With the further development of the Technical Forestry Plan (“Waldfachplan”, abbr. WAF) in Austria, an impressive exhibition of forestry expertise is given. The application of this instrument permits very interesting cooperations in forest management.
Most foresters associate the WAF with a classical examination question: “Can you name the three instruments of forest area planning?” In these cases it was good to know the right answer: Forest Development Plan, Technical Forestry Plan and Hazard Zone Plan.
Detailed information on technical forestry planning
The legal basis for the Technical Forestry Plan has been set out in the Forest Act since 1975. It shows what purposes the Technical Forestry Plan is to serve, what contents it is to include and what can be achieved for which target group by drawing it up.
Some questions and answers in advance:
- Who is authorised to draw up a Technical Forestry Plan?
The owner of the forest or the “bodies” appropriate for this purpose. This term refers to authorities, offices or organisations, also of private legal nature.
- Who is authorised to prepare it?
Forest managers and civil engineers of forestry.
- Who checks the Technical Forestry Plan on request?
The Provincial Governor through district or provincial officials.
- Is the consent of the forest owners required?
In principle, it depends on the interest and will of the owners or their representatives and authorities whether and for what purpose a Technical Forestry Plan is drawn up. In any case, it does not correspond to an obligatory "top-down planning" with regulatory "must and compulsion".
The commentary on the Forest Act by Bobek - Plattner - Reindl clearly states:
"Survey work in the forest in order to develop a Technical Forestry Plan requires the consent of the forest owner."
- Are there specific formal regulations?
The legislator has not laid down any specific formal requirements for the Technical Forestry Plan in the Forest Act. Detailed regulations on the contents as well as on the form and structure of the forest area plans have to be decreed by order of the Federal Minister of Sustainability and Tourism.
The existing, broadly defined framework conditions include the "chances of the Technical Forestry Plan" to be used as a simple and practical forestry planning instrument.
Flexibility is an essential basis for success, especially in times of increasing challenges from cross-cutting issues.
With the voluntarily applied instrument of a Technical Forestry Plan, a possibility is offered to demonstrate the forest planning competence for the forest and thus to actively contribute to the solution of emerging conflicts of interest.
The actual impulse for the forest area planners of the former Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW) to take a closer look at the Technical Forestry Plan as a possible planning tool came for a number of reasons. On the one hand, it addressed key forest issues like the strengthening of individual responsibility and the motivation of forest owners and, on the other hand, the tackling of the increasing challenges that forestry is confronted with due to so-called "horizontal issues". These can influence forest management in different ways. (Examples: Nature conservation, biodiversity, water resources, cultural aspects and tourism, climate protection etc.)
People involved in forestry – forest owners, forest staff active in enterprises, authorities or the representations of interest – are increasingly confronted with these - partly new - issues. Frequently people from outside “look into” forest management, or even “plan into it”.
From the point of view of forestry it is particularly important to obtain or maintain the leading position in forest-related “management plans”.
In the final end, the responsibility to decide who will prepare the management plans required by the EU, for example with NATURA 2000, and what such plans have to contain lies with the individual countries. The decisions have thus to be made by the relevant Member States. The provincial laws on nature conservation regulate these plans in different ways. The implementation of the Water Framework Directive, another forest-related topic, is just being prepared.
A management plan which is prepared by persons involved in forestry on the basis of internal information and with exact compliance with the relevant specificities, the company goals etc., offers other opportunities and, moreover, will meet with greater commitment than requirements set “compulsively”, perhaps by persons from outside the sector.
The Technical Forestry Plan is a management plan that is suited also for delicate topics. With its development, preparation and application the relevant forest enterprise could also obtain a “planning certificate” for its technical competence.
Based on these considerations, the competent Directorate of the Directorate-General of Forestry at the former Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism (BMNT) - in close cooperation with "BIOSA - Österreich" and Land&ForstBetriebe Österreich (then named “Hauptverband der Land- und Forstwirtschaftsbetriebe Österreichs”) - initiated several pilot projects on selected topics as early as in 2002.
