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The State Forests – Future Challenge and Vision

Marian Pigan, Ph. D.
Director General of the State Forests NFH

The State Forests – Future Challenge and Vision

In the end of the 18th century forests covered approximately 40% of Poland’s entire area. Increasing civilization pressure resulted in a decrease of the forest area. After World War II, forest cover in Poland decreased to 20,8%

From 1945 till 1970, as an effect of planned forest management, forest cover in Poland increased up to 27%. The area of 999 thousand hectares was reforested. The average annual size of reforestation in the periods mentioned below was the following:

1945 – 1970 – 40 thousand hectares

1961 – 19655 – 55 thousand hectares (the most intensive period of reforestation)

Actual forest cover in Poland amounts to 28,9% (9,05 million hectares)

Forests in Poland cover areas of the poorest soil, the effect is a domination of coniferous habitats. More than half of the wood resources remain in tree stands aged 41 – 80 years, covering 44% of the total forest area. Approximately 70% of wood resources in the State Forests – National Forest Holding is made up by Scots pine.

Detailed habitat structure of Polish forests is as follows:



Most of the Polish forests are public ones covering 82,1% of the forests area. Most of public forests are managed by the State Forests – National Forest Holding. Detailed ownership structure of Polish forests is illustrated by the table below.


Such an ownership structure has remained practically unchanged since the war period. In recent time - due to political and economical transformation in Poland (which took place in the 90’s) – the area of private forests increases slowly mainly due to reforestation of private lands activated strongly after the establishment of the Rural Areas Development Programme supported by EU funds.

Polish forests fulfil the following functions:

  • Ecological (protective) – positive influence of forests on climate forming
  • Production (economical) – forests are a renewable source of timber and non-timber forest goods
  • Social – forests create favourable health and recreation conditions for the society, enrich the employment market, reinforce national defence and guarantee cultural, scientific and ecological education.

Because most of the Polish forests are managed by the State Forests – National Forest Holding – the organizational structure of the holding has to be adapted to the goals defined by the act concerning forests, fulfilling the requirements of the society and economy. At the present moment the State Forests – NFH employ 25 420 people including 16 447 Forest Service members, 5 961 employees non-members of the Forest Service, 3 014 workers (including 157 seasonal ones).

Fulfilling the goals of Forests – National Forest Holding defines the mission of the State Forests – National Forest Holding . (The mission is an important task to accomplish, precise definition of intentions and aspirations of the company and the strategically vision of the management needs. According to “Encyclopaedia of Management” the company realising its goals has to be aware of social responsibility for undertaken decisions). Strategic goals and social tasks are defined by the Act concerning forests dated on 28th of September 1991. Article number 6 defines forest management as planned activities concerning managing of the forest and it’s protection, based on the rule of preservation and increase of forest supplies. The mission of the State Forests is to preserve forest sustainability and remain its continuity. To realise its goals, the following activities are undertaken:

  • National forest increase projectwhich intention is to increase the forest cover up to 30% in the year 2020 and 33% in the year 2050. For the year 2020 an increase of forest area by reforestation is planned on approximately 700 thousand hectares of land and almost 1,5 million hectares for the year 2050.
  • Systematic increase of forest resources – forest resources of Poland grow systematically and nowadays the total amount of wood resources in forests under all kinds of ownership is 1,9 billion cubic meters (1,6 billion cubic meters in the forests managed by the State Forests – National Forest Holding.

Poland’s wood resources are still growing which means that management of forest resources by the State Forests – National Forest Holding fulfils the requirements of the act concerning forests. As an effect of the realization of sustainable management rules the increase of gross large timber in the forests managed by the State Forests – National Forest Holding in the period of 1986 – 2006 was 989 million cubic metres. At the same time 536 million were harvested, which means that 46% of total increase enlarged the wood resources. Average annual gross large timber increase (harvesting taken into account) was 7,2 cubic meters per hectare. Forest management plays a very important role in regulation of natural water circulation process, prevention against flooding and drought. Many activities to stop water in the forest are being undertaken, for example “increasing of retention possibilities and counteraction against effects of floods and droughts in the area of lowland forest ecosystems”, “Counteraction against effects of outflows of rain waters (precipitation waters) in mountainous areas – increasing of retention and preservation of mountain streams and surrounding infrastructure”. The aforementioned activities are especially important as Poland has poor water resources. Renewable sources of water per capita – approximately 1583 cubic metres which is three times less than the average European value.

