President of the Association of Private Forest Owners in Austria
Today 46 percent of Austria is forestland, and 80 percent of this is privately owned. Therefore about 3 million ha of forests are managed by private owners themselves or by their managers.
These 200 000 forest owners need an effective representation of interests because of the many demands by society on forest owners.
1. ASSOCIATION OF PRIVATE FOREST OWNERS
The Association of Private Forest Owners represents about 600 companies, which is an area of 800 000 ha. These companies manage forests from 200 to 30 000 ha. This association consists of seven federal associations. In Austria the most important laws regarding taxes and forests are dealt with by the federal republic, so there has to be a good connection between the association in Vienna and its members. The main task of the organization, on the one hand, is to advise members; on the other hand, the organization strives for good working conditions in the forests.
2. FOREST COMPANIES
Forest companies in Austria are similar to industrial companies in certain functions (bookkeeping, balance, taxes, industrial law, etc.), but are quite different in other aspects because of having to struggle against the powers of nature. Austrian forest companies are responsible for 11 000 employees and also receive orders from external companies to build roads, cut trees and transport logs. There is a good working relationship between forest companies and farmers. Many of them do logging for some months of every year.
Forest companies deliver logs to sawmills and pulpwood to pulp and paper mills all during the year. Austrian forests together deliver about 11 million m3. These industries totally are responsible for 100 000 employees.
3. ECONOMIC SITUATION
In 1993 Austrian forestry had the worst economic situation since the end of the Second World War. As a result of the 1990 storm and consumption decreases in the following years within the European countries, and then the consequences of the devaluation in Italy and northern countries, log prices were reduced 50 percent. The financial situation in forest companies became dramatic and is still dramatic because about 80 percent of receipts come from wood sales. Forest companies had to resolve this situation by themselves, they have no support from official payments. This is foreseen for the future.
4. FOREST COMPANIES AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS
There are different opinions between "Green Groups" and foresters concerning the management of Austrian forests. Some of these environmental organizations want foresters and forest owners to leave their forests, so they have the opportunity to take over. They want to stop cutting trees, they want to preserve biological diversity and they want to manage national parks.
Nevertheless there are groups which would like to discuss forest management. In this respect it is necessary to establish a positive dialogue.
5. DUTIES AND METHODS
The following aspects are involved in forest management:
a) The promotion of wood should be the aim of all wood producers. Additional uses for wood and wood products need to be found. Consumers should be encouraged to use wood and wood products conscientiously.
b) Through proper forest management many other benefits are derived besides wood: recreation, defence against avalanches and landslides, water, protection of natural genetic resources, etc. These benefits should be paid for by those people who want them to be produced. Constantly forest owners are confronted with new ways of using forests (mountain biking) and new restrictions (no forest roads, no wood products from outside Europe etc.). It should be emphasized that all these demands eventually result in higher costs and lower returns for forest companies. So at least somebody will have to pay something.
c) Private forest owners are normally responsible for their forests for one generation. Sustainable management in our forests implies that following generations could manage their forests in a similar way. Sustainable management leads to stabilized or improved natural resources and conditions.
In summary it should be noted that private forest ownership, using firm rules and laws based on the economic principle, seems to be the best way to manage forests. Private management is the most economically effective way and which at the same time assures ecological and social functions.