Commercial forest plantations
One of the main strategies used to reduce the pressure on forest ecosystems and to increase timber and non-timber forest production is the establishment of commercial plantations (Evans and Turnbull, 2004). Forest plantations are defined as regularly spaced, evenly aged forests composed by few, exotic or, sometimes, indigenous species, established through planting or seeding. Commercial forest plantations are predominantly dedicated to the supply of wood, fiber and other non-timber forest products (FAO, 2006).
Mexico’s Program for the Development of Commercial Forest Plantations (PRODEPLAN for its acronym in Spanish) was established in 1997 (Conafor, 2006a), with the aim of supporting the establishment of commercial forest plantations to reduce imports of forest products and, at the same time, to create options for sustainable development and to promote production diversification in the country. The program is based on the back-conversion of land that was once cleared for agricultural purposes to forestry use. Commercial forest plantations in Mexico primarily grow trees for solid wood and cellulose, particularly species like pine, teak, melina, red cedar, mahogany and eucalyptus (Semarnat, 2003). Most of the plantations are located in tropical regions, where precious or decorative wood species are cultivated (Semarnat, 2003). The indicator Area of commercial forest plantations planted, verified and paid for denotes efforts made to reduce pressure on the country’s forest resources and to increase domestic timber and non-timber production.
Sustainable forest management
In the second half of the 1990’s, government initiatives such as the Forestry Development Program (Prodefor) and the Project for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Forest Resources (Procymaf) were launched in Mexico with the aim of promoting the management of Mexico’s native forests. Prodefor was created in 1997 and has since managed financial resources with state and municipal governments to promote the legal use, sound technical management and fair distribution of benefits from natural resources. On the other hand, Procymaf started operations in the same year as a pilot project aimed at improving the use and conservation of natural resources by forest-dwelling communities, by creating or increasing income-generating options for those communities in six high-priority forested states (Chihuahua, Durango, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan and Oaxaca). Procymaf supplements the Prodefor productive vision by assisting forest-dwelling communities in priority areas to improve the management of their forest resources through community-based forestry schemes that generate local development processes. Procymaf aims to strengthen three of the major players in Mexico’s forestry sector: Forest producer communities; professional foresters and forestry technicians; and (federal and state) government institutions in charge of forest development and conservation activities (Conafor, 2006c, 2008). The indicator Area under sustainable forest management, includes achievements under both programs and denotes government efforts to sustainably manage the country’s forest wealth.
Forest pest management
To protect the country's forest resources, actions have been taken to combat forest pests. The National Forestry Commission (Conafor) conducts periodical surveys of the country’s temperate and tropical forests to monitor forest health. However, the large extension of forested land makes it virtually impossible to conduct complete ground inspections, so that a combination of aerial and on-the-ground surveys is made only in high pest-risk areas. Once the areas affected by pests are identified, the proper eradication treatments are applied. Mistletoe and other plant parasites; bark beetles; defoliating, cork-boring and sap-sucking insects; and seed or cone pests are among the most important pests and diseases being addressed because of their countrywide, regional or local importance (Conafor, 2003). The indicator Area affected by forest pests treated denotes efforts made in the country to preserve forest health.
Reforestation is one of the main actions taken to restore sites affected by land-clearing, land-use change, forest fires and pests. These measures contribute to the recovery of vegetation cover and the maintenance of environmental quality in forest zones. The Program for the Conservation and Restoration of Forest Ecosystems (Procoref) is currently in charge of reforestation activities in the country, among other duties; activities which had been formerly (from 1997 to 2004) conducted under the National Reforestation Program (Pronare). The program’s overall objective is the restoration (using appropriate plant species) of vegetation cover in high-priority areas of the country (Conafor, 2006b). It should be noted that, although reforestation activities are not directly oriented towards timber production, they do contribute to preserve the health of forest areas, preventing habitat degradation and other effects. The indicator Reforested area denotes the efforts on reforestation and vegetation recovery made in the country. This indicator is also included in Greece’s Report on Sustainable Development Indicators (NCESD, 2003).
To enforce the 1992 Forestry Act, the Office of the Federal Environmental Prosecutor (Profepa) is responsible for the surveillance of forestry activities carried out in the country, through inspection visits and technical audits conducted by inspectors located in the 32 states of the country. The aim of Profepa’s Forest Inspection and Surveillance Program is to verify forest harvesting operations, storage facilities, product processing and transportation. Profepa also conducts systematic surveillance actions in forest areas, special operations in critical areas, addresses citizens complaints and carries out capacity building, training and monitoring activities for participatory surveillance groups (Profepa, 2009). The indicator Number of forestry inspections, special operations and rulings denotes the work on surveillance and forest regulation enforcement in the country. This indicator is also included in the Agenda 21 for the Baltic Sea Region (Baltic 21, 2000).