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Eastern Europe Still Facing Challenges in Forest Management
Washington, DC, USA, and Rome, Italy, 24 May 2006 -- /PRNewswire/ -- While the rest of Europe is steadily progressing towards sustainable forest management, Eastern European countries are facing many challenges, following the restitution of forests from the state to their previous owners, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)of the United Nations.

Many countries in Eastern Europe restructuring their economic and social systems from central planning to market-based systems have made huge progress in developing a private forestry sector and adapting their institutions, FAO said at the European forestry commission meeting (23-26 May) in Zvolen, Slovakia.

The state has returned forests to former owners or their heirs; changes have been made in policy and legislation for greater private-sector involvement in the forestry sector; and forest institutions, notably state forest services, are adapting to the market economy.

As a result, the forest sector in Eastern Europe is benefiting from a general recovery. Production of forest products in Eastern Europe is growing and trade of forest products with Western Europe is increasing significantly.

Many new forest owners are seeking new skills and resources to manage their forest in a sustainable way. However, their holdings are so small that many owners cannot afford professional advice. There is no established tradition of forest management, nor institutional advice and support.

As a result, forest owners are often tempted to sell all the timber to the first buyer, and then abandon active and responsible management.

"It is important for policymakers in these countries to identify ways and means to assist private small holdings with professional advice, to enable them to take advantage of expanding markets while maintaining forest quality," said Wulf Killmann, FAO Forest Products and Economics Division director.

Close collaboration FAO-UNECE

FAO and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) are working together with other international organizations and with governments to assist in solving problems.

"Southeastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States urgently request support for policy changes and institutional reform," said Kit Prins, senior forestry officer at UNECE.

Countries in the region could benefit from the experience of the new European Union members in adapting to profound changes in their social and economic environments.

Increased efforts are needed to combat forest fires and support forest law enforcement.

Greater demand for social and environmental benefits from forests, such as water management, soil erosion control and leisure, is expected. Improved policy coordination across sectors will be indispensable, according to FAO.

"Overall, private owners will need further support to manage and market forest products better, so that the private forests may become more economically viable. Safeguarding the environmental and social services of forests is yet another challenge," Killmann said.

Discussions at the European Forestry Commission meeting are expected to help policymakers identify and solve problems.

The Commission meets every two years and is part of a global network of regional forestry commissions which together feed ideas and suggestions to the FAO Committee on Forests, scheduled to meet in March 2007.

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)of the United Nations


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