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Euromontana alerts against encouraging large-scale afforestation in the next EU Forest Strategy

During the last plenary session of the European Parliament in October 2020 the report of MEP Petri Sarvamaa on the “European Forest Strategy – the way forward” was adopted. This report reflects the position of the European Parliament on the protection of European forests and their sustainable management. It precedes the European Commission’s communication on the new Forest Strategy for 2030, which is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2021.

MEPs voted in favour of a relatively balanced text, recognising the different forest-use patterns as well as the benefits of the sustainable forest management practices implemented in our forests. In particular, MEP Sarvamaa’s report underlines the importance of forestry for the development of the circular and bio economies in mountain areas, of its positive impacts on green growth, job creations and rural revitalisation as well as on the protection of our unique biodiversity.

Nevertheless, the European Parliament’s report also “welcomes afforestation and reforestation as suitable tools in enhancing forest cover, especially on abandoned land that is not suitable for food production, close to urban and peri-urban areas as well as in mountainous areas, where appropriate”. Euromontana rejects such call for afforestation in mountain areas, which would cause irreversible biodiversity losses. Euromontana does not refuse any reforestation process but wants to draw attention on its impacts on territories. On intensively used lands for agricultural production, where forest resources are scarce and where all the hedges disappeared, reforestation can enhance biodiversity by restoring habitats. Yet, in mountain areas, large scale afforestation of natural grasslands or culturally rich historical small-scale landscapes can lead to the loss of specific species, as it is happening in the Alps where meadows and open spaces are disappearing. Thus, a place-based approach is particularly important in mountain areas.

Therefore, Euromontana calls upon the European Commission to present an EU Forest Strategy which embraces all purposes of forests, supports the development of circular value chains in mountain areas and that promotes a territorial approach of the afforestation process, taking also into consideration its potential negative environmental and socio-economic impacts on some habitats such as mountain grasslands.

20 October 2020

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