Forests represent a remnant wilderness of high recreational value in the densely populated industrial societies, a threatened natural resource in some regions of the world and a renewable reservoir of essential raw materials for the wood processing industry. In June 1992 the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro initiated a world-wide process of negotiation with the aim of ensuring sustainable management, conservation and development of forest resources. Although there seems to be unanimous support for sustainable development from all quarters, there is no generally accepted set of indicators which allows comparisons to be made between a given situation and a desirable one. In a recent summary paper prepared by the FAO Forestry and Planning Division, Ljungman et al. (1999) find that forest resources continue to diminish, while being called upon to produce a greater range of goods and services and that calls for sustainable forest management will simply go unheeded if the legal, policy and administrative environment do not effectively control undesirable practices. Does the concept of sustainable forest management represent not much more than a magic formula for achieving consensus, a vague idea which makes it difficult to match action to rhetoric? The concept of sustainable forest management is likely to remain an imprecise one, but we can contribute to avoiding management practices that are clearly unsustainable.