Forest Development Plan

The Forest Development Plan (WEP) is an expert opinion on the functions of the entire Austrian forest based on the forest Legislation.

In Austria, the forest as a formative landscape element must be reconciled with the increasing spatial demands of our society in order to ensure its sustainable existence for us and for future generations.

The Forest Act of 1975 already stipulated in its section "Forest Land-use Planning" the presentation and the forward-looking planning of the Austrian forest conditions.

The results are contained in the Forest Development Plan (“Waldentwicklungsplan”), which has been available nationwide since 1991. This expert opinion on the functions of the entire Austrian forest provides a comprehensive ecological, economic and social basis for forest policy and regional decisions.

Forest Development Plan - what for?

The Forest Development Plan is a superordinate planning document which is to present the forest conditions on federal level, identify the key functions of forests and, by means of foresighted planning, is to help maintain all forest functions for the long term in the best possible way. All measures required to achieve these goals have to be indicated and ranked according to their levels of urgency; appropriate actions to implement them have to be launched.

The Forest Development Plan is an important basis for political and legal decisions of relevance to forestry.

It is increasingly used also for non-forest-related planning in the fields of transport, landscape development and general area planning. Data are used in multiple ways.

The Forest Development Plan can be used as a transparent framework document for specific services provided by forests in the public interest. On federal and provincial level issues like the provision of wood as a raw material, the storage of drinking water, air purification, carbon dioxide capture from the atmosphere, protection of the resource soil, protection against natural hazards as well as the provision of bioenergy can be illustrated. In addition, the Forest Development Plan can also provide a basis for the granting of aids or for other forest-political decisions as well as for measures aimed at improving the status of forests for the federal territory.


Objectives of the “Forest area planning - Forest Development Plan”

  • Nationwide updated and harmonised presentation of the forest effects according to the mandate set out in forest legislation:
  • Preparation of “WEP-AUSTRIA-DIGITAL”- the GIS version of the Forest Development Plan;
  • Preparation of special plans, e.g. summary of the provincial concepts for the amelioration of protective forests as a basis for the “Schutzwaldstrategie”;
  • Presentation of forests with special habitats (biotope protection forests) according to section 32 a of the Austrian Forest Act 1975 as applicable;
  • Safeguarding and extension of the forest-technical planning competences;
  • Innovative cooperation in landscape development;
  • Development of strategies for the assessment of the forest effects;
  • Transnational exchange of know-how and experiences in the field of forest land-use planning to preserve forest effects for the long term and presentations of forest effects (careful use of resources).

Preparation of the Forest Development Plan (maps and textual part)

The Forest Development Plan is prepared by the provincial and district forest inspection services for individual planning areas which usually correspond to the political district. The sub-plans and any updates thereof require the approval of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT).


Assessment of the forest functions/contents of the plans of the Forest Development Plan

In each WEP sub-plan (political district), the functional areas (minimum size 10 hectares) are delimited on the basis of forest law criteria; the functions are assessed according to three levels, the key function is determined and graphically represented in a 1:50,000 map of Austria. The key function or key effect is that function of the forest which is of highest value or of high public interest.

Key functions according to the Forest Act 1975 as applicable, Section II, Forest Area Planning:

Productive function (E): green;
Protective function (P): red;
Beneficial function (B): blue;
Recreational function (R): yellow.

In this context, a valency is assigned to every function:

Valency1:   Low valency
Valency2:   Medium valency
Valency3:   High valency

The Forest Development Plan consists of a map section and a textual part.
In the map section, the forest functions are presented on the basis of a 1:50,000 map of Austria (ÖK 50). The textual part (database) contains a description of every functional area. It informs about location, site, forest effect and its legal reason as well as on any impairment of functions with corrective actions and a priority ranking.



Apart from a one-off, digital merger of the analogue sub-plans in 1990 without updating, the Forest Development Plan has so far existed as a collection of analogue sub-plans.
In recent years the competent bodies of forest area planning on federal and provincial level and the Federal Forest Research Centre have worked to create the concept of a new EDP-supported realisation of the overall Forest Development Plan of Austria, named WEP-Austria-Digital.
The aim is the introduction of a continuously updated overall plan using digital data acquisition at provincial level. At the same time, the work of the provincial authorities in the preparation of sub-plans should be facilitated.
As a fundamental part for the new overall plan WEP-Austria-Digital, a data model definition was developed and implemented in the production of a database application.
The area-wide implementation of WEP-Austria-Digital is about to be completed. For information, please contact Directorate III/4 .


Work aid "WEP-Richtlinie 2012" for reference:

In cooperation with the provincial forest services and the legal department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, the (former) Directorate of forest area planning, landscape development and forest protection revised the guideline on the content and design of Forest Development Plans in 2012.
Due to amendments to the Forest Act and the changing public interest in forests over the course of time, it became necessary to update the previously applicable guideline for the preparation and revision of "Forest Development Plan - Sub-plans" of 2006 and to adapt it to the state-of-the-art in data technology. Practical experience in valuation, new criteria and the necessary traceability of forest-technical decisions were taken into account.
This currently applicable guideline can be used as a printed work aid and is available at Directorate III/4, Marxergasse 2, A-1030 Wien.

Access to the Forest Development Plan

If you want to take a look at the Forest Development Plan, you have several options:
You can either contact Directorate III/4 at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT) or the provincial forest administrations at the offices of the Provincial Governments. The district administrative authorities (district forest inspectorates) can also provide insight and information. 

published at 25.08.2020, Kommunikation und Service (Abteilung Präs. 5)