The following themes were addressed:
This pilot project in particular showed that this forestry enterprise serves as a "hub of ideas" for the entire region. It was proven that for centuries a variety of services have been provided and a sympathetic identity has been created! Guiding ideas: "Educate young people in a sustainable and playful way, win new customers, avoid problems in advance!”
- Intensification of cross-farm forest management in southern Lower Austria;
- Implementation of the Water Framework Directive for a committed Styrian forestry enterprise (approx. 9,000 ha of forest area, numerous protected spring areas, several small hydroelectric power plants ...),
- Two technical forestry plans on the subject of "Natura 2000" on selected areas of Österreichische Bundesforste AG.
- In the area of Linz/neighbouring Mühlviertel, a technical forestry plan is being created which will be used at a selected historical location to demonstrate very impressively the diverse cultural services of a forestry enterprise, such as guided tours, exhibitions - i.e. applied information and media work on site.
After completion of the second pilot phase at the end of 2004, these "first" technical forestry plans were presented to the public and the results critically discussed at the Technical Forestry Plan conference held on 3 and 4 November 2004 in Bruck an der Mur.
The results derived from practical experience show for which subject areas the Technical Forestry Plan is appropriate. How much time and money it takes to draw it up and how adaptable it can or should be are important further questions for its acceptance during implementation.
A simple frame serves as a "holding rope”
In good cooperation with the association "BIOSA" and LandForstBetriebe Österreich (Hauptverband der Land- und Forstwirtschaftsbetriebe Österreich) the simple "draft framework for the Technical Forestry Plan" was elaborated. More detailed information can be obtained in (Directorate III/4).
Basically: "As simple as possible" and "as detailed and comprehensive as absolutely necessary or desired for the respective purpose of use!”
Every authorised planner wishing to prepare a Technical Forestry Plan can use the “Framework” and adapt it to suit the topic.
In a supplementary sheet a corresponding scheme is also proposed for detailed planning. This is intended to make it possible to work out even complex and elaborate topics.
In two of the above-mentioned examples (Natura 2000, Water Framework Directive), ambitious planning was necessary so that other competent authorities, too, can officially recognise the Technical Forestry Plan as a management (sub)plan according to the respective legal requirements.
Objectives of the further development of the Technical Forestry Plan
In a few words:
- Intensification of the planning competence of the forestry sector on all topics of relevance to the forest
- Motivation of forest owners to implement new tasks according to plan
- Forestry leadership, also in interdisciplinary topics
- Optimising access to subsidies and contract solutions through performance-related compensations
- Creating suggestions for cross-company cooperation
- Provide support instruments for the reconciliation of interests
- Gradual implementation of classic planning methods: Analysis of the initial situation, definition of objectives, determination of suitable measures, documentation and evaluation of the implementation, feedback and adaptations
“Planning ahead means acting sustainably!”
The principle of sustainability is on the best path to establish itself in many economic sectors. The realization that this future-oriented working principle originated in forestry has now spread beyond industry boundaries. It is no coincidence, of course, that the forestry industry has taken on a pioneering role here.
After all, Austria's forest managers have for more than a hundred years been accustomed to making all important decisions on the land and on the farm in such a way that the forest will be able to fulfil its functions optimally even in several decades. Wrong planning in the juvenile phase and insufficient care of forests lead to consequences which, in extreme cases, are still recognizable centuries later and can only be corrected at great expense.
Particularly in times of rapid change, as we are currently experiencing, it is of great importance to create planning instruments which are suitable for providing long-term and comprehensible orientation for the tasks at hand - but which at the same time make it possible to react quickly, flexibly, and thus cost-effectively, to current changes.
Particularly noteworthy is the partnership-based planning approach, which involves other specialist areas - from official nature conservation to potential partners from tourism, water management, hunting or general area planning - and is thus intended to motivate several specialist areas in a management plan to act in an integrative, forward-looking manner.
Have you become curious?
If you have any questions, contact Directorate III/4.