Best practice examples from the INTERREG EUROPE project BIOGOV
Did you know that when we make plans for our forests, we have to consider the next 50 or even 100 years? You can imagine: Forest management is not an easy thing to do – and decisions taken are often subjects to controversy. To reduce the conflict potential and involve different interest groups, the concept of participatory planning is embedded into the policy making processes in Slovenia. Therefore, those affected by planning decisions; individuals, groups or organizations, can become part of forest management planning. Both institutional and personnel capacity are needed for successful participatory planning. Improving the skills and knowledge on participatory approaches of local forest management planners, as well as institutional support for participatory processes within planning, is important for information sharing regarding management strategies, problem solving with local stakeholders, and improving acceptance of the results of the participatory process.
The overall objective of the BIOGOV project in Slovenia is to facilitate a participatory process in forest management planning, focusing on implementing biodiversity aspects into management plans of two forest management units. Within the participatory approach to prepare the plans, the following activities were agreed upon within the stakeholder groups:
- Establishment of recreational trails, separated from the biodiversity rich zones in the forest management unit Medvode. Recreation is one the most widely recognised and increasingly important forest services. During the regional stakeholder group workshops in the forest management unit Medvode, the responsible forest manager presented the plan for conflict resolution between forest owners struggling with people interested in recreation activities in private forests, mainly in mountain biking. Complaints of forest owners were mostly related to soil erosion, and they were concerned that mountain bikers could hurt themselves. To make it even more complicated, forest owners can even be held responsible for injuries suffered by mountain bikers in specific cases. For this reason, the unit’s forest manager opened a discussion with individual forest owners and forest owners’ associations to plan coordinated and agreed-upon forest recreation trails that would cause minimal damage to forest ecosystems and private land. Forty-three forest owners agreed to participate, and activities to establish these trails are underway.
- Strengthening the role of biodiversity in the forest management unit plans: Forests in most Slovenian regions have been heavily attacked by bark beetles (mainly Ips typographus) since 2015, the main reason being climate change and its various effects, such as extreme weather events (ice breaks, windthrows), drought stress, abundant bark beetle populations and changed forest stands with predominant share of Norway spruce. Sanitary harvesting of infected or dead trees resulted in a highly altered forest composition. Given the changed conditions, a question raised during forest management planning was on what type of species composition should be promoted to better suit the environmental conditions going forward. Within the regional stakeholder group in the Desni breg Save forest management unit, the needed changes in species composition due to bark beetle attacks were addressed. The promotion of different, more resistant and resilient forest tree species and diverse forest tree populations were proposed by forestry experts and communicated to the forest owners. The discussion focused on how to include the aspect of tree species diversity into the forest unit management plan.
In addition, the two project activities had a multiplier effect and successfully promoted the participatory approach in implementing future forest management practices for conservation of biodiversity. A similar participatory approach was used in the preparation and adoption of the handbook on perspectives for forest and conservation management of riparian forests (Interreg Danube project REFOCuS).
This text was prepared by Tjaša Baloh (Slovenian Forestry Institute, Slovenia), Simon Poljanšek (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, Slovenia), Boris Rantaša (Slovenian Forest Service), and Marjana Westergren (Slovenian Forestry Institute, Slovenia)