Forests as a mirror of rural conditions; local views on the role of forests across Europe

B.H.M. Elands, T.N. O'Leary, H.W.J. Boerwinkel, K.F. Wiersum

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Abstract

In a rapidly changing rural Europe, forests are promoted as contributing towards rural development in the sense of improved well-being of local communities. A trans-European research project was designed to establish whether varied rural conditions and the perspectives of local communities influence the perceived contribution of forests towards rural development. In eight European countries inhabitants and landowners were interviewed about their perceptions of quality of life in rural areas and the extent to which forests impact upon it. The contribution of forests to quality of life is perceived as either harmful, beneficial or having nothing to offer. Further, preferred future development options were assessed for the area. It turns out that the main differences between areas are related to perceptions of localities as being more or less 'marginal' and perceptions of the role of forests as being more or less 'harmful for rurality'. Results show that it is the perceived harmful aspect of forests that differentiate areas the most. Host people do not regard forestry as a major future development option, principally due to negative association with, for example, employment opportunities, industrial activities and strength of bond and friendship between neighbours. The differences between areas are related to socio-economic and cultural conditions as well as local forest history. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-482
JournalForest Policy and Economics
Volume6
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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