1. GA-English
  2. News

NRW Environment Minister visits Kottenforst: Extent of damage shocks even experts

NRW Environment Minister visits Kottenforst : Extent of damage shocks even experts

The situation in the NRW forests is getting worse: Because trees are dying off en masse due to bark beetles and drought, the state is increasing its aid considerably. Experts want to find out how viable the trees still are. On Monday, NRW Environment Minister Ursula Heinen-Esser visited the Kottenforst to inform herself.

The forests are in bad shape. Even non-experts can see that on walks. But the extent of the damage shocks even professionals like Uwe Schölmerich, head of the Rhein-Sieg-Erft regional forestry office. "The situation is actually unimaginable. We could not picture it before we saw it", he said on Monday in the Kottenforst during the visit of NRW Environment Minister Ursula Heinen-Esser on the occasion of the start of the forest condition survey.

"We do not have a forestry crisis, we have a forest crisis," Schölmerich made clear. Three extremely dry years in a row have affected the forest, on the other hand the bark beetle has "carried off" the spruces in the entire region. To a certain extent, the so-called "clean economy" had still made it possible to remove the trees attacked by the bark beetle. "This is no longer possible now. In view of the multiplication in quantity this is no longer controllable.“

In the meantime, according to Schölmerich, the bark beetle is also attacking native deciduous trees, especially beech. The course for the future is to be set by planting mixed forest with plantations of oak, lime, hornbeam and larch. "Only the mixture can help us in the long run, because nobody knows what the development will be like in the next 100 years," he said. Forest development will take generations. This is a psychological burden for employees and a financial burden for all forest owners, he said.

The Minister had brought 28 million euros to the Kottenforst for the forest and timber industry. "With the special funds, we are supplementing the existing support in order to provide targeted assistance to the forestry and timber industry in the current extreme situation and to shape the future of the forest in a sustainable manner," said Heinen-Esser. The additional funds are to be used to prevent forest fires and to remove "danger trees", to strengthen the forestry and timber industry in the areas of digitalisation and timber construction, in education and training and to reforest damaged areas in private and communal forests. According to Heinen-Esser, a total of around 57.5 million euros will be available this year to support the forestry and timber industry in NRW. Over the next ten years, the state government will make 100 million available for reforestation.

For this year, an increase in damaged spruce wood due to storms, drought and bark beetles to around 34 million cubic metres is expected, of which around 19 million cubic metres will be available in 2018/2019. "The timber market has completely collapsed throughout Europe. Nobody wants to have spruces anymore," says Philipp Freiherr Heereman, Chairman of the NRW Forest Farmers' Association. Spruce is an outgoing tree species in NRW. The forest farmers want to include Douglas fir, silver fir and pine, he announced.

Heeremann praised that the "state government not only listens, but also acts". With the special funds and the amended extreme weather directive, the state was providing important support, but further adjustments were necessary, he said. In particular, he said, the funding ceiling needed to be considered. This is currently 30,000 euros per forest owner. The Minister said that this would remain the same, as small forest owners should also be taken into account. However, her ministry has encouraged forest owners to apply for funds in excess of the maximum limit. In the course of the year it will become clear whether more money can be made available.

(Original text: Gerda Saxler-Schmidt / Translation: Mareike Graepel)