Management of natural forests in Costa Rica allows timber extraction in so far as it is guaranteed that the logging activities comply with diverse Sustainability Principles, Criteria and Indicators (PCIs). These are hierarchical and complex systems used, ex-ante in the formulation and approval of the Management Plan but have not been used for ex-post evaluation of managed forests. Development of sustainability evaluation systems that include few criteria is highly recommended. In that sense, the choice experiments contribute to simplification of the initial system of decision making, complementing a complex system of PCIs that permits detailed analysis of the management units. In this study, a choice experiment was included in a Delphi application and 5 key variables were identified to evaluate the sustainability of managed natural forests. These variables are, in order of importance—technical, legal and administrative conditions; external financing conditions; production performance; costs of preparing the Management Plan; and payment mechanisms for environmental services. The definition of these variables confirms not only that the technical, legal and administrative conditions are critical for sustainability but also that they could reflect the type of governance involved in sustainability forest management.
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