Forest groups as support to private forest owners in developing close-to-nature management

Peter Van Gossum, Sebastiaan Luyssaert, Inge Serbruyns*, Freddy Mortier

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    To meet public expectations in densely populated regions, forest management should be multifunctional, not solely in public but also in private forests. Governments could induce private forest owners to manage their properties multifunctionally. 'Traditional' policy instruments do not achieve this objective sufficiently and therefore the potential of a new policy instrument was tested, namely the forest group or cooperative forest management, in implementing close-to-nature practices as part of multifunctional forest management. Data from three types of interviews were used: expert interviews (N=95), individual NIPF owners' interviews (N=404) and NIPF owners' focus groups (N=11). It was found that stimulating close-to-nature management in private forests is more fruitful in a forest group than it would be outside the forest group. However, owners participating in a forest group still experience practical difficulties in implementing close-to-nature management practices. To trigger a change in forest management, the forest group should identify and focus on the practical difficulties that NIPF owner's experience. A forest group could, at least in part, remove these difficulties by means of: (1) personal contact between the coordinator of the forest group and the forest owners; (2) a periodical magazine providing information on technical, financial and legal aspects; (3) time-extensive practical-based education, (4) establishing local pilot-forests, managed by the Forest Service or conservation groups and (5) including economic as well as ecological and recreational aspects of forest management in all communications about close-to-nature management with the participants of a forest group.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)589-601
    Number of pages13
    JournalForest Policy and Economics
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - May 2005


    • Ecological function
    • Education
    • Focus group
    • Non-industrial private forest owners
    • Policy instrument
    • Theory of planned behaviour


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