Due to the act concerning forests, Polish forests owned by the state are accessible for public. Forests in Poland are a place for relaxation and recreation, tourism, picking mushrooms and herbs cover fruits. Total accessibility of forests is possible due to the creation of an adequate tourist infrastructure: hiking, cycling, horse riding trails combined with forest bivouacking fields, camping sites, parking places, camps, shelters, sport facilities and other objects. To make forest accessibility as safe as possible both for people and the forest ecosystem an adequate education is necessary. This is the reason for forest education being led by the State Forests – National Forest Holding. Main goals of forest education is dissemination of knowledge concerning:

  • Forestenvironment
  • Multifunctional, sustainable forest management
  • Building of public trust for foresters
  • Increasing of the level of public awareness concerning responsible and sustainable use of different forest functions
  • Creation of good (forest friendly) public behaviour

To establish an effective and attractive education many education facilities were provided including:

  • Approximately 900 forest education trials
  • 47 education centers
  • 200 forest education chambers
  • 450 forest education shelters
  • 3000 other objects and education pints (tree nurseries, nature reserves, etc.)

This rich infrastructure would not be effective without great involvement of foresters in various educational activities. Every year about 6000 foresters take active part in education. 70% of expenses spent on forest education in the State Forests are own costs of forest directorates. As a result more than 2 million people take part in different forms of forest education every year. Detailed data concerning various forms of forest education provided by the State Forests in 2008 are shown in table No. 1.

Table 1. Forest education forms in 2008

Education form

Number of events

Number of participants

% of participants

Field lessons including lead on education trials

14 736

572 915


Lessons in forest education rooms

6 620

217 461


Meetings with forester at schools

4 930

221 326


Meetings with forester outside of schools

1 832

72 425


Forestcompetitions (knowledge, art., etc)

1 675

157 374


Actions, occasional events

2 956

460 161




415 964




2 117 626


Other forms for instance festivals, workshops, fairs etc.


Approximately 1 155 100



Leading role and mission in the field of forest and ecological education is one of the main goals of Forest Promotional Complexes. Other important goals of these functional units are the practical promotion of ecologically based sustainable forest resources as well as the role of testing site for implementation of new techniques and technologies. To fulfill the above mentioned goals 19 Forest Promotional Complexes were established in the years 1994 – 2007. Currently, Forest Promotional Complexes cover 13% of the forest area.


Figure 1. Forest Promotional Complexes in Poland


            To fulfill the mission of the State Forest which is the preservation of forest sustainability and remaining its continuity – forest protection is necessary. This wide group of activities include the following activities:

  • Protection against pests :
    • After the war period more than 80 species of defoliating insectswerefought in the total area larger than 10 million hectares
    • For the last five yearsthe area of rescue interventions varied from50 to100 thousand hectares per year
    • All of the rescue interventions costs were covered by the State Forests using Forest Fund
  • Protection against infectiousfungal diseases
    • The area of forest treatment varies from400 to750 thousand hectares, depending mainlyon weather conditions
  • Protection against game
    • From2006 to2008 the damagescaused by game were recorded on anarea of 149 – 186 thousand hectares
    • Undertaken protective activities –mechanical and chemical protection, fencings
    • Reintroduction of rare species (capercaille, black grouse, European pond terrapin)
    • Animals rescue centres in the State Forests
  • Protection against fire
    • Polish forests are characterised by high fire danger
    • On the average 5 thousand fires break out every year covering the area ofmore than 700 hectares. Average size of afire - 0,3 hectare
    • Integrated fire protection system.
      • Permanent ground observation network– 640 points including 176 TV ones.
      • Fire prevention field patrols – hiking and car patrols– 3 thousand
      • Air equipment (10 patrol planes, 29 fire fighting planesand 9 helicopters)
      • Infrastructure (fire breaks, fire roads, fire fighting equipment bases, water supply points)
      • Walkie–talkie network
      • Co-operation with professional and voluntary fire service

The cost of all mentioned activities in 2008 was 237 million PLN including protection against game – 113 million PLN, protection against pests – 47 million PLN, protection against pathogenic fungi – 6 million PLN and protection against fire 71 million PLN.

One crucial element of multifunctional, sustainable forest management is nature protection in the State Forests. Multifunctional forest management is conducted with nature protection requirements taken into account. Special attention is focused on increase of forests diversity. In the area of forests managed by the State Forests – National Forest Holding different nature protection forms are undertaken. One of the most important is European network Nature 2000 including Special protection areas for birds and Special areas of habitat conservation.

Among various forms of forest management special attention is focused on national culture. Leading role in this field is played by the Forest culture centre in Gołuchów. Polish foresters care for historical places, places of martyrology and history commemoration.

Fulfilling the mission of the State Forests – National Forest Holding will require dealing with the following future challenges:

  • Forestmanagement plans have to be prepared,taking into account nature protection requirements with special attention focused on Nature 2000 areas
  • Increase of stable costs – structure
  • Changeof workload and commitments.