The forest possesses many talents. It is a home for animals and plants, an important climate protector and contains a wealth of biological diversity. For us, it is also an important supplier of raw materials. We need timber to build houses and furniture, for the production of energy and for the paper on which this booklet is printed. The forest is, however, also a place of peace and quiet that offers us refuge and recreation in our hectic, fast-paced world. Therefore, the forest is indispensable for all of our lives.
One third of Germany is forested over 11.4 million hectares. The Third National Forest Inventory (NFI) provides good news: Our forest area has remained unchanged. More timber is re-growing than we use. We also have more of it than any other country in the European Union. In spite of high use, our forest stocks rose to 3.7 billion cubic metres. The appearance of German forests is characterized by 90 billion old and young spruces, pines, beeches, oaks and other tree species. The percentage of deciduous trees has risen. The forests have become more diverse and natural in structure. We find more deadwood in them – an important foundation for biodiversity.
The good condition of our forests is the consequence of the silvicultural actions of many forest owners and foresters and the result of a forestry policy based on balance and sustainability that distributes the responsibilities on many shoulders: roughly half of German forests are privately owned. One fifth of them are owned by municipalities, cities and other public entities. One third belong to the Länder and the Federal government. But the National Forest Inventory also indicates the need for action. One example is the spruce: the NFI confirms that the spruce – an important supplier of raw material for the timber industry – is in decline. We must therefore talk about how much spruce forest we need and what alternatives there are to the spruce in the face of climate change.
The forest should be used in the best possible way without overtaxing it. To make sure of this, the Federal government devised the Forest Strategy 2020. Its objective is to express and harmonize our diverse demands on the forest. This is the only way to maintain our chances for having intact forests for future generations as well. That is why my maxim is “Our forests: utilize and preserve.” The aim of this booklet is to generate understanding for the forest, forest owners and foresters. It provides citizens with the opportunity to get to know the functions of the forest and appreciate its value. Hence, the booklet is a contribution to sustainable forest management.
Christian Schmidt, Member of the Bundestag
Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture