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The True Value of Forests – in the Emmental Valley and Beyond



What exactly makes forests truly valuable? How can their potential be used to address the needs of human beings and nature to an equal degree? And, more specifically, how should the Swiss Energy Policy 2050 be coordinated with forest conservation? These and other questions were discussed intensively on the 4th and 5th of June 2024 on the occasion of the Dialogue with Purpose on the topic of "The True Value of Forests" held in the Emmental valley of the Swiss Canton of Bern. In response to an invitation from the Wyss Academy for Nature and the Office for Forestry and Natural Hazards of the Canton of Bern, around 35 experts and representatives of civil societyenterprisesciencepoliticsadministration and  arts met for this purpose in Hünigen Castle and in Toppwald forest.

 

32 per cent of Switzerland’s national territory, which is equivalent to approx. 13,000 square kilometres, consists of forest – an area shared by 250,000 private and 3,400 public forest owners. It is obvious that not every stakeholder will share the same perception with regard to the significance and usage of forests. The aim of this dialogue was to openly address different positions and current problems and to develop initial approaches to solutions together.

 

Integrated land use systems are needed

The morning of the first day focused on 'Integrated land use systems for renewable energy in the forest environment'. Disputes regarding land use have intensified over the years in Switzerland. The reason is that, on the one hand, the demands made on land for nature, cultural and water conservation have grown and, on the other, the spread of settlement and traffic infrastructure areas was hitherto only inhibited to a moderate degree. This area of tension was also reflected in the enthusiastic debate regarding Energy Policy 2050. For example, given the need for wind turbines, the strict Swiss ban on forest clearance will probably come under increased pressure.

 

Sustainable utilisation of wood

The afternoon then saw those attending enjoying the forest at first hand. An extended tour in the beautiful Toppwald forest offered the dialogue participants instructive insights into the sustainable utilisation of wood by the state forest service of the Canton of Bern, an approach that, in addition to woodcutting, also includes measures aimed at forest rejuvenation and benefiting nature conservation. What is envisaged in the long term is an even balance sheet with regard to timber, but a long road still needs to be travelled before this goal is achieved. Investigations conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) indicate that more forest wood could be used economically than has been the case to date. However, increased exploitation does not reflect the real situation in forestry. Reasons include the trade in CO2 certificates, unprofitable timber production, opposition to the utilisation of wood and the expansion of forest reserves where the use of wood is largely prohibited.

 

Diverse interests associated with the public forest

In addition to sector-specific interests, however, numerous other societal demands need to be taken into consideration today where the public forest is concerned. The participants started with this topic on the second day. From the jogger to the botanist and the ornithologist to the forest kindergarten employee, to mention a few, all of these are involved in using this resource and have specific and, in part, diverging ideas on how their natural powerhouse should be provided. As a consequence, foresters find themselves increasingly involved as mediators in conflicts over forest use. The fact that some interest groups are better organised and more articulate than others in expressing their involvement does not always benefit the entire population.

 

Developing initial approaches to solutions

The creation of an overview of these diverse and complex problems took some time. This was followed by the development and presentation of concrete solutions. These ranged from new business models for the timber industry, a therapeutic forest for a hospital and an awareness campaign for the forest to a marketplace for biodiversity credits, just to name a few. The fact that the ideas in the co-design process were created in part by small groups with a very heterogeneous composition made them much more likely to endure. And the fact that, following the official conclusion of the dialogue, individual participants got together to further develop their project ideas was a powerful signal that gives cause for optimism.

 

🌍 The Wyss Academy "The True Value of Forests” dialogues, which are a cooperation with our partner, Impact Hub Network , are a series of global events which aim to encourage the exchange of local solutions that promote the value of the forest and to initiate concrete measures. The prelude occurred at the beginning of May in the Brazilian city of Manaus in the Amazonas region. Following the second event, which was held last week in Thailand, the dialogues from the 4th and 5th of June in the Emmental valley represented the third event. The conclusion of the regional series is planned from the 10th to the 17th of June in Madagascar. A global event planned for the second half of 2024 will gather findings from the different regions and contribute to the identification of commonalities shared by all and, also, the special characteristics and features of forests.


🌱 More information is available here:  True Value of Forests – Impact Hub



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