THE PROTECTIVE FUNCTION OF MOUNTAIN FORESTS
Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Vienna
1. OBJECTIVES OF FOREST POLICY
The main objective of forest policy is to maintain efficient agriculture and forestry in mountainous regions in consideration of their socio-economic requirements (income maintenance, tourist industry, improvement of infrastructure, sales management and sales increase, landscape management, protection of settlement areas, protection from natural catastrophes, etc.).
The topography, as well as the property structure which is dominated by small holders, requires a special kind of forest management in order to safeguard the multifunctionality of forests in these regions.
Considering the intentions of the resolutions of the Ministerial Conferences on the Protection of Forests in Europe (Strasbourg 1990 and Helsinki 1993) and the Alpine Convention (mountain forest protocol), Austria has prepared and taken appropriate measures and developed strategies for a practical application in order to meet this challenge of managerial functions in mountain forests, particularly in protective forests.
The principles of the resolutions Strasbourg S 4 (mountain forest management), Helsinki H 1 (sustainability) and Helsinki H 2 (biodiversity) were particularly integrated in the strategies of forest policy and in the list of measures.
2. STRATEGIC TARGETS OF FORESTRY
The strategic targets of forestry are maintenance and improvement of forests with the following partial objectives:
- improvement of protective forests
- reafforestation in high-altitude areas
- forest management and tending of woods that are nature oriented
- safeguarding of forest seeds and propagation material in accordance with local conditions
- appropriate forest area to fulfil all functions of the forest
3. METHODS USED IN FOREST PLANNING
The methods used in forest planning that permit the application of strategies of forest maintenance and forest regeneration should have:
- forest development plans (evaluation and determination of forest functions: commercial, protective, welfare, and recreational functions);
- concepts of the federal provinces to improve the protective function of the forest (urgent need to improve protective forests);
- hazard zone plans (endangered areas in settlement areas in the catchment areas of torrents and avalanches);
- provincial conferences on the promotion of forests (lists of priorities for subsidized projects in forestry of the individual federal provinces).
4. PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF MEASURES
The regional concepts of different strategic levels of agriculture and forestry are guidelines for the practical application of measures.
The general list of measures for the tending of forests and forest improvement is applied and realized in particular in mountainous and Alpine forests within the framework of the following projects and programmes:
a) Watershed management projects to improve the protective function of forests, including technical constructions with protective function.
a1) Watershed management projects to improve protective forests by forestry measures include technical constructions with protective functions;
a2) Watershed management projects to improve the condition of forests in catchment areas of torrents and avalanches by means of forestry measures.
b) Projects of reafforestation of high-altitude areas (reafforestation of Alpine pastures and grazing areas, elevation of the forest limit).
- these projects of watershed management and reafforestation of high-altitude areas are developed and carried out in cooperation between the division for torrent and avalanche control and the provincial forest authorities.
- the practical application of these priorities is given to projects in those catchment areas with protective forests that need to be improved.
c) Promotion of forest management and tending of forests which are nature oriented.
- individual promotional projects - selective promotion of individual measures in order to strengthen the infrastructure in forestry, forest regeneration, tending of woods and careful exploitation;
- adaptation of the guidelines for promotion of the objectives of a forest management which are nature oriented.
d) Programme for the maintenance of genetic resources
The programme for the maintenance of genetic resources, for the maintenance of forestry seed and propagation material suited to the site comprises:
- seed banks
- seed orchards
- forest stands which are to be conserved on site
The programme for the maintenance of genetic resources is carried out under the leadership of the Federal Forest Research Station, Vienna, in cooperation with the provincial forestry division and with the help of forest owners.
