Logging lorry

New “LEAF” initiative to support forest protection

Logging lorry
An Early Warning System can help prevent illegal logging (Agent Green, Romania)

A proposal by Wild Europe involves linking a network of NGOs, individual conservationists, land owners and community members dedicated to saving remaining natural forests in Europe.

Named by its acronym of LEAF, Last European Ancient Forests, and coordinated by a small secretariat, the initial objective will be to create a platform in support of the 2030 EU Biodiversity Strategy targets – including strict protection of all old growth/primary forests.

LEAF will also seek appropriate updating of the EU Forest Strategy, to achieve greater recognition of its ecological value, and reform of Renewable Energy Directive II to remove and reallocate subsidies for forest biomass burning.

There will be close linkage and support for other forest initiatives, including Forest Defenders Alliance and FERN.

Further development of LEAF

Originally proposed by Wild Europe for its 2017 Brussels conference, and since put to consultation, the LEAF initiative will be developed in stages.

With appropriate funding, subsequent plans could include provision of an Early Warning System: monitoring the condition of those forests, identifying, reporting and helping address threats from logging or other degradation.

The aim is to protect forests, but wherever feasible through positive liaison with landowners and communities. Rapid and effective action is needed where this is not possible. 

Capacity building

Further activities undertaken by LEAF could involve local capacity building: media work, representation and sourcing of protection incentives for forest owners from grant and PES funding.

The LEAF network would utilize mapping of the primary forest undertaken by Francesco Sabatini and his team, the second stage of which was recently completed with funds raised through the 2017 Brussels conference, called to develop an Old Growth Forest Protection Strategy.

We are currently liaising on opportunities for production of a third stage in the mapping process. Of the 4% of forest cover estimated to involve old growth/primary, 3% still remains to be appropriately recorded, together with any relevant areas for restoration and connectivity.

Preliminary estimates suggest that a minimum of twice as much again should also be strictly protected to ensure adequate consolidation of remaining elements, buffering protection, ecological functioning and connectivity – totalling at least some 15% of current forest cover.

Updated on 8 April 2021