In Depth

High Conservation Value Forests

Sensitive forests of outstanding and critical importance due to their environmental, socio-economic, biodiversity or landscape values are considered sensitive forests—or “High Conservation Value Forests” (HCVF). Also known as “sensitive forests”, fiber from these forests is defined as new fiber originating from a forest management unit with at least one of the following six values:1

  1. Regionally, nationally, or globally significant biodiversity concentrations (e.g. endemism, endangered species, refugia)
  2. Regionally, nationally, or globally viable populations of naturally occurring species in large landscape level areas
  3. Contain rare, threatened or endangered ecosystems
  4. Supply critical ecosystem services (e.g. watershed protection, erosion control and fire barrier)
  5. Fundamental to meeting subsistence and basic health needs for local communities; and
  6. Critical to local communities cultural identity (e.g. sacred sites).

Resources for the identification of sensitive forests
The six values listed above are are conceptual definitions, and as such, operational definitions will need to be employed. The following resources can be used as a guide to applying operational definitions to interpret and address sensitive forest values:

  • The High Conservation Values Network: ProForest, 2003, The High Conservation Value Forest Toolkit, Volumes 1, 2, and 3;
  • NatureServe, Natural Heritage Program and publications
  • Global Forest Watch maps of intact forest areas,
  • “Ecological Components of Endangered Forests,” which was developed by ForestEthics, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Rainforest Action Network.


1. Jennings, Steve, Ruth Nussbaum, Neil Judd, and Tom Evans. The High Conservation Value Forest Toolkit. Publication. 1st ed. WWF and IKEA, 2003. Part 1. (