WWF issues forest management league table

Annual report "scorecards" will monitor national forestry policies across Europe

The World Wide Fund for Nature has made a league table of Europe's forestry management policy in the first of what will become an annual report on the quality of Europe's national forest management.

WWF says its 350-page report which describes the state of forests and of forestry policy in 15 European countries will enable governments, authorities and the public to observe the improvement or otherwise of their forests.

For each country, the report gives a score for indicators, ranging from the amount of protected forest in a country to the existence of data on endangered species and also wider issues such as emissions of pollutants. These are calculated to give a final percentage score, which is supposed to give a broad idea of how good each country's forestry management is.

WWF claims that most western European governments see forests primarily as "timber factories" and ignore nature protection. The parameters used in the report allow broader environmental considerations to be taken into account rather than just the economic and social impact of forest use.

The WWF hopes the "scorecards" - which this year rank Switzerland highest with 61%, with Denmark at the bottom with 32% - will prove a simple way to raise public awareness of forestry issues. Specialists, meanwhile, can refer to the more detailed breakdown in the report.

The report also draws conclusions on each country examined. For example, it comments that although Denmark protects most of its forests from other land use, its woodlands suffer from the cultivation of low-quality wood and the fact that non-intervention forestry is illegal.

WWF says this sort of monitoring should be done by countries themselves, particularly those that signed up to the Helsinki resolution on the protection of forests in 1993.

The group timed its report to precede the next pan-European ministerial meeting, five years on from Helsinki, to be held in Lisbon next week. The conference will be a chance for the 36 original signatories to the treaties to assess their progress but, according to WWF's director general Claude Martin, most countries "do not even have sufficient capacity in place to monitor the situation".

Follow Up:
WWF, tel: +32 2 743 8806.

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