Erasmus education project on adult Wilderness training

Tamsweg, Austria 31.12.2014. The European Wilderness Society, Hnutí DUHA – Friends of the Earth Czech Republic, Mountain Wilderness and WOLF Forest Protection Movement have launched a new EU project to enhance adult training opportunities and methods about Wilderness and protected area issues.

Did you always wanted to learn (again) how to light a fire without matches? To pick the right plants and turn them into an eatable and enjoyable dish? Or to build a shelter out in the woods to stay dry and safe for a night? All this sounds like nature camps for young people, but Wilderness trainings exists for adults too, in different forms all over Europe.

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Strictly protected areas are essential places to safeguard our European Natural Heritage and also a source of increasingly valuable biological and ecological information for scientists and the public, to whom Wilderness offers wide educational opportunities and a strong emotional experience.

So there is a lot to learn from protected areas, and the interest amongst adults for on-going training programs on wild flora, fauna and natural habitats and also on how to behave in and how to experience wild places is high. Some protected areas have started to fill the gap of offer and demand, and propose training courses.

The European Wilderness Society and three partner NGOs have pooled their experiences in adult training and recently started an EU project that aims to bring fundamental changes in the public attitude towards Wilderness by educating them about the various benefits of Wilderness and its importance. Project partners will look into existing Wilderness education practices, encourage the exchange of best-practices amongst countries and protected areas, and field test innovated curricula of education programs.

The outcome of the 2-year Erasmus-funded EU project will be a best-practice module on Wilderness education methods for adults, as well as guides for professionals and private interest groups resuming the existing training offers.

Through the project, all partners aim to strengthen adult key competencies, increase the public interest for and understanding of Wilderness and thus help nature protection. In the sincere hope to link our ties to nature again, and why not through a self-made meal prepared in a highly enjoyable natural surrounding?


European Wilderness Society
The European Wilderness Society (EWS) is currently the only organization in Europe solely focusing on preserving Wilderness within existing protected areas on a European scale. Following up its key objectives to identify, preserve and restore Wilderness areas throughout Europe, EWS seeks to increase the general understanding and appreciation of Wilderness-related topics within the different European national societies.

The organisation brings all stakeholders of Europe’s Wilderness areas together. It employs a comprehensive approach to meet the complex ecological and social needs of Europe’s protected areas and offers an active exchange amongst protected area managers through its European Wilderness Network. Their team members have participated in the organisation of a series of trainings for Wilderness area managers between 2009 and 2010 across Europe. These trainings were focused on the management of visitors and improving interpretation services.

Hnutí DUHA – Friends of the Earth Czech Republic
Hnuti DUHA (HD), the Czech member of well-known Friends of the Earth International, is an environmental non-governmental organization with 25+ employees, hundreds of volunteers and thousands of supporters. Being the largest environmental NGO in the Czech Republic for over 20 years, HD has contributed to solving modern environmental and civil society challenges using activities ranging from local to national and EU level.

Mountain Wilderness
Mountain Wilderness (MW) was established in 1988. It is recognized as a non-profit association for the public utility. The purpose of this non-profit organization is to unite the alpinists and mountain lovers throughout the world for the defence of the mountains and their natural richness. Its goal is to preserve the most strictly protected areas for the benefit of present and future generations – visitors of Wilderness areas.

WOLF Forest Protection Movement
Lesoochranárske zoskupenie VLK (WOLF Forest Protection Movement) is probably the most well-known Slovakian NGO with a principal focus on Wilderness protection and education. Its activities are aimed at achieving an ecologically stable landscape of north-eastern Slovakia by preserving unique natural forests of the Eastern Carpathian Mountains and adult education in this field. The activities include education of volunteers and public, field monitorings and trainings, advocating for better environmental legislation, promoting close-to-nature forest management at local and regional levels and contributing to the national awareness raising programs at the WOLF centre.

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Sign the Open Letter to the German Ministry

Join more than 70 forest experts demanding a radical change in the German forest management system.

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.


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