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    What is a forest management plan?

    Many Poles do not realise that timber harvesting is not just ‘cutting down trees,’ but a planned activity preceded by a professional inventory. The size and method of harvesting are defined in the forest management plan. What is it and how is it created?

    Forest management in the State Forests is carried out based on forest management plans, which are drawn up for the forest districts for 10 years. Such plans are made by specialist units, such as the Bureau for Forest Management and Geodesy.

    Everything under control

    The preparation of the plan is always preceded by a thorough inventory and assessment of the condition of the forest. The forest is meticulously ‘trodden’ by specialists, who determine its features such as structure, age, species composition, health status, soil, habitat conditions, etc. Patches of land that are homogeneous in terms of their characteristics are referred to as ‘compartments.’ Each of these is approached individually, designing ways of further management and the amount of timber that can be harvested.

    “The size of the timber harvest is not derived from market demand. If that were the case, we would not have forests for a long time, because wood is in fashion and the demand for this raw material is still growing (…) The volume of harvesting results directly from the natural capacity of the stands,” Jozef Kubica, Acting Director General of the State Forests, explains.

    The activities envisaged in the plan take into account the objectives of forest management and the functions performed by forests. Therefore, the colloquial and completely inadequate ‘tree felling’ is as many as several dozen different forms of management. In younger stands, it is cleaning and thinning, which loosens the stand structure. In mature stands, it is clear-cutting, which properly regulates the access of light and microclimatic conditions for the new generation of trees.

    No loss of forests

    The term ‘forest management’ itself has an origin of more than 200 years. It was called the introduction of the first principles of rational management, based on the division of the forest into concessions, their description, and the drawing of maps. Each subsequent planning stage was a ‘revision of management.’ Although this approach has a centuries-old tradition, modern plans are made using the latest technological developments. Today, the basic working tool is a numerical map, which is part of a geographic information system (GIS). A plant plan is a gigantic database, which the map processes graphically. Aerial and satellite images are used in inventories. Laser scanning is sometimes used in the measurement of affluence (amount of wood per hectare). One thing remains unchanged, just as was the case centuries ago, the plan today is to ensure that we do not lose our forests. And as the statistics show, there is an effect. Poland’s forests are growing.

    Following the growing importance of forests, modern plans contain more and more elements. In addition to the description of forests and land to be afforested, an analysis of forest management in the past period, an integral element today is the nature conservation programme. This is testimony to treating the natural functions of the forest on the same level as the economic and social functions. The plan also includes space for the definition of tasks related to the care and protection of the forest, hunting management and the creation of forest infrastructure (buildings, roads).

    Mandatory public consultation

    Forest management plans are so important that all citizens have the opportunity to make comments during the drafting stage. Forestry authorities even organise consultation meetings where the assumptions are presented and then the finished draft plan. This is a good time to take the floor and, together with foresters, agree on a management method that takes into account, for example, the recreational value of places where people rest or walk. Ultimately, the Minister for Climate and Environment approves the plan.

    It is worth mentioning that similar planning rules apply to all forests in Poland. Also private ones. Every person in his/her forest should follow a simplified version of the plan, which has been increasingly funded by the State Forests in recent years.

    “The State Forests spend around PLN 2 million annually on the implementation of the plans, which are an aid in managing forest stands by a million private owners (…) All this is done to ensure that Polish forests are managed responsibly and appropriately,” Michał Gzowski, spokesman for the State Forests, recalls.

    State Forests / press material

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