Forest disaster in Slovakia

The forests in Slovakian mountains are considered by many to be the landscape least impacted by humans in Central Europe, in the last two decades. This is not true anymore. This part of Slovakian natural heritage is gone.

Slovakia is facing the worst ecological disaster in its history. The European Commission has given this country two more months before it steps in. Slovakia has one weeks remaining before this ultimatum. If Slovakia does not stop destroying the last remnants of its natural forests in Europe by March of this year, the European Commission will refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union. There is a threat of extraordinary fines.

The sad news is that the sanctions from the European Commission will not restore the old-growth forests and natural forests that have been lost from the Slovakian Mountains and protected areas. Ongoing logging, approved or ignored by political leaders, is already threatening not only the disappearing capercaillie, but above all it is threatening the people. For example they lose water-quality, natural biodiversity or the old-growth forests inherited from great-grandparents.

Salvage logged slopes in buffer zone of National park and Natura 2000 site Large Fatra mts
Bark beetle outbreaks are managed in traditional way also in protected areas

Sustainable forestry?

Forestry is an industry which was once considered an example of a sustainable activity. Forests were growing naturally and spontaneously. The role of the forest managers was to maintain forest continuity whilst simultaneously producing timber for society. Because of this process, the logging was interpreted as an important management tool for how to maintain sustainability in the forest.

Currently this model of sustainable forestry is under serious threat. Many people visiting Slovakian mountains are asking the question: how is it possible that areas protected under national and international legislation, are being logged? Slovakian National Parks, Natura 2000 sites, many areas that focus on nature conservation, do not have the protection they need.

Why it is important not to log

There are several reasons why not. Looking at this issue from the legislative perspective, logging is not compatible with the primary purpose of protected areas – to protect nature! Logging leads to a massive loss in biodiversity. From the sustainable use perspective, large scale logging effectively means depriving our children of forests in the future. And ecologically, the current scale of logging is alarming as it accelerates global warming.

Strictly protected natural reserve (Bielovodská valley) in oldest National park in Slovakia – High Tatra mts. National park.

Clearcuts in protected areas

Forest in Slovakian protected areas is managed by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Two contradictory laws applied – Environmental law and Forestry law and that cause chaotic situation. Forestry law is often contradictory also to Natura 2000 legislative and overriding either Environmental law or European Union legislation. Result is the salvage logging in protected areas and planting of unnatural “forest”. Slovakian foresters often claims, that they are protecting forests from bark beetle, but the way they do is suppressing natural dynamics and postponing regeneration of natural forests.

The result is that currently a large part of many protected areas is clearcut. Walking in these protected areas is often like walking through land recovering from war. Overturned land and mud runs into the channels left by forest tractors after logging. There is dirt, oil spills and massive erosion. It is something that should not happen in protected areas.

widespread logging takes place also in so called “protecting forests”, which represents special category in forestry law, where nonproduction functions are (formally) overriding. This is in the centre of Large Fatra National Park

Loss of potential Wilderness

The current intensity of logging inside Slovakian Protected Areas is unprecedented. Logging today is more intensive than in the 18th century, which is a time when the majority of forest in Slovakia disappeared because of a huge need for timber and land for agriculture. Forests which spontaneously restored in the last 200 years, which could fall into the criteria for high-quality European Wilderness, is disappearing. Slovakia, recently very proud for its extensive network of protected areas, has less and less chance to contribute to the European Wilderness Network.

official reason for this cut in natural “protecting forest” was salvage logging. But in the end, along with dry spruce, many beech, fir and acer trees were cut down

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7 thoughts on “Forest disaster in Slovakia

  1. Human stupidity and greed are going to kill us all, sooner or later

  2. Slovenská vláda + parlament = banda skorumpovaná mafiánska.

  3. Sad and frustrating! I would be interested to hear what the sanctions will be.

  4. It is simply a nasty business for few and the rest, who work for the industry, do not realize what they do 🙁
    The legislation was made(left) on purpose in the way so that it could be bypassed so that the business can continue. Hunting and deforesting is the main goal… Unfortunately. There is huge public disagreement, but those at the top do not give a damn. Slovak state Forrest industry behaves as the worst capitalist. But while usually the capitalists deprave other countries to keep their intact, our government does exactly opposite…

  5. it seems that forestry practices in Poland and Slovakia are fundamentally different. I am wandering why? Is that embedded already in the forestry education…?

  6. the real problem with Slovakia is that similarly like in Ukraine, they are allowed to make cleacuts in their mountains and what is even more dangerous – those logged stripes of the forest are done vertically, so after removal of timber, the whole slope is open to massive erosion and loss of upper soil. Why they are doing that is completely impossible to understand, such practices are unthinkable over the ridge in Polish part of the Carpathians

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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.

Motto: SYSTEMIC FOREST ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT INSTEAD OF WOOD FACTORY

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