Contracting Party: Progress Consulting S.r.l. (subcontracting within the Framework Contract for studies in the fields of agriculture, health and maritime policy with the European Committee of the Regions)
Forests owned by local and regional authorities (LRAs) across the European Union (EU) represent an estimated 14% of the total EU forest area. Forests’ ownership at the sub-national level is prevalently with local authorities (municipalities, provinces, counties). In fact, across the EU, local authorities own some 17.4 million hectares of forests while regional authorities own about 4.5 million hectares of forests. Sub-national public ownership of forests prevails in the continental and the southern parts of the EU. The highest shares of forests owned by LRAs are found in Germany, Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg and Italy. LRAs do not only own forests. They also manage forests, administer forest policy implementation, enforce forest laws, and provide support to private forest management. This study, led by Progress Consulting S.r.l., collects, by means of an online questionnaire, insights of LRAs’ experience in forest management, of their opinion on the impact the EU Forest Strategy has had so far at the territorial level, and of their expectations on the future priorities of the EU forest policy. Overall, the evidence collected through the questionnaire and complemented with cases gathered through desk research shows that LRAs may be very active players who are concerned about sustainable management practices and who may influence the behaviours of other forest owners, including private ones. As regards impact and according to the opinion and experience of the participants in the consultation (i.e. LRAs managing and/or owning forests), the EU Forest Strategy has so far progressed rather unsatisfactorily towards its main objectives. Nevertheless, it is still considered an important framework for the future development of the sector. The study outlines where this framework may be improved to better support the contribution of LRAs towards the accomplishment of the EU Forest Strategy’s objectives, and which are the expectations of public local and regional authorities for the sector.