Beginning in 1996, a small group of leaders from forest industry, donors, and environmental groups began to meet to consider the array of challenges facing forest conservation and began to identify common ground. This group recognized the respective contributions and limits of their own institutions and decided to create a new organization - Forest Trends - to expand this work of bridging traditional divides and promoting market-based approaches to forest conservation.
In 1998, the group agreed on an organizational model for the new organization. Forest Trends would be a small, nimble, and responsive non-profit organization with three principal roles: convening market players to advance market transformations, generating and disseminating critical information to market players, and facilitating deals between different critical links in the value chains of new forestry. The original group of participants was expanded to include additional representatives from industry, finance, and community conservation, and this enlarged group became the original Board of Directors. The Board was expanded in late 1999 to include representation from other major forest areas besides the United States, including Russia, Brazil, Malaysia, and Canada.
This history, this Board, and our focus on market approaches are Forest Trends' unique strengths. The Board is unusual in that it internalizes the wide diversity of opinion and interest active in global forest issues, yet is bound by the common desire to increase the contribution of markets to improved forest conservation and the livelihoods of people. This unique combination of diversity and common ground enables the organization to better understand the issues and trade-offs associated with different perspectives and to help provide leadership for reconciliation. It also establishes a powerful platform from which Forest Trends can survey the horizon for emerging issues and opportunities, so that it can help bring into focus some of the longer-term global dimensions.