What is a Forest of Recognized Importance?

What is a Forest of Recognized Importance

A Forest of Recognized Importance (FORI) represents a globally, regionally and nationally significant large landscape area of exceptional ecological, social, cultural or biological value. These forests are evaluated at the landscape level, rather than the stand level and are recognized for a combination of unique values, rather than a single attribute.

FORIs may include but are not limited to landscapes with exceptionally high concentrations of one or more of the following:

  • protected, rare, sensitive or representative forest ecosystems such as riparian areas and wetland biotopes
  • areas containing endemic species and critical habitats of multiple threatened or endangered plant and animal species, as identified under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) or other recognized listings
  • recognized large ‐ scale cultural or archeological sites including sites of human habitation, cities, burial grounds and in situ artifacts
  • areas containing identified and protected water resources upon which large metropolitan populations are dependent
  • areas containing identified unique or geologic features including geysers, waterfalls, lava beds, caves or craters

FORI vs. Special Site

FORIs and Special Sites share similarities in that they recognize unique biological, geological, and/or historical features. However, they differ in terms of scale. FORIs hold global, national, or regional significance and are evaluated at the landscape level, while Special Sites hold local or personal significance and are evaluated at the stand or sub-stand level.

Here are some examples to put the difference of scale in context:

  • A vernal pool (Special Site) vs. Yellowstone (FORI)
  • A family cemetery (Special Site) vs. a National Battleground (FORI)

Please note that just because a feature is old, does not mean that it warrants special site designation. There are criteria related to significance, age and integrity that are used for special sites of historical, social or cultural value. For more information on the identification of historic special sites, please see the 2015-2020 ATFS Standards and Guidance.


Forest of Recognized Importance is a term first introduced in AFF’s 2015-2020 Standards of Sustainability. FORI replaces the High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) designation in an effort to address confusion related to conservation of ecosystems of recognized importance at the landscape scale.

Standard 5: Fish, Wildlife, Biodiversity and Forest Health

Performance Measure 5.4: Where present, forest management activities should maintain or enhance forests of recognized importance.

Indicator 5.4.1 Appropriate to the scale and intensity of the situation, forest management activities should incorporate measures to contribute to the conservation of identified forests of recognized importance.

How do I know if I have a Forest of Recognized Importance? 

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