Europe and Central Asia
17 Nov 2015

Wood Pastures in Europe - are they helped or hindered by European farming policies?

By Finlay Duncan

The European Parliament's been playing host to a discussion on Europe's wood pastures and whether or not farming policies in the EU are working as well as they can to protect these natural areas.

To try and highlight this issue, BirdLife, the European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism and the Pogány-havas Association from Romania joined together to put the topic at the heart of European democracy.

Co-chaired by three MEPs (Csaba Sogor from Romania of the EPP, Clara Aguilera from Spain of S&D and Catherine Bearder from the UK of ALDE), the seminar presented case studies and discussed the effects of European policy on wood pasture areas.

A number of policy changes were suggested by some of the contributors, in which farmers, government experts and members of the European Commission were all represented, to ensure these treasures of the landscape are actively managed and conserved.

Wood pastures are real, productive, farming landscapes, but as it stands the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) discriminates against them as they are neither pure grasslands nor forests.

Trees and shrubs on pastures are very much treated in simple terms by the legislators and managers of the CAP; as signs of land abandonment or of non-productive farming. This makes it more difficult for this farmland to receive CAP subsidies. Making the pastures less financially viable means farmers are removing the trees and shrubs, converting wood pastures to forestry use or abandoning the pastures altogether.

This situation runs against the aims of EU environmental policies, especially the Biodiversity Strategy, and makes a mockery of the new “greener” vision for the CAP. It's also thought that the new system for pastures is also very bureaucratic and costly.

It is clear more work is needed to improve and simplify the policy details and implementation of CAP rules for pastures with trees. However, if this is not done urgently, the CAP may be condemning wood pastures to irreversible changes and a slow death.

More information about BirdLife's presentation is available here.

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.