*European Family Forest Owners in rural development policy “Help forest owners to help themselves”
The seminar on “CAP Reform 2003 – Rural development policy – financial perspectives”, held in COPA-COGECA Brussels on January the 28th provided a good discussion platform for forestry requirement in rural development post 2006. The director of the Estonian Farmers Federations, Mr Kaul Nurm, pointed out in his speech the important structural mechanism of forest owners associations represent to overcome the fragmentation of ownership. The 16 million family forest owners in Europe own in average less than 13 hectares. It is mainly the co-operation through a forest owner association that enables the individual family forest owners to participate actively in the wood market.
Without the consolidation of logistics and harvesting the majority of family forest owners would not have the capacity to invest in the sustainable management of their forests. Forest owner associations are key multipliers for the dissemination and thus successful implementation of national and EU policies. The European decision makers are therefore urged by the Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF) to integrate the establishment and the development of associations of forest holders into the rural development policy.
That the forest-based sector is important for rural areas and thus has to be recognised in the rural development discussion was clearly said by Mr Kaul Nurm: “Forests play an essential economic role within the rural areas. The Forestry and forest based industry sector provides employment directly and indirectly to three million Europeans creating an annual turnover of around 400 Billion Euros in forestry and its downstream sector – representing 8% of GDP in Europe”. Forestry offers a broad potential in contributing crosssectorial to a dynamic rural development, i.e. in synergy with tourism, energy policy and enhancement of SME activities that entails quality of life in rural areas in Europe. The three pillars of sustainability need to be equally considered. Only by supporting the economic aspect of the concept of sustainability it will be guaranteed that social and environmental aspects can be taken into account. Due to the sustainable forest management and the respectful handling through family forest owners since many generations the majority of Natura 2000 sites are to be found in forests.