What next with Polish forests?
State Forests are national value. So, we should not treat them as an ordinary enterprise, which can be priced and privatized. This attitude threatens with a catastrophe - specialists warn.
Unfortunately, the bad scenario concerning the future of State Forests seems more real today than in the past. The economic crisis causes that just in these times decision-makers are especially willing to take a shortcut. Instead of considering long-term results of their actions, they think about what is here and now. The State Forests may become a potential victim of such a policy, which has been discussed more and more often in media recently. It is a pity that journalists, taking up this extremely important issue, do not pay attention to the specialists. And it was possible to meet the latter ones on 6 December this year in Warsaw Main School of Agriculture (Pol. SGGW) during the nationwide conference entitled: 'Status and legal and organizational form of the State Forest Property; State Forests - is an alternative sensible?' Participating in this meeting Panellists unanimously noted that the State Forests functioning in the present legal formula became one of the main sectors of the national economy.
The national value
In order to realize what important matter we discuss, we can cite some basic data.
The State Forests employ nearly 25 thousands workers. Besides that the forest is a workplace for nearly 50 thousands people engaged directly in economic, farm and protection activities. Moreover, there are still 300 thousands people employed in the production of wood and pulp, etc. Only the value of the wood stored in forests is estimated for about 400 milliard zlotys, adding the value of land and it is 2 percents of the area of the country, that is, 9 millions ha. (from which in the Administration of the State Forest Economy, the State Forests are 78% of all the forests in the country). This large property does not undergo degradation but is developed thanks to the solutions accepted 20 years ago. The evidence for that is a growth in the stock of the wood in the State Forests from 906 millions m3 in 1945 to 1629.3 millions m3 now. And this is, among the others, the result of the growth in the forest areas by 33 thousands ha last year and over 360 ha in the years 1995-2010.
Specialists rather agree that the present development of the forest sector is the result of the binding law. For, the act passed in 1991, imposed many tasks on the State Forests, among the others: taking care of the forests and their beneficial influence on air, water, soil, life conditions and human health as well as the nature balance. In their functions, the State Forests must consider maintaining the biological variety, forest genetic resources, landscape values and science needs; as well as the protection of areas vulnerable to destruction and places of a special social significance.
New concepts appearing sometimes would destroy the present order. In the opinion of scientists neither the idea of communalization of forests (which would mean that the forest economy will go under the management of municipal governments), nor the idea of including the State Forests in the sector of public finances (which would be connected with, for example, the money transfer to the Finance Ministry) would make the conditions better of conducting a reasonably economy within forests, but on the contrary. During the conference in SGGW the recent ideas of the Economic Council were criticized in the presence of the Prime Minister. This advisory body of the Prime Minister suggested last month creating the so-called Fund of the State Property. The entities which would be included in this fund could be privatized. Even those companies, which are not for sale, would be sold - it was emphasized during the conference. In the opinion of the State Forest Economy the State Forests, entering the fund would mean changing the State Treasury into a sole shareholder; while, the next step could be the privatization. This solution undoubtedly would support the budget of the State in the times of crisis, and it would also mean the departure from creating the ecological safety on the local, regional and national level. And in a long perspective it threatens with an ecological catastrophe. So, we should hope that the voice of specialists will reach to the government and we, citizens, will still be able to go for a walk to forests which are and will maintain the common value. The survey show that last year there were 80% of Poles on the walk.