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Dieter Hanak-Hammerl

Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Vienna


About half of Austria's area is covered by forest land. Therefore, the right use of sustainable management can only be done by a natural oriented forestry. This guarantees a continuous supply of timber, a steady flow of income for the owners - the employers as well as for the employees of the forest industry - and it is also the basis of settlement and agricultural utilization of our environment. Natural oriented forest management can only be a compromise between ecological conditions and economic objectives. The conflicting interests of economy and ecology compel foresters to be flexible since they must deal with public interests more and more.

A basic principle of Austrian forestry is the principle of sustained yields to preserve the forests, their functions and social benefits. This does not necessarily mean to merely copy the regularities of nature but to think in economic terms as well. The strategy of a natural oriented forestry is to combine economy and nature. A well-planned forest policy could be applied to the high standards of environmental policy. However without the natural protective effects of forests - especially regarding avalanches, torrents and mud-rock flows - our Alpine region could not be settled and inhabited.


The basic principles of our Forest Act, which guarantees our forestry concept, are the following:

1. conservation of woodland and forest soil;

2. preservation of forests so that the productive capacity of the forest soil is ensured and the economical as well as the social functions of the forests are guaranteed;

3. assure potential yields for further generations;

4. reafforestation and special treatment of protective and protection forests;

5. forest protection against pests, fires and air pollution;

6. general restrictions related to harvesting;

7. the obligation of forest enterprises to employ trained personnel, and a required standard of education;

8. governmental support to improve all effects of forests;

9. forest land use planning and a forest development plan;

10. tasks and objectives of the Federal Forest Research Institute, Vienna;

11. rules regulating the use of forest seedlings and forest plants suited to the site for afforestation and reafforestation;

12. supervision by government forestry authorities of forestry rules and regulations.


Austria has a land area of 8 385 000 ha and a total population of about 7 988 000. The forest land is approximately 3 878 000 ha; this is 46.2 percent of the land area or half a hectare per capita. Austria consists of nine federal provinces. The forest cover per province depends on territorial shape, agriculture and types of settlement and it extends from 32 to 60 percent.

For example, 41 percent of Upper Austria is presently covered by forests. According to agricultural and forest statistics, Austria has approximately 214 000 forest holdings of which 140 000 are smaller than 5 ha; 57 000 forest holdings are from 5 to 20 ha; 12 000 enterprises are in the category from 20 to 50 ha; 4 000 forest holdings are from 50 to 200 ha; and about 1 000 enterprises are larger than 200 ha. The total Austrian forest area can be classified as follows:

- private enterprises under 50 ha


- private enterprises over 50 ha


- common forests


- forests owned by the church


- forests owned by communities and provinces


- federal forests


The forest land (3 878 000 ha) is divided into commercial forests (3 044 000 ha), protective forests in yield (286 000 ha) and protective forests out of yield (455 000 ha); 92 000 ha of the forest area are out of production. Productive forests, that are commercial forests and protective forests in yield, represent 86 percent of the total wooded area.

Since 1961 a forest inventory continually assesses the state and development of forests. The Austrian Forest Inventory is allocated to the Federal Forest Research Institute. The inventory covers the proportions regarding ownership and types of forest management, size of the wooded grown area, growing stock, increment, distribution of tree species and their composition, age classes and growth classes, altitude, exposure and inclination of the forest area, damages, silvicultural treatments, density of skidding tracks and forest roads, soil and site, etc.

In addition there are more facts to consider. The average growing stock of the productive forests is 292 m³/ha and the total growing stock is 972 million m³. The yearly increment in productive stands is 31.4 million m³ and the yearly amount of fellings is about 19.8 million m³. Therefore, the sustainability of timber production is assured.

Increment as well as growing stock have increased in the last two decades, especially in low stocked farm forests; this is a positive outlook considering carbon dioxide sequestration and the greenhouse effect. According to the inventory the accessibility of productive forests is about 97 000 km - 32 m/ha of which more than half are farm forests. The opening up of protection forests is 9 m/ha. About 140 000 km of skidding tracks are constructed in passable areas of productive forests; 15 percent of logging is done by cable logging systems.

Forest roads are made not only for logging, but are also required for silviculture, above all in protection forests. On the other hand, truck roads are also used for access to agricultural land and Alpine pastures as well as for hunting, tourism and other purposes (for example forest fire control).


Satisfactory forest management can only be accomplished with well-trained foresters and that is why forest education and forest research have such a long tradition in Austria. There are various levels of forestry education: The training of forest wardens takes a year at a forestry school. The tasks of forest wardens mainly comprise the guarding and supervision of forests. Foresters are trained at two technical forestry high schools for five years and require a final examination under federal supervision after a two-year practice. They are employed in enterprises ranging from 500 to 1 800 ha on a supervisory level; enterprises over 1 800 ha are obliged to employ graduates from the university of agriculture. After a three-year practice they have to pass an examination under federal supervision.

Professional training of forest workers is also regularly conducted and is carried out by agricultural schools as well as by the training centres for farmers or forest workers such as Ort. Presently there is a steady decrease of professional forest workers due to increasing mechanization and a preference for less strenuous professions. Today forest enterprises are forced to accomplish forest operations by employing farmers as well as logging contractors, more and more.


