The BEECH POWER project (World Heritage BEECH Forests: emPOWERing and catalyzing an ecosystem-based Sustainable Development) is entering its last project period in October, as the project is due to end in the spring of 2022. For the purpose of overviewing past achievements and future activities, a project conference was organised on 16th and 17th September in Angermünde, Germany. It was attended by representatives from all five project countries: Austria, Croatia, Germany, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Municipality of Angermünde is a project partner, so they were happy to host us.
The conference started on Thursday with presentations of past achievements of each of the project’s working packages and of activities that are yet to be implemented. Due to SARS-CoV-2 pandemic restrictions, a number of activities were postponed, but we’ve still managed to do a lot in the past project period. Slovenia Forest Service prepared a handbook on sustainable forest practices, which is in the last stages of production. University of Eberswalde is in the last phase of preparing a tool for assessing the quality of management of the component parts, while our communication partner European Wilderness Society is hard at work building a website for area managers of World Heritage beech forests to connect and exchange knowledge.
After the introductory meeting, we were invited to attend a ceremony celebrating the 10th anniversary of the World Heritage inscription of German component parts. As guests to the ceremony, we also participated in a round table on challenges, facing the World Heritage, where each project partner presented challenges and successes in their protected area.
The next day we begun with preparing a plan for the final project period. Due to postponing certain activities, even the last project period promises to be busy and varied. Organising the conference in person allowed us to easily communicate and be more productive preparing the plan. We managed to punctually complete a roadmap of all activities, discussed certain details, and arranged future meetings for detailed organisation of individual activities. Besides planning the final project conference, we are also planning two bigger conferences. One on knowledge transfer and cooperation of local communities, and another on educating foresters from each protected area on sustainable forest management and the tool for assessing management quality. After preparing the roadmap, a knowledge exchange presentation took place, based on my own experience attending the IUCN World Conservation Congress, and the communication workshop I took part in there.
After the meeting followed a field trip around the component part Grumsin, which is part of the Biosphere Reserve Schorfheide-Chorin. Besides the World Heritage programme, the reserve is also part of UNESCO’s »Man and Biosphere« programme. We were led by the director of the reserve dr. Martin Flade. He presented the challenges of management and the special characteristics of the area and its beech forests, and why they are considered fit for World Heritage. After the field trip, a final project dinner took place, after which the participants said their goodbyes and went home early next morning.
Author: Domen Kocjan, SFS, project BEECH POWER