Advancing close to nature forestry practice across Europe

Forestry professionals met in Slovakia to discuss close-to-nature forestry, a method that balances timber production with nature conservation.

Forest in Myjava Slovakia. Photo: Pro Silva

Myjava, Slovakia – forestry professionals from 19 countries gathered on 28 May for the 35th anniversary of Pro Silva, the organisation promoting close to nature forest management as a way of reconciling nature conservation and timber production across Europe. The conference was supported by the Technical University of Zvolen and the Slovak state forest enterprise, who will introduce examples of close to nature forest management in the West Carpathians, a mountain range with well-preserved biodiversity.

Closer-to-nature forestry is becoming more widely accepted following the publication of guidelines by the European Commission in 2023. Pro Silva, through its network of 130 demonstration forests and more than 60 exemplary forests, provide the most important realisation of these guidelines though their practical silvicultural training courses, peer-to-peer knowledge exchange through webinars and their annual meeting, which this year is being held in Slovakia for the first time.

“I hope this year’s conference will stimulate discussions on how Pro Silva, now celebrating its 35thanniversary, may effectively promote close to nature forestry to address current global crises and growing societal demands on European forests”, Michal Tomčík, Chairman of Pro Silva Slovakia.

Pro Silva foresters in Myjava. Photo: Pro Silva

Continuing the legacy of Prof. Štefan Korpeľ, who co-founded the Pro Silva movement 35 years ago, Michal Tomčíkpresented the current challenges and opportunities of wider adoption of close to nature forestry in Slovak and European forests. Pro Silva Slovakia shared their successes in state-owned beech and oak forests, as well as municipal forests in Stará Myjava, where a more integrated approach to forest management provides recreation for locals, alongside sustainable income for the municipality from timber production.

Forest in Duchonka Slovakia. Photo: Pro Silva

“Our goal is to improve the dissemination of practical close to nature forestry knowledge with colleagues across Europe and elsewhere. Pro Silva’s strength comes from its demonstration of exemplary forests managed by forest owners and managers, who are fulfilling the European Forest Strategy for 2030 more than anyone else, but need support from the EU and national institutions to effectively promote nature-friendly management practices more widely”, Tomáš Vrška, newly elected chairman of Pro Silva.

Pro Silva is increasing its presence in the Western Balkans with the recent acceptance of Pro Silva Montenegro as a full member, which along with participation on projects like Forest MOOC for Change with partners Forêt.Nature, Forest Europe and the International Forestry Students’ Association, strengthens its role in promoting closer-to-nature as the preferred approach for integrating all functions of the forest.

Who we are

Forest in Duchonka Slovakia. Photo: Pro Silva

Pro Silva is a European organisation which promotes close to nature forestry and continuous cover forestry concepts. It was established in 1989 in Slovenia. At present there are 22 full members of the organisation and there are also several other countries with associate membership. Since 2018 we have associated members from the United States (Forest Stewards Guild, New England Forestry Foundation), India (ForEco India), Brazil (ACEF St. Catarina), from Kosovo (CNVP), from New Zealand (Tane’s Tree Trust) and IFSA (International Forest Students Association) and this marks the beginning of the formation of a global network. More than 6500 professionals and forest owners are involved in Pro Silva.

Pro Silva promotes its principles and concepts through a Europe wide program of silvicultural education involving seminars, excursions and practical training for the conversion of even-aged to uneven-aged forest stands. Increasingly the members are also involved as partners in national or international research and networking projects. A European network of best practice demonstration forests has been developed.

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EFIMED is the Mediterranean Facility of the European Forest Institute. Based in Barcelona, Spain, it was launched in 2007.