2. Austrian Forest Act

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In this section, the nature and contents of an Austrian Forest Act is considered an example. The investigation follows closely the presentation of Act by Weiss (2000).

Outline of the Austrian Forest Act 1975 (amended 1996)

The Act attributes four functions to the forest: (1) productive function (i.e., sustainable timber production), (2) protective function (i.e., protection against erosion and natural hazards (3) welfare function (i.e., the protection of environmental goods like drinking water), and (4) recreational function (use for recreation). The functions are zoned by the authority in the forest development plan. 1

The overall principles of the Act are:

1) the preservation of forest area, 2) the preservation of the productivity of forest sites and their functions, and (3) the preservation of yields for future generations (sustainability) For this purpose, any clearings have to be reforested, and forest sites and stands may not be destructed, degraded or damaged. The forest may not be used for any other purpose than for forest culture. More importantly, protective forests have to be treated without the impairment of the protective functions. If the preservation of a protective function or a requirement for water procurement is needed, forests have to be banned by the authority. For such a ban, forest management prescriptions have to be prescribed and forest owners have a right to compensation by the beneficiaries of the forest.

Everybody has the right of access to any forest for recreational purposes, no matter if it is private or public property. This right is restricted to day-time use and only by foot entry (i.e., berries and mushrooms may be collected by anyone for non-commercial purposes). If there is a very high interest in the recreational use of some forests, they – with compensation to the forest owner – may be declared recreation forests. In addition to timber production, protective purposes and recreation, only certain “by-uses” are allowed. These comprise of forest pasture, the collection of leaf and needle litter, and tapping for resin.

Timber production is described as the main use of forests. At the same time this use is restricted to sustainable management. For this purpose, immature stands (as a rule no younger than 60 years) may not be felled. An official supervision system is installed for producing and trading Christmas trees-clear cuts exceeding 2 hectares or clear cuts putting a threat on soil, water household, or protective functions are forbidden. Clear cuts exceeding 0.5 hectares have to be approved by the authority and special supervision is carried out for fellings in protective forests. Stricter regulations of forest management are in force on a provincial level in the mountainous parts of Austria.

Since 1884 the prevention of torrents and avalanches has been regulated by forest legislation. Local governments and the Torrent and Avalanche Control Service prepare hazard zone plans and carry out preventive measures such as construction or afforestations.

Forest companies are obliged to employ professional forest personnel (trained at forest high schools and university). Subsidies are available to enhance forest functions that include the support for productivity and for the competitiveness of forestry and timber production (i.e., road construction, marketing, extension services). Forest authorities at the provincial level supervise forests, forest management and logging, and carry extension services to the forest owners and distribution subsidies. (Weiss 2000)

Weiss (2000) shares some criticisms that the multiple-use concept is poorly operationalised, not only in formulation but also in policy implementation since the forest authority is oriented towards its main clientele- the forest owners. Also, he regards the traditional technocratic and introverted style of forest politics and forest policy to support economic interests. New challenges include the preservation of biological diversity and ecological sustainability with the introduction of the participatory processes.

 

Examples
 

Legal commitments regulating the regeneration of forest stand after clear-cutting, forest fire or other calamities (Bauer et al. 2004)
A cleared area on forest land shall be reforested in a reasonable time frame.The forest owner shall regenerate forest stands after clear-cutting or if destroyed.The replacement of forest stands can either be performed by natural seedling or artificially.
Regulations concerning public access to forests (Bauer et al. 2004).
Public access to forest is a fundamental right of people in many European countries. The principle of free access subject to certain restrictions ensures the availability of forest for recreation and amenities and has considerable importance of public health and welfare.

 

1: Catchment areas of torrents and avalanches and hazard zones are mapped by the forest-technical service for torrent and avalanche control.

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