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Timber Worth Less than Forest

Forest conservation better for biodiversity AND economy

Large forest conservation sites - of the order 100 km2 or more - are best for both conservation of rare species as well as for rural economies. This is the message from a forest conference which opens today in Central Balkan National Park, Bulgaria.

The Economic and social benefits of forest protection Conference, run by BirdLife's European Forest Task Force, gathers 60 experts from 14 different countries to compare experiences on how to develop protected forest areas for maximum ecological, social and economic benefit."Creating forest conservation areas is often believed to lose money because of loss of timber revenue, but protected areas also generate jobs and income," notes Marcus Walsh, Chairman of BirdLife's Forest Task Force.

"Numerous examples around Europe and elsewhere have demonstrated the popularity of large protected forest areas such as national parks. These sites generate far more income through their visitors than they would from the value of their timber. Large sites can tolerate more visitors while still maintaining the integrity of their natural values; at the same time, we know that larger protected areas are usually more important for biodiversity protection than smaller ones, because they can support larger populations of rare species. Creating large protected areas is a potential win-win situation for both biodiversity and local people." Marcus added.Central Balkan National Park is a unique protected area of global significance, and steps have been taken to raise its profile with visitors and local residents. The area is also part of an Important Bird Area (IBA). A recent social investigation revealed that 90% of the people living around the park were aware of its existence and most knew where its borders lie, compared with the six years ago when half had never heard of the protected area near their homes.

Visitor numbers are also on the increase. During the study, half the park’s visitors were there for the first time, powerfully illustrating the potential for growth, and 87% of people spending their holidays in the area had either visited the park or intended to do so.

When all these factors are considered, it becomes clear that preservation and restoration of forest ecosystems and substantial wilderness areas with all their non-timber forest products and long-term yields is of much greater value than the timber they contain.

4th July 2014