Environmental mediation process for rehabilitation of the protection forest above the village of Hinterstein (Umweltmediationsverfahren zur Sanierung der Schutzwälder oberhalb der Ortschaft Hinterstein)
After the failure of initial attempts to rehabilitate the protection forest above the village of Hinterstein, a mediation process was started as an innovative way of involving all parties in the decision-making process. Representatives of the local residents, hunters, land owners and the authorities were invited to meetings chaired by a mediator. There they developed a package of solutions and drew up a binding agreement for rehabilitation of the Hinterstein protection forest.
The Protection Forest Department at the Office of Agriculture and Forestry in Kempten is responsible for protection forest management in the districts of Oberallgäu and Ostallgäu. About half of the mountain forests in the region are classified as protection forests. The department’s main task is the rehabilitation of protection forests which have lost their ability to provide protection against avalanches and rockfall plus prophylactic silvicultural measures to avoid the need for rehabilitation.
All groups involved in the protection forest problem, i.e. representatives of the residents of Hinterstein, the Bad Hindelang local authority, the hunters and forest owners, the relevant authorities (Forestry Commission, Water Board, hunting authority, nature protection authority) and the German Alpine Club (DAV). The mediation process was integrated in a project at Munich Technical University’s Department of Forestry Policy (Professor Michael Suda, Ms Gaby Müller).
The village of Hinterstein is located in the narrow V-shaped valley of the Ostrach torrent. Without the woods on the slopes, which are up to 40 degrees steep, the village would be endangered by avalanches and rockfall. But the forest has lost its protective function over much of its area; it has thinned out, and many trees have fallen victim to the bark beetle. In 1954 an avalanche reached the road through the village and did considerable damage to buildings. In the last twenty years the Forestry Commission has committed considerable resources to rehabilitating the forest, but tree growth is still unsatisfactory over much of the area. Above all, too few young trees are able to become established, as there are too many chamois and deer for adequate forest rejuvenation. The objective of the project was therefore to solve a problem which was primarily related to hunting but which also touched upon the interests of many other social groups within the community.
Participants in the mediation process met for a total of 12 plenary sessions with about 20 participants. Between these mediation sessions, talks were held between individual groups. The problems were also discussed during a number of field trips. The group presented the results of the mediation process at a community meeting held on 9 March 2004. This was accompanied by an exhibition that lasted several weeks. In view of the pilot character of the project, the event met with keen interest in the national media, too. In September 2004 and more recently in July 2005, the mediation group held further meetings to assess the progress made with implementation. The main objective of the project, namely a reduction in browsing damage, was monitored with the help of a new random sampling technique that presented the current situation in an easily verifiable form offering maximum transparency for all actors.
The participants have committed themselves to the following goal: “The protection function of the mountain forest is to be assured, taking account of the needs of all actors.” The various groups must now consistently implement the necessary measures in their respective spheres of influence. The Hunters group has undertaken to keep the jointly defined Zone 1 (stands of great importance for the protection function) free of chamois and deer through an intensive hunting programme. The Protection Forest Rehabilitation group is only planting those species of tress that are important for the protection function of the forest but sensitive to browsing (e.g. silver fir) in Zone 1. The tourism group has introduced signposting to guide back-country skiers around the areas where game are mainly to be found. The Zipfelsalpe (mountain pasture) group is providing all participants with information on their undergrowth clearing activities. All the groups are committed to a policy of maximum information for the public (local meetings, organising a Day of the Forest, information boards, etc.).