The most significant objectives of the Austrian Forest Act dealing with a sustainable management of forests are the following four principles: production, protection, environment and recreation. The productive function guarantees the supply of timber; the protective function should reduce dangers caused by nature, harmful environmental influences and it should maintain soil productivity; the environmental function of forests affects the environment, especially the balance of climate and water regime as well as the purification and renewal of air and water and the reduction of noise; recreational effects are a very important aspect for the Austrian tourism industry.


Another article of the Austrian Forest Act deals with forest grants. The objective is to conserve and improve all functions of forests concerning public interests. In this case the federal government, as well as the provincial governments, issue grants for the various treatments in forest stands. The grants are not for the purpose of raising the income of forest owners, but primarily to improve forest conditions.

Healthy forests, which are optimally adapted to climatic and soil conditions, guarantee commercial and social benefits. Tree species have adapted to climatic and soil conditions in the process of evolution during thousands of years. Our task is to ensure that the natural selection in adaptation will not be disturbed by man. The Forest Act is also based on that necessity and it regulates the requirements for seeds and plants used for afforestation and reafforestation in Austria.

Forest research has assessed the growth conditions in the Austrian forests and the results show the territorial distribution of tree species and their associations in specially defined growing areas. Wherever natural regeneration cannot produce seedlings, restocking with plants of selected origins is used in re- and afforestation.


The selection of seed stands for forest plant production is controlled by the Federal Forest Research Institute. On the other hand, the collection, handling and marketing of seeds and forest plants is controlled by forest authorities. The task of forest authorities is not only to supervise forest management with regard to the Forest Act, but also to advise and guide forest owners in order to avoid violations.

The Federal Forest Research Institute was founded about one hundred years ago to do research and provide solutions to forest problems. Through advanced scientific surveys and experiments, this Institute has to serve forestry; 275 employees of the Institute are required to analyze the state and development of Austrian forests - to determine the causes of damage inflicted to trees, to test seeds and pesticides, examine forest working methods, tools and mechanical equipment, etc. Presently one of the main tasks of detailed forest analyses is to research the causes of worldwide forest decline and alteration of stands. The Federal Forest Research Institute, the University of Agriculture, as well as many other scientific institutions, work intensively in this field.

Research has revealed that air pollution has been caused by industry, traffic, power stations - which are using coal or fossil energy - and heating systems in general. By means of political as well as technical measures, it is necessary to reduce those pollutants and their adverse effects on air, water, soil, plants, animals and men.

For the following years another objective of the Forest Research Institute is the protection and conservation of the natural genetic resources of our forests, if all efforts to reduce air pollution do not prove to be successful. The genetic variety of tree species in a country with such various growth conditions as Austria has to be preserved. For this reason a storage of seeds of all Austrian tree species, as well as plantations for tree conservation, have to be established and furthermore the conservation of healthy trees and forests needs to take place.

An additional and important responsibility of forest policy, forest research and forest management will be the redevelopment of the protective and protection forests. Mankind has made large accessible areas into the Alpine region for settlement and tourism. The Austrian forest inventory documents a highly unsatisfactory present condition of those stands, which actually require special protection because of their ecological needs. This has been caused by a rapid change for the worse in environmental conditions as well as increasing public demands on forests. In terms of the so called "federal restoration planning of protection forests" precautions have been made to protect forests from torrents and avalanches, to regenerate over-mature stands as well as to reduce damaging effects such as game population, forest range, air pollution, tourism, etc. In cooperation with forestry, Alpine pasture management, tourism and hunting, a mutual consensus has to be found to guarantee the regeneration especially at the boundary of these forest stands.

The silvicultural and harvesting management of our forests should go hand in hand with ecological principles, in conformity with the laws of nature and the intervals of natural growing conditions. Not only for our generation but also for future generations forests should provide timber for mankind, a natural protection against imbalanced amounts of water, balanced climatic conditions and an unspoiled natural setting for rest and recreation.


Total area of Austria:

8 385 000 ha


7 988 000

Total wooded area:

3 878 000 ha or 46.2% of Austria's area

Commercial forests

3 044 000 ha (Productive forests with 86% of total wooded area)

Protective forests in yield

286 000 ha

Protective forests without yield

455 000 ha

Average growing stock:

292 m³/ha

Commercial forests

295 m³/ha

Protective forests

254 m³/ha

Total growing stock:

972 000 000 m³

Commercial forests

899 000 000 m³

Protective forests

73 000 000 m³

Total product of cutting per year:

19 800 000 m³

Annual increment:

31 400 000 m³

Ownership categories:

Forests enterprises less than 200 ha

2 059 000 ha or 53% of total wooded area

Forests enterprises more than 200 ha

1 238 000 ha or 32%

Austrian federal forests

581 000 ha or 15%

Number of forest owners

214 000

less than 5 ha

140 000

5 to 20 ha

57 000

more than 20 ha

17 000

Distribution of forests by altitude and inclination:

Commercial forests up to

900 metres above sea level


900 to 1200 metres


higher than 1200 metres


Commercial forests inclined up to 30% . . .


Protective forests up to

900 metres above sea level


900 to 1200 metres


higher than 1200 metres


Commercial forests inclined up to 30% . . .


Composition of tree species:

Coniferous trees:


Norway spruce


European larch


Silver fir


Scots pine


Austrian black pine


Cembran pine


Other conifers


Broad-leaved trees:






Other broad-leaved trees




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