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Debating the future of the European forestry model in Donostia

2024 March 14

Experts from the forestry sector analysed the current forestry policy, its challenges, and opportunities at the Kursaal Palace. The context is marked by EU legislation, climate change, and the need for generational change in forestry ownership.

The meeting centred on cooperation and ongoing dialogues regarding forestry among the European Commission, Member States and regional governments. Discussions revolved around topics such as climate resilience, forest fires, and the circular bioeconomy, prompting a reflection on the desired forestry model for Europe. The forum attracted a diverse array of voices, including representatives from institutional forestry policy and organisations spanning social economic and environmental sectors.

Throughout the presentations and roundtable discussions, the socio-economic backdrop shaped by global warming has been a focal point. The imminent threat posed by forest abandonment, driven by declining profitability in forestry activities and a lack of generational succession in ownership has been highlighted. Additionally, the adverse effects of climate change on forest health have been acknowledged, potentially impacting ecosystems, heightening the risk of wildfires, and constraining the advancement of the Circular Forst Bioeconomy.

The conference was organised by the Union of Foresters of Southern Europe (USSE) with the support of Hazi Fundazioa and the Regional Ministry for Economic Development, Sustainability and the Environment. It showcased the diverse forestry landscapes across the Euskadi-Navarra-New Aquitaine Euroregion, Portugal, Galicia, and the rest of the Cantabrian massif. The aim is to communicate these circumstances and ensure they are considered when implementing the various measures and actions resulting from the European Green Deal.

The Basque Country exemplifies territorial resilience, diversity, complexity and balance. The forested area covers 55% of the total territory, with 47% in Alava, 60% in Bizkaia, and 62% in Gipuzkoa.

A European vision for forestry ecosystems

Bittor Oroz, Vice-Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Policy for the Basque Government extended a warm welcome to a delegation of European experts. Oroz emphasised the need of adopting proactive forest management practices and advocated for incentivising landowners to engage in sustainable forestry practices. “Expanding wood’s use is paramount and we have effective instruments for achieving this, such a quality certification. A resolute commitment to forest management is essential,” he stated.

Nelson Grima, Deputy Coordinator of International Union of Forest Research Organizations’ (IUFRO) Science-Policy Programme delivered a presentation called, “Forests in a Global Political Context”. He explained the historical trajectory of deforestation rates worldwide and various international agreements aimed at addressing this pressing issue, noting that “only 25% of forestry agreements are established on a global scale.” Grima stated that, “despite advancements, challenges persist, particularly the proliferation of stakeholders involved. Enhancing coordination among them and across various levels of agreements is imperative. Such agreements should be tailored to regional realities rather than solely relying on global metrics.

Markus Lier, policy analyst at the European Commission's Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, presented the EU's vision for forests in the face of climate change. He emphasised the importance of monitoring forests and enhancing their resilience. He said: “Forest management decisions often must be made with incomplete information due to the uncertainty of how the climate will evolve. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritise forest resilience as a goal. Active management is necessary to help forests become more resilient.”

In her presentation titled 'How to Govern Forests in the EU', Helga Pülzl, a representative of the European Forest Institute (EFI), highlighted the need for greater flexibility in the implementation of forestry regulations in the EU. She recognised that “there should be more communication between decision-makers and implementers.”

The afternoon session consisted of three subject-specific round tables moderated by Andreas Nikolaus Kleinschmit von Lengefeld, who is the Director General of Homo Silvestris Europae.

The first section focuses on the desired forestry model for Europe, as well as the opportunities and challenges facing Europe's forests. The participants included Markus Lier from the European Commission, Helga Pülzl from the European Forest Institute, Nelson Grima from IUFRO, and Franz Thoma from the Bavarian State Forest Enterprise. During the debate, the issue of the forestry reality was raised, specifically the level of knowledge among community institutions, universities, and society.   Moreover, it is important to consider the bioeconomy’s importance and the objectives of European policies in addressing landowners’ concerns.

The discussion then focused on aligning forestry policies with research and development and implementing them on the ground in response to the climate crisis. José Luis Chan, who is the Director General of Forest Planning and Management at the Regional Ministry for Rural Affairs of the Xunta de Galicia; José Francisco Silva, who serves as the Vice-President of the Associação Florestal de Portugal (FORESTIS); Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat, who is a researcher at the European Forest Institute Mediterranean Facility (EFIMED); Gölin Carina Christiansen, a policy advisor at the Northern Sweden European Office Brussels and a member of the ERIAFF Network, and Ferrán Dalmau-Rovira, an expert in forest management and the director of the company MEDI XXI GSA, participated in the meeting.

The final panel discussion centred on the social perception of European forests and the necessity of combining various management models to achieve resilient forests that provide goods and services to society. Participants: Fermín Olabe, Director of the Forestry and Hunting Management Service of the Department for Rural Development and Environment of the Government of Navarre; Oskar Azkarate, General Director of BASKEGUR, the Basque Timber Association; Bruno Lafon, President of the USSE and of the Syndicat des Sylviculteurs du Sud-Ouest (France); Professor Bill Slee, from the James Hutton Institute (Aberdeen); and Damya Srivastava, advisor to the International Forestry Students' Association (IFSA).

Oskar Azkarate discussed the challenges facing the forestry-wood sector, including digitalisation and the bioeconomy strategy. “We have been working for several years to implement new technologies and conduct research and development to create innovative products that will enable us to enter new markets. However, a bioeconomy strategy cannot be successful without using local raw materials.” Azkarate stated that the sector is facing an “uncertain and concerning future. A systemic and integrated approach is necessary when implementing policies and regulatory developments that affect forest management.

4 comments
  • Photo Xaver
    2024 March 18

    Gerta litezkeen sute bortitzagoei aurrea hartuz, tenperaturen igoera orokorra dela eta, hurbileko egoitzak ere kaltetu daitezkeenean. Segurtasun-neurriak hartu behar dira, baita oinezkoak kontrolatzeko ere, arrisku handiagoa dagoenean, eta espazio-erabileraren balizko tasak ezarri behar dira, mantentze-gastuen kudeaketa bermatzeko.

  • Photo Xaver
    2024 March 18

    Previniendo incendios posibles más voraces por el aumento generalizado de temperaturas dónde además residencias cercanas puedan ser afectadas, con medidas seguridad incluso control personas viandantes cuando hay riesgo más elevado imponiendo posibles tasas de uso espacio para garantizar su gestión gastos mantenimiento.

  • Photo SN Robot
    @BittorOroz
    2024 March 14

    Comentario de Twitter:
    🌲Euskadi es un territorio forestal con una amplia diversidad de especies y una compleja composición de propiedad y masas forestales. Para afrontar el cambio climático, la sostenibilidad o ámbitos como la bioeconomía es necesaria una gestión transversal

    🔗https://t.co/S0C8D1lOTZ https://t.co/bDQTM9vZqG

  • Photo SN Robot
    @BittorOroz
    2024 March 14

    Comentario de Twitter:
    🌲 Euskadi baso-lurraldea da, espezie-aniztasun handikoa eta jabetza eta baso-masen osaera konplexua duena. Klima-aldaketari, jasangarritasunari edo bioekonomia bezalako esparruei aurre egiteko, beharrezkoa da zeharkako kudeaketa egitea.

    @USSE_Forest

    🔗 https://t.co/S0C8D1lOTZ https://t.co/Au91H65rJ9

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Politicians attending the event
  • Bittor Oroz Izagirre
    Vice-minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Policy (XII term)
  • Peli Manterola Arteta
    Director de Hazi, Fundación del Gobierno Vasco para el Desarrollo Rural, Litoral y Alimentario (XII term)