For the tenth time, the Consortium of Alpine Forestry Associations is presenting the Alpine Protection Forest Award. This year is the second time that Helvetia is the main financial sponsor. Ten projects and ideas have been nominated from Austria, Switzerland, Bavaria, and South Tyrol. They are all fine examples of the work needed to ensure the cultivation and sustainability of the protection forest and to maintain the balance between nature and mankind. Roberto Lecciso, board member at Helvetia Italy, and political representatives from the Alpine countries participated in the awards ceremony on 22 January 2016 in Toblach (South Tyrol).
In his speech at the awards ceremony, Lecciso said, “Due to their long-term nature and their spatial distance, we are seldom aware of the issue of protection forests. An accolade like the Protection Forest Award helps build bridges and make the necessity and existence of these forests relevant to central stakeholders and a wider.”
Consortium of Alpine Forestry Associations is awarding the distinction “Protection Forest Sponsor” for the first time. The first recipient of this new title is Reverend Hans Oberhammer from Taisten in South Tyrol. Far beyond his congregation, he is well known for his love of forests, nature, and the environment. Over the years, he has planted and cared for many trees in the church’s forest and in the area surrounding the rectory. To this day, Reverend Oberhammer is no stranger to manual labour. He is also known as the “forest worker with a blue apron, axe, lopping shears, and backpack”. Fir trees are his favourite. Alexandra Meissnitzer, Austrian skiing legend and Protection Forest Ambassador at Helvetia Austria since 2013, presented him with the award.
The “Public Relations, Innovation, and Protection Forest Partnerships” category honours creative and effective media strategies for the protection forest. The winner of the 2015 award went to a project from South Tyrol that illustrates the role of rejuvenation in young forests. Forest supervisors, forest owners, and hunters contributed to the decision-making process.
Two other prize-winners came from Switzerland. The special jury prize went to a project from Grisons. In the Misox and Calanca valley communities, the network of firewater basins for fighting forest fires has been improved continuously since 2007. The Mattenbach protection forest project from St. Gallen, which uses stabilising structures to protect against landslides, won the “Outstanding Project” category.
The prize for the best school project went to the “Tree Festivals” project, which is based on a tradition in Italian forest law that has been practiced continuously since 1923. The goal of this festival is to instill love and respect for the forest in young people. Generations of primary school students have experienced this beautiful festival. To bring these children closer to the forest, the national forest service in South Tyrol shares its knowledge of nature with around 11,000 pupils per year and helps them plant their own trees.