List of measures for forest maintenance and forest improvement:
- promoting the development of stocky forest stands in accordance with local conditions
- more frequent use of exploitation and regeneration procedures which treat the soil carefully with priority given to natural regeneration procedures
- promoting reafforestation in high-altitude areas and reafforestation of former agricultural areas
- giving incentives to create an ecologically feasible stocking density of game and to relieve the forest from forest pastures (separation of forest and pasture)
- developing a control system of those seeking recreation in mountain forests in order to provide better protection for particularly sensitive ecosystems
- developing an employment programme for the tending of forests and care for forest rides and footpaths, which contributes as well to the income maintenance of agricultural enterprises
- counselling in view of an increase in the stability and structure of unstable forests
- improving the accessibility of forests which are opened up insufficiently or not at all in order to increase the profitability and to ease silvicultural management
- working out Forest Development Plans for common forest property
- improving the training for forest owners and rural supervisors
- supporting educational efforts and strengthening counselling in order to emphasize the importance of forest management and to promote joint timber marketing
- promoting rural and municipal energy supply by biomass, using, in particular, timber as fuel
- promoting common marketing initiatives
- feasibility studies in all communities in question
- encouraging counselling for prospective and economically interesting projects
- promoting investments in the establishment of infrastructural constructions and in counselling
- priority list of project subsidies in forestry in the individual federal provinces
- programme for the maintenance of genetic resources: maintenance of forestry seed and propagation material
5. CONTROL AND PROOF OF THE FULFILMENT OF THE PRINCIPLES OF FORESTRY POLICY
From the point of view of the Austrian forestry policy, sustainability of forest management and maintenance of the biodiversity of the ecosystem means that the exploitation and tending of forests are done in such a way that the multifunctional requirements of the present are met, however, without diminishing the resource supply for future generations.
A European list of indicators and criteria will be an essential prerequisite for the fulfilment of the principles of forestry policy in the true intention of the Strasbourg and Helsinki conventions. Such a list will render possible evaluations of the effects of strategies and measures in the true spirit of these resolutions.
On the basis of forest functions as defined in the Forest Law 1975 (commercial, protective, welfare and recreation functions) Austria has, by means of the Forest Development Plan (FDP), illustrated the main functions of forest areas and thus established the fundamental orientation of management and tending of these forest areas. This instrument of area planning is the basis for the development of regional concepts for the general control and promotion of forest management.
An important basis for the evaluation of the fulfilment of the principles of the resolutions and the guidelines of forestry policy is the Austrian Forest Survey, the data of which permit the interpretation of development tendencies as to the sustainability of silvicultural management. The project "Hemeroby of Austrian Forest Ecosystems" will permit an evaluation of the extent to which the intentions to maintain biodiversity have been fulfilled.
Objectives of forest policy
Considering the intentions of the resolution of the Ministerial Conferences on the Protection of Forests in Europe (Strasbourg 1990 and Helsinki 1993) on the Alpine Convention (mountain forest protocol) Austria has prepared and taken appropriate measures in order to meet this challenge of managerial functions in mountain forests, in particular in protective forests.
The objective is to maintain efficient agriculture and forestry in mountainous and Alpine regions in consideration of socio-economic requirements (income maintenance, tourist industry, improvement of infrastructure, sales maintenance and sales increase, landscape management, protection of settlement areas, protection from natural catastrophes, etc.).
The strategic targets of forestry are maintenance and improvement of forests with the following partial objectives: improvement of protective forests; reafforestation in high-altitude areas; forest managements and tending of woods which are nature oriented; safeguarding of forest seeds and propagation material suited to the site; and appropriate forest area to fulfil all functions of the forest.
Methods of planning
The methods used in forest planning should have: forest development plans; concepts of the federal provinces to improve the protective function; hazard zone plan; and provincial conferences on the promotion of forests.
Practical application of measures
The general list of measures for the tending of forests and forest improvement is applied and realized in particular in mountainous and Alpine forests within the framework of the following projects and programmes: watershed management projects to improve the protective function of forests including technical constructions with protective function; reafforestation in high-altitude areas; promotion of forest management and tending of forests which are nature oriented; programme for the maintenance of genetic resources; and regional concepts for the maintenance of efficient agriculture and forestry.
Control and proof of the fulfilment of the principles of forest policy
From the point of view of the Austrian forestry policy, the course of action to fulfil the policy should include: an enforcement of the Forest Law by forest authorities; an Austrian Forest Survey which will evaluate and interpret the development tendencies of Austrian forests; and a survey of the Austrian forest ecosystems.