Forest management planning

Alberta has strict standards for sustainable forest management.


Forests, one of Alberta's most important resources, provide many benefits to society. The Alberta government  is committed to ensuring that Alberta has strong, healthy forests for future generations to enjoy.

Alberta supports the principles of sustainable forest management and responsible stewardship. Forest management planning is essential to sustainable forest management in Alberta.

Forest management planning does not include protected areas. This planning only provides direction for forest management activities and does not involve public land and resources for non-forestry uses. All commercial timber dispositions carry out forest management planning to varying degrees, depending on the type of forest tenure. For more information about forest tenure and timber dispositions, see: Forest Tenure.


Under the authority of the Forests Act, Alberta has developed strict standards for forest management planning. Each type of forest management planning document has specific requirements.

The standards that provide guidance for forest management planning include:

Alberta Forest Management Planning Standard

The government must approve all plans regarding forest management in Alberta.

The Alberta Forest Management Planning Standard (the Standard) and its annexes, interpretive bulletins and updates comprise the standard for preparing and implementing Forest Management Plans (FMP) in Alberta. These standards ensure consistent, thorough plan submissions.

For more information about forest management standards and practices, see:

Timber dispositions

Once a timber disposition is allocated, an extensive planning process is used to ensure sustainability before any trees are harvested. These plans must be approved by the Government of Alberta after consultation with the public, First Nations, and other stakeholders.

Planning documents

There are 3 key forest management planning documents:

1. Annual Operating Plan (AOP)

Annual operating plans describe in detail the harvesting and road building activities proposed for the current year. Annual operating plans must also include details regarding reforestation and fire control plan.

2. General Development Plan (GDP)

General development plans project activities for the next 5 years. These documents include a forecast of the areas scheduled for harvest. They also provide details regarding road requirements and fish and wildlife issues within the planning area. General development plans are intended to guide the integration of activities among different operators.

3. Forest Management Plan (FMP)

A forest management plan turns sustainable forest management commitments into action in the field. This plan summarizes the current state of the forest, as well as the values, objectives, indicators and targets of sustainable forest management developed through consultation with the public, First Nations and other stakeholders. Forest management plans are prepared by Forest Management Agreement (FMA) holders and, in non-FMA Forest Management Units, by the provincial government.

For information about approved forest management plans, see: Forest Management Plans.

Industry Ground Rules

The Alberta Timber Harvest Planning and Operating Ground Rules provide direction to forest companies and government for planning, implementing and monitoring timber harvesting operations on timber disposition areas in Alberta.

Stewardship Report

Stewardship reports describe the monitoring program and how well the objectives of the forest management plan are met. Stewardship reports are required every 5 years.

Public and Indigenous engagement

Members of the general public and Indigenous communities have opportunities to be involved during forest management planning. FMA holders are required to follow the Government of Alberta's Indigenous Consultation Policies and Guidelines, as well as consult with the general public during the development of forest management plans. Indigenous communities are also consulted on the general development plans. As well, the general development plans, final harvest plans and annual operating plans are made available for public review on an annual basis.

Public consultation can include public advisory committees, town hall meetings, open houses within the community, presentations and information on the forest tenure holder's website. For more information, see: Alberta's Indigenous Consultation Guidelines.

Strategic land use plans

From time to time, Alberta prepares strategic land use plans such as Regional Sustainable Development Strategies or the Land-use Framework, regional plans that address the integration of resource uses. Existing land use plans take precedence over forest management plans (FMPs) and provide strategic direction that shall be honoured in the FMPs. The direction may be through zoning, which limits activities in various zones, or by setting values, objectives, indicators or targets to be implemented.

Where strategic land use plans are approved after an FMP has been approved, Alberta and the organization shall discuss implementation of the strategic land use plan, and Alberta may require the FMP to be amended. For more information, see: Land-Use Framework.

Enhanced forest management

Enhanced forest management is improvements in forest growth resulting from thinning, fertilizing, tree improvement or drainage. These enhancements can be considered during the forest management planning process.