Our forests need sustainable, near-natural forestry. The protection of the environment must be a key element of forest management. Structurally rich mixed forests are the goal. They should progressively replace the existing pine and spruce age-class forests through a move to sustainable silviculture with no clearcut areas.
A near-natural managed forest not only helps to conserve biological diversity. It is also more resilient to storms and pests, as well as to climate change, which alters the natural environmental conditions. This type of forest has more stable forest stands and produces higher-quality timber, safeguarding the bases of domestic forestry and the timber industry over the long term.
For the protection of biological diversity, appropriate strategies for integrated nature conservation must be applied. Among other things, enough old growth and deadwood must be left in the forests, for these are vital for the survival of certain species of fungus and insect. In intensively managed forests where mature trees are felled before the processes of ageing and decay can begin, these species face particular challenges and are therefore, very often, the species most at risk.
We Greens rely on a variety of measures to achieve our forest policy objectives. Among other things, we want general minimum ecological standards to be enshrined in the Federal Forest Actas a general framework for all forests and woodland. A road map is set out in our motion entitled "Amendment of the Federal Forest Act and the Introduction of Minimum Ecological Standards in Forest Management" (Bundestag Printed Paper: BT-Drucksache 16/9450), tabled during the 16th electoral term. We want to achieve objectives that go beyond these minimum standards by means of stringent certification schemes and contractual nature protection in forests, e.g. with co-financing of forest environment measures being provided under the EAFRD Regulation.
There are some forests which require and must be afforded particular protection. Sites with particularly stringent protection status – such as nature reserves – should preferably be transferred to the ownership of public and private bodies which have a public-interest commitment to nature conservation.
Almost all of Germany's woodland consists of commercial forests. In future too, the majority of Germany's forests must continue to be managed and used for the commercial production of timber as a sustainable resource. At the same time, we support the goal of turning 5 per cent of Germany's woodland over to natural development. To some extent, we understand the fears and concerns voiced by the German forestry and wood-based industryin opposition to these plans. If sites are taken out of use, felling will decrease, and some adverse effects on the German forestry and wood-based industry therefore cannot be ruled out. At the same time, the market will attempt to source this timber elsewhere, resulting in increased pressure on other forests, e.g. in the tropics.
Nonetheless, we believe that Germany has an obligation to limit the use of its forests. We have various commitments which we must honour, such as our responsibility – also at international level – to protect Germany's beech forests. In the interests of conserving biodiversity, maintaining a minimum stock of forests with zero use is extremely important, for this allows the development of forests that are in a nature state with full species diversity. What's more, Germany must pursue a credible forest policy at home if it expects other countries to put ecological concerns before commercial interests, for example in relation to the conservation of their primeval and tropical forests.
From a silvicultural perspective, too, a certain proportion of natural forest area is useful as a reference area. These forest ecosystems, which are free from human disturbance, offer us a snapshot of natural processes. They show us how nature responds to changing conditions. In view of climate change and increasing pressure of use, this can provide foresters with valuable information which may well have long-term economic benefits as well.