This Thursday (24.1.2013) I’ve attended a public consultation at the dept. of Forestry of Biotechnical faculty in Ljubljana. It was titled “Razvojni problemi in organiziranost gozdarstva na Slovenskem”, which can be translated to “Development problems and the organization of forestry in Slovenia”.
I’ve decided to do this write-up because I’ve received a few questions about how it went the next morning, so I guess there’s some interest in the topic.
Speaking first was Robert Režonja from the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment. He outlined the context of the consultation. The most important points that call for a new forestry law are that the concessions to forestry companies for forest management in state forests expire in 2016 and the poor financial situation of the Slovenian Forest Service. Also worth keeping in mind are the new EU development strategy (2014-2020) and the alarming trend of increasing export of Slovenian lumber (~30% increase per year).
After the introduction by Režonja, Jurij Diaci (a professor at the Department) presented facts about marking trees (odkazilo dreves) and why it’s necessary. Apparently there were some voices heard that it isn’t necessary, but none were heard at this consultation.
Next up was a brilliant presentation from Eric K. Zenner about foreign models of forestry organization. He analyzed models from Austria and Germany which are often used as examples when changes to forestry policy in Slovenia are discussed. The presentation was well-prepared and it was interesting to hear a non-biased speaker talk about Slovenian forests. He pointed out that everything is not perfect in Austria and Germany and that their profits are often overestimated (they hide their costs in state budget). He also praised Slovenian school of forestry and management technique by saying our forests are very well-managed.
After him Robert Režonja took podium for the second time. He talked about five organization models for the future of Slovenian forestry which are being discussed at the Ministry as viable options.
These models are:
- Central Forestry Administration. It would consist of employees from Slovenian Forest Service (SFS) and Slovenian Forestry Fund and National Farm Land. This model seems very similar to what we have now, except that it gathers the whole forestry management under one roof and so that there is no task duplication (which apparently seems to be a problem now). They would give out concessions like now, but with a big difference – concessions would be given out to Forestry and Wood chains as opposed to the past, when they were given to single companies. This model received the most support at the consultation, which is no wonder because it’s as close as it gets to status quo.
- Public forestry company. This option is very similar to opt. number 1. However, the company has one more goal/attribute – in addition to hiring contractors to do work in state forests, it would also be able to manage these forest on their own for public profit.
- Central forestry administration + Public forestry company (100% state-owned). This model would split Slovenian public forestry management into two institutions. Central forestry administration would include part of SFS’s employees, while the rest of the public sector foresters would go to the Public forestry company. I think this would be one of the best models for our forestry, but it didn’t receive much support among speakers.
- The fourth model was the same as the third, except that the public forest company would allow other shareholders than the state (but always less than 50%).
- The fifth model was very similar to the first one. Režonja said that it’s been merged with the first in further discussions.
The last presentation was given by Milan Šinko, who spoke about the legal aspects of public service and economic activity in forestry. He cleared up some legal concepts (there is no ‘state company’ in Slovenian law, only ‘public company’. He also talked a little about public goods, e.g. the environmental and social functions of Slovenian forests (how they are provided by the public forestry service and are not really valued on the market). He pointed out the OECD guidelines for corporate management of state-owned companies.
Šinko’s presentation concluded the first part of the public consultation. The second part was a discussion between interested parties and some conclusions were drawn. You may read it here.