SW Community Forestry Caucus

Social, or Community; Economic; and Ecological Components


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For many years, the action components of CF have been generally divided into three areas. Toby Martinez , the New Mexico State Forester at the time of the development of the FCSFP, and one its strongest advocates, called this "the three legged stool." In essence, there is fairly wide agreement that the three basic components to community based forestry are: social, or community; economic; and ecological.

Furthermore, there is a belief that these three "capacities" need to exist in some sort of relative balance; in other words, they need to be integrated. If the balance or integration does not exist and one of the elements is over-weighted or out of balance, then it can operate to the detriment of the other two components. For instance, if the economy becomes a very high, or perhaps excessive, priority, then gaining employment or industrial development might be pursued to such an extent as to neglect sustainable ecological or ecosystem goals. Conversely, if ecological goals are pursued to the neglect of economic feasibility, then getting the actual work accomplished will many times, if not always, be prevented. And finally, it is the social, or communal, partnerships and relationships that are needed with an appropriate degree of cooperation to guide the economic-ecological integration process. If the social becomes too dominant, the work on the ground could suffer from endless conversation. If it becomes too weak, leadership is not available, nor is social diversity, advocacy, and accountability to community values and visions.

So, the key among the three major components of CF-community, economy, and ecology--is that they be constructed and sustained in some degree of appropriate equilibrium and integration. Constructing these cooperative or collaborative systems within specific regional or geographic areas is extremely challenging. The history of relationships, cultural values, and recent events all play a role in creating opportunities and barriers to success. Both aid and diminish the balance and integration of the three components at various stages of capacity building. Therefore, there is no single answer or road map for successful implementation of CF. Rather, there are basic attributes and principles that must be developed and followed within the relative constraints and assets of a given setting. This requires a great deal of interpretation, assessment, knowledge sharing, learning, and working with "creative tension," all the while keeping an eye on accomplishing feasible and sustainable work.


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