A Forest Group is a voluntary partnership between both public and private forest owners. Through this cooperation, an attempt is made to provide an answer to problems caused by the fragmentation of the forest. Forest Groups offer a comprehensive service that helps the many forest owners manage their forest parcels
Due to the fragmented nature of forest ownership, groups of private forest owners and managers (Forest Groups) have been established. These forest owner associations oversee voluntary co-operation between the large number of private forest owners and sometimes public forest managers. Their objective is implementation of improved and more coherent forest management practices. The 11 active Forest Groups in Flanders cover the whole territory and have almost 13.000 members (about 13% of all forest owners). The interests of the owners contracting membership are vested in the coordinated management of their forest parcels and the professional expertise and service they receive from the Forest Group. This represents i.a. administrative support, coaching and technical support, organization of joint wood sales, voluntary participation to projects or the setting up of combined management plans.
Contract feature combination:
The membership of the Forest Groups makes possible to participate to management plans or projects, of which terms are further specified in additional contractual documents.
• Number of members: almost 13.000
• Area of implementation: Flemish Region of Belgium; each of the 11 actual Forest Groups have a specific working area. A forest owner/manager can become member of the Forest Group in which working area his forest parcels are situated.
Involved parties: The Flemish Forest Group is a private association of forest owners and managers. Their interests are vested in the management of their forest parcels and the expertise service they receive from the Forest Group.
Advantages of participation:
• The private association is one of forest owners and managers
• Forest owners and managers maintain control over property
• Free advice without engagement
• Respect for the objectives of owners and managers
• Neutral and independent approach • Voluntary and easy membership
• Reduce the elements that remove motivation (administration (for free), costs (fees for collective sale of timber only 5-10-15%) , paternalism of state management).
Management requirements: Specific requirements for foresters depend on specific management plans or projects they contract to.
Controls/monitoring: A Forest Group coordinator and his team follow up on the specific projects or objectives agreed upon by the different forest owners, members of the Forest Group. The content of the projects or objectives to be monitored depends on what objectives or project has been agreed upon. Conditions of participation: Conditions of participation are specified in the articles of association. Minimum of participants is the minimum number of members for legally constituting a private association.
Risk/uncertainties of participants: Risk of participants depend on the quality of advice and service delivered by the Forest Group team.
Links to other contractual relationships: Forest Groups aim at having members participating in projects and nature management plans. Such participation is then linked to membership.
Contract partnership: Government provides the funding of a private association if such association is recognized as a Forest Group; forest managers and owners contract the goals of the Forest Group through membership; civil society goals are served by the working of the Forest Group.
Funding/payments: The funding organization is the Flemish government acting through the Flemish provincial authorities, as well as diverse project funding the Forest Group can generate. Membership of the Forest Group is free and does not require a specific payment.
Forest ownership in Flanders is very fragmented. Most forest owners often have very little knowledge of forest management and little trust in government handling as such. They do have faith in the Forest Groups. Within these Forest Groups, the aspects of trust and voluntary approach are predominant, giving the forest owner the necessary freedom of decision. They allow forest owners to incorporate the management of their forests in a larger project. Most owners are proud to be part of a process towards better forests. Many forest owners are also quite happy with the support they receive to manage the forests in a better way. In this sense, the Forest Groups act as promoters and facilitators of a global forest policy. Small forest owners, who have no obligation to produce a management plan, often have an ‘ad hoc’ management, using felling applications and permits. They are stimulated by the Forest Groups to participate in joint management plans.
Landscape and climate: Atlantic climate. In Flanders, forest covers only about 11% of the total area. Forests are often originating from plantations on former heathlands and wet grasslands: pine and poplar plantations make up almost half of the forest area, while only 1⁄3 of the forest area consists of broadleaved stands of indigenous species (oak (Quercus spp.), beech (Fagus sylvatica L.), mixed deciduous stands). Forests in Flanders are clearly part of an urbanized and industrialized region. In this context, forest goods and services are mainly related to sociocultural and ecological services. This is comparable to regions like the Netherlands, parts of Denmark and southern UK.
Structure: More than half of the forest in Flanders is privately owned and ownership is spread over thousands of small properties. Average private properties are not larger than 1 ha. A majority of these private owners are not active forest managers.
The Flemish Forest Group presents a successful contract solution. The Forest Groups have been delivering good results for more than 15 years. With more than 13.000 members who together have more than 35.000 hectares of forest under management, the respectful collective approach of the Forest Groups represents more than 1/3 of the private forest owners in Flanders. That number continues to rise year after year. More than 80% of this group manage a forest surface smaller than 5 ha and more than 60%, a surface smaller than 1 ha.
The Flemish Forest Group presents a successful contract solution. See Main Strengths under SWOT analysis.
Flemish Forest Groups allow forest owners to incorporate the management of their forests in a larger project. Furthermore, the Forest Group provides assistance: the coordinator is a skilled forester who gives both coaching and technical support to the members and helps organizing joint wood sales and management plans. Members of the Forest Group are stimulated to participate in joint management plans
Landscape and scenery
Rural viability and vitality
Biodiversity / (Farmland) biodiversity
Climate regulation-carbon storage
Soil quality (and health) / Soil protection
Resilience to natural hazards
Recreational access /Improvements to physical and mental health
Participation is for the whole of the Flemish Region (Vlaams Gewest, region of Belgium)
Membership of legal entity (association without lucrative purpose under Belgian law, vereniging zonder winstoogmerk)
No specific mechanism, membership of the association suffices
Government (sometimes with EU-funding)
Start of the program:
Membership of the Forest Group
Feel free to contact us for any further informations.CONTACT US
Legal notice: The compilation of the information provided in the factsheets has been done to our best knowledge. Neither the authors nor the contact persons of the presented cases may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.