFN Secretariat in coordination with the appropriate Regional Network Secretariat (where applicable) and host Model Forest.

During the Global Forum, the IMFN Assembly will receive reports of the IMFN and Regional Network secretariats and standing committees, and take decisions if sought and deemed necessary by those secretariats and committees.

Policies and operational matters with regard to strategic directions of the IMFN will be decided by the IMFN Assembly.

Decisions reached by the IMFN Assembly will be based on consensus.

The quorum for the IMFN Assembly is set at 50% of all member Model Forests with representation of at least two Model Forests from each region. 


The Secretariat is supported by two standing committees: the International Advisory Council and the IMFN Networking Committee.

The International Advisory Council (hereinafter referred to as “IAC”) is comprised of experts on themes related to forest landscape management who agree to work in a voluntary capacity advising the IMFN Secretariat on high‐level strategic matters concerning the IMFN’s development. The IAC meets at the discretion of the Chair.

  1. The IAC is chaired by the Head of the Canadian Forest Service or his/her designated alternate. The IMFN Secretariat serves as secretary for meetings of the IAC.

  2. The IMFN Secretariat will consult Regional Networks and INC members as part of the process for selecting IAC members .

The IMFN Networking Committee (hereinafter referred to as “INC”) acts as a strategic group for the IMFN and the Secretariat as a body that identifies trends, issues, and opportunities of global or regional importance in support of inter‐regional networking. The INC acts as the central facilitator for information, expertise and experience flow between regions of the IMFN (see Article 8). The INC meets once per year face‐to‐face, resources permitting, and holds online meetings on an as‐needed basis.

  1. The INC provides a critical two‐way link between the Secretariat and the IMFN members, aiming to ensure that members have an effective voice in the evolution of the IMFN and for new ideas to be brought forward and realized.

  2. The INC is composed of one elected representative from each region of the IMFN. The INC may draw upon additional experts as needed and at its discretion.

  3. INC representatives are expected to bring their region’s perspectives to meetings, after consultation with their members, and to share back relevant information to their respective regional members.

  4. The IMFN Secretariat convenes and co‐chairs meetings of the INC in consultation with regional committee members.

The International Model Forest Network Secretariat (IMFNS) was established in 1995.

The IMFN Secretariat provides the central day‐to‐day coordination of support and development services to the IMFN. It develops and strengthens the IMFN and its profile internationally. It is responsible for, inter alia, the preparation, coordination and arrangement of the IMFN Global Forum and Committee meetings, and any other relevant IMFN‐related meetings. Resources permitting, the Secretariat supports Regional Networks and member Model Forests in the following areas:

  1. International advocacy and representation;

  2. Resource mobilization;

  3. Technical and logistical issues in establishing and operating Model Forests;

  4. International communications, networking and knowledge management/sharing;

  5. International‐level strategic initiatives;

  6. Targeted program support (as available);

  7. Partnership development and capacity‐building;

  8. Impact monitoring and evaluation.

The Secretariat is the focal point for all official IMFN communications including the administration of a website. All official communications on behalf of the IMFN are the exclusive responsibility of the Secretariat.

The three working languages of the IMFN are English, French and Spanish.

One representative from the Secretariat will be invited to serve as a non‐voting participant at meetings of the Regional Networks’ Boards or Steering Committees.

The Secretariat will publish an IMFN annual report on activities and other information it deems appropriate based principally upon documentation, including regional reports, submitted by regions, as well as additional documentation and information collected over the preceding reporting period.

The Government of Canada, through Natural Resources Canada—Canadian Forest Service, shall perform Secretariat duties until otherwise decided.