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Проць Б.Г., Кагало О.О. Скрильніков Д.В. Плани конвергенції директив Європейського Союзу щодо охорони природи в Україні. - Львів: Ліга Пресс. 2017...

The notion of high conservation value forests (HCVF)

Every forest has some environmental and social value. This value may consist in including rare species, groups and habitats, recreational sites or natural resources which are consuming by local residence. Where these values are considered to be of outstanding significance or critical importance, the forest can be defined as a high conservation value forest (HCVF).

The key idea to the concept of HCVFs is the identification of high conservation value (HCVs): it’s the value that is important and needs to be protected and requires sustainable use. High conservation value forests are the forests where these values are found, or, more precisely, the forest area that needs to be appropriately managed in order to maintain or enhance the identified specific values. Identifying these areas is therefore the essential first step in developing appropriate management for them.

The concept of high conservation value forest (HCVF) was developed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for use in forest management certification and first published in 1999. According to basic principle 9 of FSC, forest managers are required to maintain or enhance the features or properties of such forests and to monitor on a regular basis their condition. High conservation value forests are those, where one or few of such features or properties have critical meaning. (Box 1.1.):

Box 1.1. Characterization of high conservation value forests categories.

The category of high conservation value forests

(according to the FSCs principles and criterions, February 2000)

Category 1

Forest areas containing globally, nationally or regionally significant concentrations of biodiversity (for example, rare species, endemics, etc.)

Category 2

Large forest landscapes significant globally, nationally and regionally, where viable populations of most if not all naturally occurring species exist in natural patterns of distribution and abundance. These landscapes may be located within the management unit or contain few of such units.

Category 3

Forest areas that contain rare and endangered ecosystems, or are in the part of these ecosystems.

Category 4

Forest areas that provide basic services of nature in critical situations (watershed protection, erosion control, etc.)

Category 5

Forest areas fundamental to meeting basic needs of local communities (for example, livelihood, ensuring of health environment, etc.)

Category 6

Forest areas critical to local communities’ traditional cultural identity (have significant cultural, ecological, economic or religious meaning for these communities).

The examples of high conservation value forests are:

  • a forest protecting a stream that is a sole supply of drinking water to a certain community;
  • a small forest area containing some rare ecosystem or (and) a group of rare species;
  • a forest where is located significant archaeological monument;
  • a forest area (section, block, tract) that is a natural cell of species, whose existence is endangered;
  • primeval forest, or the forest with indications of such one.
  • etc.

HCVF shouldn’t necessarily accord to administrative or forest management borders and it can consist from landscape’s units (tract, wood plot, watershed) and part of a unit, or one or few sections or blocks.

High value of forests may increase or decrease with time according to changes in land use, management activities etc. It is necessary to carry out a monitoring to define whether particular forest is of high value that is constantly. The accordance of forest area to HCVFs criteria is checking out every 5 years and after any management activities on them.


The FSC requirements to HCVF

According to the principle 9 of FSCs Principles and Criteria, forestry workers have to:

  • identify high conservation value (HCV), which occur in the forests within separated management units;
  • manage there in order to preserve or enhance the established values;
  • monitor the status of established values and management results.

Under FSC certification, there are four requirements under Principle 9 of “High conservation value forests”, which cover identification, consultation, management planning and monitoring of HCVFs (Box 1.2.)

Box 1.2. FSC Principle 9.

№ of Criterion


Principle 9 of High conservation value forests. Forestry management in the high conservation value forests have to promote maintaining or the improvement of the relevant characteristics of these forests. The decision making regarding forests, which have high environmental value, should be scheduled with particular caution, accounting captiously all possible consequences.


Assessment to determine the presence of the attributes consistent with high conservation value forests should be completed, appropriate to scale and intensity of forest management. The purpose of this criterion is to ensure that any outstanding or critical values (i.e. HCVs) that occur within a forest management unit are identified. This will entail the demarcation of the forests necessary to maintain and enhance the value (i.e. the HCVF) on operational planning map.


The consultative portion of the certification process must place emphasis on the identified conservation attributes, and options for the maintenance thereof.
This criterion requires forest managers to consult with stakeholders (scientists, NGOs, local and religious communities, representatives of government and business, etc.) on the options for the maintenance of any high conservation values forests that are identified.


The forest management plan should include and implement specific measures that ensure the maintenance or enhancement of the applicable value attributes of these forests. These measures should be specifically included in the publicly available management plan summary. This criterion specifies the general goal of management of HCVF – to maintain or enhance the HCV, and also is ensuring that stakeholders are informed about the proposed management regime of the HCVF.


Annual monitoring should be conducted to assess the effectiveness of the measures employed to maintain or enhance the applicable conservation attributes.

It should be emphasized that recognizing a forest (or a part of it) as HCVF doesn’t mean automatic termination of management activities even such as main use cutting. But it means that the management should be planned and used in a manner that guarantees maintaining and enhancing these values.

The FSC Principals and Criterions, document 1.2., reviewed in February 2000. Available at the web-site:

(Source: High conservation value forests: determination and management. (A practical guide for Ukraine))