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A new strategy for managing forests in the EU will protect the environment while also aiming to create new jobs in rural areas.
Despite a global trend towards deforestation, forests cover more than 42% of the EU’s land area and forest biomass (essentially, wood) supplies half the EU’s total renewable energy.
To protect this important resource, the EU’s new forest strategy calls for woodland to be managed sustainably, improving competitiveness and creating jobs. The strategy also aims to improve quality of life for EU citizens by enhancing recreational opportunities while protecting ecosystems, biodiversity and the environment.
These aims will be achieved through a holistic approach to managing forests, bringing together related policy areas on rural development, enterprise, the environment, climate change, research and development and bio-energy.
Launching the new strategy, EU rural development Commissioner Dacian Cioloş said: “Sustainable forest management, ensuring the protection of forests, is a key pillar of rural development and it is one of the principles of the new forest strategy.”
Alleviating increased demands on forests
Publication of the new strategy follows 2 years of consultation and cooperation between the Commission, national governments and key stakeholders. It replaces an EU forest strategy dating back to 1998 and is needed to respond to the increasing commercial and recreational demands on forests, as well as political, environmental and social change in the past 15 years.
The new strategy also takes account of the effect of climate change on the delicate ecosystems of forests. In particular, rising temperatures and drought in southern Europe are having an effect on tree species at lower mountain altitudes.
The Commission has also issued a blueprint to help forest-based industries, particularly wood-processing and paper, become more efficient. Accounting for some 3.5m jobs in the EU and annual turnover of nearly €500bn, this sector is at the forefront of the Commission’s efforts to create growth and jobs.