Inside perspective on the First Danish MAG Meeting by Christian Jürgensen
Shared objectives among diverse stakeholders sparked fruitful discussions and created rewarding results.
In the beginning of September, the first Danish MAG meeting took place at the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management of Copenhagen University. Here high-quality wood facade elements, wood flooring and elegant internal veneering made from thuja, oak, birch and ash offered an ideal and appealing setting for discussing the many contributions forests make to societies.
With the participation of a wide and diverse range of stakeholders, each with strong specific interests in certain aspects of forest functions, the day was filled with lively discussions. The opening result: outdoor enthusiasts, hunters, forest owners, foresters, timber purchasers and environmentalists all came together and acknowledged the need for new innovative mechanisms for forest biodiversity protection in Denmark.
With a clear and shared goal in mind, the stakeholders all got involved in finding ways to achieve the needed innovation.
There was a quick recognition among the group that private forest owners are key to achieve forest biodiversity outcomes in Denmark, as they own 70% of the forests and that new ways to approach and engage them should be examined. The challenge is to find ways to motivate owners and to find the most optimal price for forest ecosystem services to be offered on a voluntary basis.
At the same time, it was recognised that it is important to strike the right balance between forest protection and forestry production in order to secure a continued domestic wood supply and the potential for forests to contribute to the societal transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable energy and bio-based economy.
To achieve these desired outcomes, several ideas were floated on how to find the right opt-in and opt-out set-up for private forest owners on how to form forest owner guilds for biodiversity production and knowledge sharing, and on how to show recognition for ecosystem service provision and put participating forest owners in a positive public light.
Likewise, the pros and cons of exploiting the evolving world of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) among private companies and of finding new ways to promote collective action and responsibility among forest owners were discussed and addressed through participatory scenarios. This in order to find ways to channel “new” funds for forest biodiversity projects and in order to utilise social control and advantages of scale.
The project could potentially lead to wider opportunities for public officials to grant dispensations from the national Danish Forest Act and perhaps wider opportunities for official registration of permanent clauses on nature on properties in biodiversity hot-spot areas.
However, forest owners risk being labelled ‘recreational forest property owners’ and not ‘commercial forestry property owners’ by the Danish tax authorities when using funds for engaging in nature protection projects on their properties which could result in tax-deduction disadvantages.
We have gained important key insights into what issues to explore further when setting up and developing the Danish case study. This especially concerning rules and regulations on biodiversity protection under the grant schemes of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and concerning nature restoration projects across multiple properties and across land-uses (agriculture, forestry etc.).