Strong speaker line-up at this year’s Wilderness Academy Days

The only Wilderness Conference focusing on Europe’s last Wilderness will be held May 27-29, 2019 in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Salzburg Lungau. We are proud to announce the participation of exceptional speakers.

For more details, check the Wilderness Academy Days website.

Wild Topics

Three days, 8 sessions including various workshops, a full-day guided excursion in the beautiful Biosphere Reserve Lungau, a Wilderness Film Festival and many more awaits the participants. Sessions will cover Wilderness in the US and Europe, Wilderness Stewardship as well as threats and pressures on European Wilderness. Furthermore, we will talk successful visitor management and the connection of Wilderness and Wildlife. In course of a workshop we will introduce the new and updated European Wilderness Quality Standard and Audit System 2.0.

Wilderness Academy Days Hohe Tauern 2014
Wilderness Academy Days Hohe Tauern 2014

Speakers from all over the world

In 2019 we honour 5 years of European Wilderness Society, 10 years of Wilderness in Europe and 55 years of the US Wilderness Act. Speakers from USA, Germany, Austria, Lithuania, Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic, Georgia, Turkey, Italy, and Ukraine will gather to share experiences about key Wilderness topics.

Keynote speakers Max Rossberg, chairman of European Wilderness Society, Dr. John Hausdoerffer from the Western Colorado University. and Prof. Dr. Pierre Ibisch and the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development will open the 3-day conference.

Sessions on Wilderness

In the very first session Garry Oye Wilderness specialist will share experience with Wilderness interpretation across the 4 US national services managing the more than 600 Wilderness Areas. Following the theme Vlado Vancura will cover the Wilderness Standard on European level. We will then look into what the US and Europe can learn from each other through knowledge exchange.

Garry Oye will share his experiences with Wilderness stewardship in the US Wilderness with focus on respecting natural disturbance. We will hear Wilderness Management experiences from Uholka Shyrokyy Luh Wilderness in Carpathian Biosphere Reserve from Vasil Pokynchereda. Moving to Wilderness in the heart of the Mediterranian, Giuseppe Marcantonio will introduce Majella National Park in Italy – it’s location, zoning system and outstanding natural values.

In the next session Yaroslav Petrashchuk from Gorgany Nature Reserve, Ukraine will open by sharing experience about several decades of Gorgany Wilderness conservation. He will be followed by Zerrin Karaarslan, who will present the history and current potential to protect Wilderness in Turkey. Afterward, we will also take a look at Wilderness in Čepkeliai Wilderness Lithuania through words of Mindaugas Lalepé.

History of Wilderness in Europe will be discussed by Ondrej Kameniar talking about the destruction of Primary Forests in the Carpathian Mountains. In addition, Nese Ersöz will speak on the management challenges of Kure Wilderness in Turkey. Tako Khakhishvili will close the session covering the challenges, threats and Wilderness Potential in Georgia.

Visitor management in Wilderness will be covered by Ondrej Vitek from the Nature Conservation Agency of Czech Republic. Gaga Mumladze chief specialist of visitor service at Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, Georgia will talk about sustainable tourism development. After that, Olena Slobodian will share experiences in Carpathian National Nature Park, Ukraine. Afterward, Vlado Trulik will provide us an insight into sustainable nature guiding in most beautiful corners of Northern Slovakia.

The session Wilderness and Wildlife will include speakers Andrea Lesova presenting about the current status of Capercaillie in Slovakia, David Freudl sharing experiences in the Austrian Thayatal National Park and the Wildcat and Joanna Tusznio speaking about the role of European Bison to local communities in Poland.

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Join more 100+ forest experts demanding a radical change in German forestry management.

Sign the Open Letter to the German Federal Minister of Forestry and Agriculture

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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