Stewardship of Mexico's
Expanding Market and Policy Opportunities for
Conservation and Rural Development
Justin R. Ward
The forests of Mexico have long been recognized as among the world's most unique and biologically diverse ecosystems. However, unchecked deforestation and destructive management practices are degrading wildlife habitat, soil productivity, water quality, and other environmental values that are critical to Mexico's natural heritage and economic future.
Over the last several decades, an alternative model based on environmentally sound community forest management has taken hold in Mexico. A complementary development in the 1990s has been the emergence of independent certification of well-managed forests and labeling of products from certified lands, under the rules of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
This is a time of rapid change in the Mexican forest sector. Recent developments include: major reforms of laws and regulations; financial incentives for plantations and other commercial forest management; an influx of private investment in timber production; international financing of community forest development projects; and growing worldwide consumer preferences for socially and environmentally responsible forest products. Decisions affecting the shape of these changes will have profound, lasting effects on forest landscapes and communities throughout Mexico.
This chapter begins with a snapshot of current conditions and trends in Mexico's forests, with a focus on land ownership, management and production patterns, the ecological importance of the resource, and threats facing forests and forest communities. We then examine the social and environmental benefits of well-managed com-