FOREST DEVELOPMENT PLAN (FDP)
With 47% of its total surface area under forest, Austria ranks among Europe's most densely forested countries. It was one of the first countries in Europe to establish a national forest development plan, bringing together expertise on the functions of the country's forests and offering the ecological, economic and social bases for decision making on forest policy and preservation of traditional land use patterns.
Tasks and objectives
FDP is a silvicultural outline plan designed to demonstrate forest conditions throughout the country, identify the major functions of forests and contribute to foresighted planning for more sustainable and efficient preservation of forests and their functions. It also aims to act as an important reference point for decision-making on forest policy and non-forestry planning issues.
Design of the Forest Development Plan
In the design of the plan, Austria's total forest area was divided into individual planning areas which, by and large, coincided with the country's political districts. Partial plans were drawn up for each area, comprising a descriptive text and a map of the area. The descriptive text covered the basis for forest area planning, more detailed description of function areas and a summary-planning catalogue. The map indicated function areas and, where necessary, was complemented by special maps of planning inputs of importance for forestry.
Determination of function areas
Function areas, of no less than 10 ha each, were determined on the basis of the main functions they served, and the following percentage breakdown was obtained in terms of total Austrian forest area:
Forests with a productive function are commercial forests in which timber is produced using environmentally-sound and sustainable methods.
Forest with a protective function are those that protect against environmental hazards, such as avalanches, mudflows and rockfalls, and often act as windbreaks. They may also help preserve soil resistance to erosion and drift, formation of debris and landslides. In addition, the forest ‘kampfzone’ (last line of defence) has a protective function.
This refers to the positive influence of a forest on the environment, in particular its balancing effect on the climate and water regime, its contribution to the elimination of pollutants from the air and water, and its noise-reduction effect.
Forests that are open to visitors exert a recreational function, particularly those in the neighbourhood of large cities.
Evaluation of functions
The four functions are evaluated according to criteria derived from the Forestry Act and laid down in the guidelines for content, arrangement and design of the FDP. Each function in a given area is assigned a numerical value:
Numeric values are assigned to the protective, beneficial and recreational functions -in this order -to derive a three-figure configuration for each function area.
Role of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in FDP
Individual partial plans for the FDP are drawn up at provincial level and approved by the provincial governor, before submission to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for approval. The Ministry examines each individual partial plan which subsequently become operationally effective with the signature of the Minister. The FDP remains in effect for 10 years and, prior to expiry, must be revised and re-submitted for approval.
FDP in practice
For years, the Forest Development Plan has formed the basis for enforcement of forest law, and thus plays an important role in the substantiation and consolidation of forest expertise.
A copy of the plan is available in electronic form throughout the country. The data bank, which contains the most important data on forest size, main functions, constraints, measures and the urgency of measures, is operated by the Federal Forest Research Institute in Vienna.
These data form the basis at both provincial and federal levels for all policy decisions, such as the granting of subsidies or measures to improve forest protection. They are also the basis for the design of detailed projects.
It should be noted that this information is increasingly being consulted by non-forestry planners such as the Federal Railway company, power supply companies and cableway companies. Detailed plans included in the FDP (87 in total) are open for consultation: those regarding individual districts at district forestry level and at provincial forestry administration level. All 87 plans may be consulted at the Forestry Department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
Due to the need to renew FDP at 10-year intervals, the plan is continually able to identify those forest measures that have been or are planned, and those that have already been implemented. This permits continuous forest surveying and foresighted planning for Austrian forests, with the aim of preserving expanding forest areas and guaranteeing the protective, beneficial and recreational functions of the country's forests.