New plan will make Czech forests healthier


Forests in the Czech Republic will undergo some profound changes following the adoption of a new National Forest Programme by the government on Wednesday. The plan seeks to change the composition of forests, introduce different kinds of trees and even limit the numbers of game –all in the interest of making forests healthier. After years of disagreements, environmentalists, hunters and forestry experts have finally reached agreement on what needs to be done.

Forests make up approximately one third of Czech territory. They were severely damaged by industrial growth and insensitive management during the 40 years of communist rule, and ever since the fall of communism in 1989, there have been consistent efforts to remedy the damage. On Wednesday, the government adopted a new National Forest Programme, which sets down measures to make Czech forests healthier. Petr Vorlíček is the spokesman for the Czech Agriculture Ministry.

“It is a concept for forest management which will be followed until 2013. It contains individual measures, methods, legal provisions and other steps which determine what should be done with forests and how they should change.”

Similar concepts have been compiled in the past but now, for the first time, the government invited various non-governmental organizations to participate. Jaromír Bláha, who heads the forest programme of Friends of the Earth Czech Republic, says there are two major problems concerning Czech forests which the new programme will address.

“The first is the emissions of toxic acids, while the other has to do with forest management which used clear-cuts. Under the current forest act, clear-cuts are limited to an area of one hectare which results in the degradation of forest soil. Furthermore, Czech forests are mostly composed of spruce and pine monocultures, and we urgently need to improve the diversity of trees, to incorporate more broad-leafs and firs.”

Another issue which needs to be solved is the high numbers of game that damage newly planted trees. The Agriculture Ministry spokesman says the National Forests Programme is a result of a balanced consensus but Jaromír Bláha, of the Friends of the Earth says the talks were tough.

“The negotiations were hard and difficult because the stakeholders have different aims and different attitudes to the forest. I am therefore quite satisfied with the result because we managed to include many good points into the National Forest Programme.”

The National Forest Programme outlines measures to be applied until 2013. While some of the changes, for example a more sensitive approach to timber production, can be applied almost immediately, experts agree that it will take several decades before spruce monocultures are replaced with more resistant, broad-leafed trees.