Hidden in the woods? Meaning, determining, and practicing of 'common welfare' in the case of the German public forests

Chantal Ruppert-Winkel*, Georg Winkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article addresses the German debate on the issue of the common welfare designation of public forests. In the first part, drawing on two case studies, the political discourse on the issue is introduced. Two major competing 'story lines' can be made out that are both based on a long tradition of controversially discussed concepts of regulatory forest policy. While they both emphasise that common welfare services in forestry run counter to profit orientation, they fundamentally differ with regard to the consequences for forest policy, e. g., considering the degree of state intervention. Afterwards, an overview on the scientific debate on common welfare in the German context is given, and different concepts of common welfare determination are distinguished. Existing approaches of common welfare determination in German forest policy are related to these concepts and discussed. It is argued that the common welfare designation of the public forest is only insufficiently implemented by the actual governance arrangements. Based on this consideration, eventually, the implementation of a procedural concept of common welfare operationalisation in Germany's public forests at the local level is proposed. While such a concept will not solve all complex problems related to the determination of common welfare in public forestry, it would notably contribute to a more operational definition of common welfare in public forestry and a more informed public debate on the issue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-434
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Forest Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Common welfare
  • Discourse
  • Governance
  • Participation
  • Privatisation
  • Public forests


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