Speech/statement | Date: 06.10.2017 | Ministry of Agriculture and Food
Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues.
Oslo was earlier this year granted the European Forest City 2017 award by the European Forest Institute. We are grateful for this honor, and it is my great pleasure to welcome you all to Oslo and Norway.
We are now close to the city forests of Oslo - Oslomarka. These forests are dear to the inhabitants of the city and important to our culture, heritage and our current and future wellbeing. We appreciate the opportunity to show the value of our city forest.
Most people in the city have a close personal relationship to the forest, the landscape, its plants, animals and the value it creates.
The forest is crowded with people, hiking during summer, picking blueberries or mushrooms in the autumn, and cross-country skiing during winter times.
In addition to the beauty and benefits of the forests of Oslo – they provide a unique possibility to teach us the importance of forests and its benefits for human beings.
Per Christian Asbjørnsen –one of our prime storytellers and collector of Norwegian fairy tales - the Norwegian counterpart to the Brothers Grimm - happened to also be a forester. I would like to share a short quote by him:
“When the world turns against me – and it neglects rarely to do. I find myself to head for the forest to dampen my worry and turmoil. I know no more, but what is clear to my memory is that a summer afternoon I walked up the meadows on the east side of Aker river with the fishing rod in hand, past Torshaug and Sandaker through Lillohagen to the edge of Maridal lake.”
You have probably never heard about these locations, but I can tell you that they are just nearby us where we are now. A stroll along the river Akerselven crossing the whole city and up to the forests are still very dear to the citizens of Oslo, and thousands of people walk here every day.
I think this illustrates well the importance that the forest of Oslo has. In daily life, for recreation and in literature and art.
Norwegians care about their forests, and we have a long tradition for developing institutions to take care of them. We are celebrating the 100-year anniversary of our forest research this year. And in 1919, we established our first national forest inventory. This was the first forest inventory in Europe – and in the world. It is still the main source of information and policy tool for the management of our forests and the development of our forest policy. One of the organizers of this annual conference – Norwegian institute of bioeconomy research- is operating our national program.
During the last century, new challenges have occurred, and new approaches have been required. We have adapted our policies accordingly during all these years.
Sustainable forest management is about two main things – people and trees. In that order. In Norway, we are more people than before – and at the same time, forests are expanding. The recently mentioned forest inventory shows that we have three times the volume in our forest now compared to 1919. At that time, Norwegian forests were degraded and could not support our basic needs. And Norway would probably have qualified for REDD+ programs.
What we have learned through this past hundred years is that knowledge is a key. 200 years ago, we sent our talented people to Germany and they returned with knowledge of importance to the developments of our forest policies. Later we established forestry education here in Norway. We are still looking abroad for inspiration and collaboration – to the European Forest Institute – among others.
Norway has been a supporter of European Forest Institute since the very beginning. The first director of the institute was from Norway - Professor Birger Solberg from our University of Life Sciences. Norway was the first country to ratify the convention of EFI. For a country at the edge of our continent, European cooperation is essential. The European Forest Institute serves this purpose. The knowledge produced by this network is the fundament when we develop our national and the European forest sector to a new circular economy for the future.
We need viable forests and active people in order to solve our substantial challenges for the future. You know everything about forest – I would like to focus on people. Young people, those inheriting our shortcomings and our failures. I have learned that EFI has established programs for young scientists and collaboration between countries in Europe. I strongly support such endeavors. It can hardly be emphasized enough that the future belongs to young, knowledgeable people that would like to devote their professional career to natural resource management and among those, forests management. Let us together make a real effort to attract young people that wish to engage in forest policies and management. We need them, each and every one.
Let us not forget the trees, but let us focus on the people. By doing so, we should be able to advance our effort to make policies and programs supporting the role of forests at our continent.
The forests can manage well without people. People cannot manage well without forests. Forest policies are about people. The Norwegian government looks forward to the continuous cooperation with the European Forest Institute.
I trust that you will have a constructive seminar today, and I am glad to know that you will visit the beautiful forest of Oslo tomorrow. Enjoy our forest!