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Why forests should stay at the core of EU rural development policy – EUSTAFOR

The EU’s Rural Development Policy is the main tool to support the implementation of sustainable forest management and, thus, enable contributions of forests to improve competitiveness and job creation, while ensuring the delivery of ecosystem services to the society at large. In a recent position paper, the European State Forest Association (EUSTAFOR) provides seven policy recommendations to enhance rural development policy post-2020 in context of EU employment and energy objectives.

The EU’s Rural Development Policy is the main tool to support the implementation of sustainable forest management and, thus, enable contributions of forests to improve competitiveness and job creation, while ensuring the delivery of ecosystem services to the society at large.

During its General Assembly held on February 26, EUSTAFOR adopted a position paper called “Sustainable Forestry for Rural Livelihoods” that outlines seven policy recommendations to enhance rural development policy post-2020 in light of the EU objectives in relation to “Jobs, Growth and Investment” and “Energy Union and Climate. EUSTAFOR gives the following seven priorities:

  1. Adaptive forest management needs to be supported – It is essential to ensure the present and future adaptability of Europe’s forests to climate change by investing in innovative, adaptive forest management systems, including those related to gene conservation and plant propagation materials, forest health and disease control.
  2. The risk resilience of forests must become a priority – Prevention of forest fires, pests, storm damages and other threats can be effectively done through further investments in Sustainable Forest Management, the diffusion of agroforestry systems, and the development of infrastructure.
  3. Sustainable management of existing forests is as important as afforestation – Investments in active forest management are necessary not only for rural development but also for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Moreover, continued innovation and investments in forestry are essential to improve existing forest stands and enhance their quality and productivity.
  4. State forests must be recognized as enablers of the rural renaissance – There is a need to enhance the synergies of using wood and improving land management by raising consumer awareness of sustainable production and consumption patterns. The RDP post-2020 should also aim to facilitate new innovation partnerships, which are of great importance for rural development.
  5. State forests contribution to biodiversity and Natura 2000 should be better recognized – State Forest Management Organisations can ensure the implementation of measures on a large scale. However, in order for the biodiversity and Natura 2000 objectives to be met, the Rural Development Policy post-2020 must ensure that the incentives are provided based on the implementation results achieved.
  6. Supporting the delivery of ecosystem services from multifunctional state forests is crucial – Extra costs resulting from the provision of ecosystem services, which are not paid for by the market, need to be taken into consideration by support systems ­in order to secure the economic viability of forest management.
  7. Incentives must be based on the provision of services rather than on the type of ownership – The provision of ecosystem services to the public should always be economically sound and, when this is not possible, it must be supported on the basis of clear and ambitious common objectives. In EUSTAFOR’s view, such support should, therefore, be provided regardless of ownership or enterprise type.

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