EU Restoration Law must support forest resilience without hindering their sustainable management

The European State Forest Association (EUSTAFOR) welcomes the European Commission's efforts to contribute to the restoration of forest ecosystems, although some aspects of the EU Restoration Law proposal remain unclear and should be better formulated in the coming period.

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EU forest
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On 22 June 2022, the European Commission adopted its proposal for a Regulation on EU Nature Restoration. The proposal is a key element of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, which calls for binding targets to restore degraded ecosystems, in particular those with the most potential to capture and store carbon and to prevent and reduce the impact of natural disasters.

EUSTAFOR is in favor of the proposed ecosystem-specific approach and is hoping that differences in restoration needs and points of departure between different ecosystem types and land uses will be properly recognised. EUSTAFOR regrets that the restoration targets are set without a prior assessment of the overall state of ecosystems and the actual need for restoration. This means that an area to be restored could cover millions of hectares, requiring extensive human resources and restoration costs of billions of euros to be covered from sources which have not been well-identified. This creates substantial uncertainty regarding the prospects for the implementation of the new legislation.

Although the approach taken for the restoration of forest habitats listed under the Habitats Directive seems adequate, unfortunately, when it comes to the data to be used for assessing the state of play, tendentious conclusions have prevailed. […] In that regard, EUSTAFOR has already called for strengthening the existing partnership with Member States and European environmental agency networks to improve compliance and governance at a local level within the existing legislative framework.

European state forest organisations are aware of the challenges posed by different sources of pressure and are already taking various practical actions to address them. EUSTAFOR hopes that the expertise of state forest managers as custodians of Europe’s public forests will be adequately recognised in the upcoming national restoration plans.

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