Interview with

Getting the best out of the forest

Wald wird mobil
#waldwirdmobil #Pollmeier #beech

11.4 million hectares of land are forested in Germany – around a third of the country's total area – and almost half of these forests are under private ownership. The distribution of land and estates has meant that many forests have been fragmented and sub-divided into increasingly small plots. Nowadays, many landowners and communities of heirs own very small areas, have hardly any experience in forest management, and often do not even know where the borders of their property lie. 

However, leaving the forest to simply be a forest is also out of the question, as ownership always involves responsibility too, and ideally pleasure and return on investment as well. This is where comes in. Since 2007, this non-profit limited company has been advising private forest owners and forestry associations, presenting targeted courses of action in the handling of owned forests, and developing innovative practical solutions. 
Markus von Willert and Johanna Reinkemeier work as project managers for

Pollmeier magazine: What is the greatest challenge posed by the situation in Germany?

Markus von Willert: The former "farming forests", which were traditionally cultivated in winter when there was little work to do in the fields, are now increasingly owned by people who have absolutely no links to agriculture or forestry. And furthermore, these new types of forest owner often live a long way away from their forest estates, which of course has an impact on the small private forests. This development leads to insufficient maintenance and unstable forests, and jeopardises the preservation of important forest functions. In addition, wood, the climate-friendly raw material, is not sold on the high-demand markets in sufficient quantities, jobs are lost and rural development is weakened.

Markus von Willert, Projektleiter bei
Markus von Willert

Pollmeier-Magazine: What kind of support is provided by

Johanna Reinkemeier: Firstly we provide a range of information for forest owners, and give answers on our Internet platform to questions that are very frequently asked by forest owners: What are my rights and obligations? How can a forest be cultivated in a sustainable manner? How much is the wood from my forest worth? We have also been successfully bringing together forest vendors and interested parties on our forest exchange platform for many years now. 
We also have a project in our pilot state of Thuringia, where we are using high-resolution GPS technology to help forest owners locate their forest borders. The determination of these land borders represents the moment that a forest owner feels a relationship with his or her forest for the first time – an exceedingly important step on the path to sustainable forest management in small private forests.

Pollmeier-Magazine: What constitutes optimal forest management, and who does this benefit?

Markus von Willert: Optimal forest management takes into account all three pillars of sustainability – environmental, economical and social – and ensures that the diverse benefits of the forest are preserved for current and future generations. This type of management goes on to benefit everyone: The owners, the environment, the climate and society. It is precisely the management of small private forests that gives forestry associations the chance to achieve this: Forest owners collaborate to organise the forest management and logging operations, apply for funding and obtain significantly better prices for the sale of wood thanks to the bundling of wood quantities. 

Pollmeier-Magazine: To what extent does the management of small private forests impact on the climate?

Johanna Reinkemeier: Over their lifetime, forests and the trees living within them store in their wood a significant amount of the carbon dioxide gas (CO2) that damages the climate, thereby removing it from our atmosphere. Using a renewable raw material like wood also prevents the additional CO2 emissions that would occur if using non-renewable raw materials. The longer the wood is used, the longer the CO2 remains stored within it. This is known as the "product storage" principle.

As well as climate protection, the idea of adapting forests to climate change is another very important topic, and one that we are also actively embracing as part of our projects. It is important to start adapting the selection of tree species and the types of forest management to the challenges of the future climate right away. After all, this is the only way of ensuring that forests will continue to fulfil their role as CO2 sinks in the future. 

Johanna Reinkemeier, Projektleiterin bei
Johanna Reinkemeier

Pollmeier-Magazine: In your opinion, has the way that people use forests and wood as a raw material changed over recent years?

Markus von Willert: It is clear that wood is very highly regarded as a raw material as a result of its very good aesthetics and its climate-friendly and environmentally friendly properties. Its versatility is bringing about more and more application possibilities in today's world – from liquid wood to wooden microchips, entire car bodies made from wood composite materials, and lignin fabrics, right through to wind turbines of over a hundred metres in height for the generation of energy. It seems as though almost anything is possible. 
All things considered, wood appears to represent one of the raw materials that best meets the societal requirements of the 21st century. And at the same time, many Germans still long to be in the forest – a place where they can get away from day-to-day life and enjoy a range of leisure activities. There is, however, a lack of understanding in part about the fact that forests also need to be cultivated to produce wood – and that the interests of a forest owner will not always be the same as those of visitors to the forest. This unhelpful paradox can be resolved by means of targeted clarification of the various issues. 

Pollmeier-Magazine: Is it a good idea to consider how "wald wird mobil" could operate internationally?

Johanna Reinkemeier: A resounding "yes". There are around 16 million private forest owners in Europe, and the inactive small private forests are not just a specific German problem. Many EU countries are suffering as a result of structural obstacles relating to private forests that are very similar to those faced by Germans. The course of demographic change is also almost exactly the same in these other countries, and is leading to the same situation as can be seen here in Germany: Increasing "urbanisation" of society, the distance between forest owners and their forests, and a lack of ideas and sense of bewilderment in managing these forests. 

Pollmeier has been won over by the concept of, and has been supporting the non-profit company since 2007.