A story of forests and people

In less than a month, millions of people worldwide will celebrate FSC Friday – an international day of forests and, particularly, their protection. WWF is the first environmental organization in Bulgaria actively engaged in the FSC certification of our forests. But what is FSC and how does this certificate protect forests? In our short series of stories, a forest employee and his relatives will tell you about this. Enjoy the reading!

The forest and the people

Forests on Earth provide a livelihood for 1.6 billion people, 40 000 of whom live in Bulgaria. Meet Andon – a logger in a forest enterprise.
Andon has been cutting trees all his life, but the job is hard and the pay is not enough. A few years ago, his forest enterprise began the process of FSC certification and things changed.
“For the first time, I signed an employment contract and started receiving health insurance”, he says.  “They gave us protective clothing: hard shoes, a reflective vest, helmets with visors, gloves… At first, it was not very comfortable. We were not used to it. We were taking the helmets off, did not use the vests. But gradually we understood that this will save us from the injuries that had been a natural part of the job by then.”
In addition to the new acquisitions, there were also increased responsibilities. Andon gradually realized that even loggers are part of a larger community -- that of the forest and its inhabitants.
“We also participated in trainings on how to work correctly in the forest – where to cut, what to cut… to leave trees with hollows and nests, as well as the fallen trunks that serve as homes for insects and birds; to not harm other trees while logging so that we keep the forest alive for the future.”
Andon’s family supports the changes. His wife Velichka no longer worries that her children could lose their father or that her husband could lose his job unexpectedly and all of them end up homeless on the street. In the mountain regions of Bulgaria where jobs are scarce, this worry defines the lives of many families.
To be continued…
The names of our characters have been changed, but the people behind them are real. FSC helps forest workers work and live with dignity and preserves forests for all forever.
© WWF/ Нели Арабаджиева
Protective clothing is compulsory requirement of FSC
© WWF/ Нели Арабаджиева

The forest and business

Our friend Andon tells us about the visit of his cousin Hristo, who has recently become unemployed and wants his idea to become an entrepreneur.
"First we wanted to make a company and talk to the local forest enterprise to allow us to log. But when we met the boss, he told us straight away there was no time to apply for the public tender."
Tsvetan Penev, manager of the state forest enterprise where Andon works, adds: "We had already finished our planned annual logging activities so I suggested that they do something else - engage in carpentry and buy our certified wood. This way, they wouldn’t need to wait for a public tender and would be able to offer their customers more special products.”
"My wife also came up with the idea to collect forest fruits in the summer and expand the activities of the company”, Andon remarks.  “Now our plan is to involve the whole family in different things. My father used to have bees and next year, if it all goes well and we are lucky, we could catch a bee swarm in the forest."
As they continue talking, the business plans of Andon and Hristo become even more ambitious. They also mention the certification for timber trade, but before that they will need to fulfill the requirements for transporting and storing raw materials. The best thing is that there is somebody to help them follow the rules of FSC. This way, they will protect the forest, enjoy its products every year and have advantage over their competitors.
To be continued...
The names of the characters in our story have been changed. But their opportunities for business are real.  FSC encourages local entrepreneurs and services and works for the responsible and sustainable use of forests.
If you have missed the first part of our story about the forest, read here how FSC helps Andon have secure employment and safe working conditions.
© N.C. Turner / WWF
FSC logo on wood production
© N.C. Turner / WWF

The forest and nature

Tsvetan Penev, a state forest enterprise manager, invited us for a walk in the enterprise he is responsible for. In a certified forest, we can see old trees and forests where no human has set foot. We are walking along a quiet river, enjoying the clean air and the songs of birds.
Andon is also here with us. As a logger, he is well aware of many of the mandatory elements connected to logging in certified forests.
"This bridge here was made by me and the colleagues”,  he says and points to the path above the river, ”so that logs do not muddle the water, ruin the water bed or get in the way of migrating fish. The water we drink will be cleaner as well."
We notice that trees have been selected according to some criteria in the logging areas and that there are no bare areas. What is more, the vegetation close to the river is thick and seems intact. "We cannot cut in a 15-meter area around the banks of the river in order not to harm the specific ecosystem and its inhabitants”, Tsvetan says.
We keep going and reach a place with many dead, dry or fallen trees. Most of them are covered with moss. On some, I can see sponges and other small plants. The atmosphere becomes darker, almost sinister, as if we are in one of the fairy forests of Tolkien. I ask both of my leaders why there are so many dead trees and Tsvetan says that this is done intentionally.
"Leaving dead wood in the forest, at least 10%, is very important! Half of the forest inhabitants are directly dependent on it. Dead trees are the only place where the ground beetle can breed, mosses and mushrooms grow and many birds and bats, even small mammals, nest ... For us, these do not have an economic value, but when they decay they enrich the soil and allow the forest to renew itself and not die."
Even seemingly unnecessary elements in the forest landscape have their own vital role in the bigger picture.
The names of the characters in our walk are changed. But the opportunities for outdoor recreation and enjoyment of beautiful forests are real.
FSC protects vulnerable and endangered plants and animals and contributes to the harmonious coexistence of humans and nature.
If you have missed the first and second part of our forest stories, read here how FSC helps Andon have secure employment and safe working conditions and Hristo start his own business.
© Staffan Widstrand / WWF
The lynx returns in Bulgarian forests
© Staffan Widstrand / WWF