Implementing Closer-to-Nature Forest Management

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Our ThinkForest seminar on 24 October ‘Implementing Closer-to-Nature Forest Management’ introduced the new EU guidelines and framework, and explored some of the barriers and opportunities for implementation at national level.


Closer-to Nature Forest Management is a concept proposed in the EU Forest Strategy for 2030, with Guidelines published by the European Commission in July 2023. The new Guidelines were introduced by Stefanie Schmidt, Policy Officer for Forests in DG ENV. She explained that these aim to promote biodiversity friendly and adaptive forest management to enhance their multifunctionality and climate change resilience, without neglecting socio economic benefits. The Guidelines provide a toolbox for Closer to Nature Forest Management, as well as examples of good practice, and explore some of the challenges and opportunities which occur in a regional context.

The new Guidelines build on the 2022 From Science to Policy publication on Closer to Nature Forest Management, published by EFI. Its lead author, Jørgen Bo Larsen from the University of Copenhagen complimented the European Commission on the approaches taken (regional, scale and context-specific), as well as the Guidelines’ flexibility in terms of implementation. However, his recommendations included also focusing more on the economic aspects of Closer to Nature Forest Management, as a foundation for acceptance by forest owners and managers. Further developing financing mechanisms (including mitigation / carbon storage) would also be needed, as well as more knowledge exchange and collaboration amongst practitioners.

The challenges and opportunities for implementation at a national level were highlighted during a rich panel discussion with Katja Matveinen (Natural Resources Department, Finland), Tomaž Hrovat, (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, Slovenia), Steven Dörr (Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Germany) and Eckart Senitza (Pro Silva).

The discussions highlighted again the need for economic resilience by forest owners, and the importance of engagement to communicate the concept of Closer to Nature Forest management to them – ideally by showing best practices and exchange on the ground in the forest. The panel also reflected on the diverse approaches, names and definitions within the toolbox of sustainable forest management. Summing up, our ThinkForest President Janez Potočnik emphasised that while we have to take into account this complexity, we also have to simplify it, so it is implementable, and that people understand it. Time is always needed for changes.

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European Commission, Guidelines on Closer-to-Nature Forest Management, July 2023

Larsen, J.B., Angelstam, P., Bauhus, J., Carvalho, J.F., Diaci, J., Dobrowolska, D., Gazda, A., Gustafsson, L., Krumm, F., Knoke, T., Konczal, A., Kuuluvainen, T., Mason, B., Motta, R., Pötzelsberger, E., Rigling, A., Schuck, A., 2022. Closer-to-Nature Forest Management. From Science to Policy 12. European Forest Institute.