Czech farm ministry sparks protests over reforestation proposal

Photo: archive of Radio Prague

The Czech Republic’s largely coniferous forests are facing the worst calamity in years. Experts are warning that if required measures are not taken soon enough, the forests might soon find themselves wiped out. Despite the alarming situation, the agriculture ministry is looking to keep the current monoculture forestry format more or less unchanged.

Jan Skalík,  photo: archive of Masaryk University Brno
Despite calls from scientists and forestry experts for a speedy switch to mixed forests which can better cope with climate change, the Ministry of Agriculture has been quietly working on a proposal that would actually maintain the current prevalence of coniferous trees. Jan Skalík from Friends of the Earth Czech Republic:

“The agriculture ministry proposes to continue with the current unsustainable strategy for many years to come. But we believe that now, when the forests in the Jeseníky mountains and other parts of the country are facing a serious problem, is the time to rapidly change the structure of our forests.

“The ministry proposal allows re-planting spruce trees up to 75 percent in various areas, even in places where forests are dying right now. Environmental organisations, scientists and other experts in the field are proposing to change the structure much more significantly, so that oaks and other broad-leaved species prevail.”

Friends of the Earth have been long calling for a change to mixed forests, arguing that the country’s largely coniferous forests are more vulnerable to diseases, such as the current severe bark-beetle infestation, as well as changes in the level of underground water.

Under the proposal put forward by the agriculture ministry, a mixture of broad-leaved trees and pines, which prevent soil erosion, only account for between 5 to 30 percent of current Czech forests, with the rest being taken up by fast-growing spruces.

But according to Friends of the Earth, spruces would naturally grow only in high altitudes and would only take up about 10 percent of the country’s forests.

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
In reaction to the ministry’s proposal, Friends of the Earth have called on the public to voice their disapproval. Jan Skalík again:

“We were really surprised by the strong reaction of the public. Within the first two days we received over 500 comments from the public and now we have more than 600. People are writing to the agriculture minister and they mostly express their concern related to the large incidence of coniferous trees, which are promoted far too much.”

People can continue to send their comments to the ministry until next week. On June 6, Friends of the Earth are planning to stage a protest outside the government office. They would like to present Prime Minister Andrej Babiš with measure and proposals on dealing with the alarming situation in the Czech Republic’s forests.