The ownership structure of forests in Poland remained almost unchanged since the end of the last world war. Majority of the public forests is now under the administration and management of the National Forest Holding “State Forests”.
In my opinion, state forests in many post-communistic countries were created to a large extent from the misery and suffering of ordinary people. The State was taking the best pieces of forests. Whenever I hear how wonderfully state forests manage their forests in post-communistic countries, always I have in my mind those people who lost their properties.
It is already one year after I emigrated from Poland, but still the subject of “State Forests”, where I was working two years, is bringing back. I left this company in the best possible time. If I had stayed there longer, probably I would be now in a political party, labor union or any other organization, in order to increase my chances for a better salary and higher status within the company. Strategically it would be definitely correct, but personally, I would have a serious moral hangover. I am aware that State Forests are not the only type of such companies in Poland, and definitely not the only state forest institution in the world, where resources are not simply optimally managed.
How state forests were formulated in many post-communistic countries?
The story of State Forests in Poland is both simple and awful. The story starts with the end of the II World War. Poland was here on the win side together with Soviet Union and others, with who we were walking arm in arm to conquer Berlin. Although we won, from the history perspective we were on the side of losers. In my opinion, we started the worst period in Polish history.
I can even argue that no wars taken together have destroyed Poland as significantly as the period of communism that we had during next 45 years.
Just before the end of the war, the Polish Committee of National Liberation was formed which was a puppet provisional government of Poland, fully sponsored and controlled by the Soviet Union. This situation occurred also in many other states who were under military control of Soviet Union such as Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania, Czechoslovakia or Baltic States.
“State Forests” company in Poland was created in 1924 on reasonable rules, but the biggest increase in their property size happened after the Decree of 12 December 1944, when the private owners with forest areas over 25 hectares, had lost their properties in favor of the (State) Treasury.
You can imagine yourself as forest owner that time. Every day you were waking up, walking in your own forest, checking how it grows, and then suddenly somebody is knocking to your doors and saying: “Your forest is no longer yours. It is owned now by the State. Amen”.
Nowadays, state forests companies in many countries have difficult dilemma. This dilemma is about the function of the State in the nature conservation on behalf of entire nation, and respect of private property, which State violated in the past. Can re-privatization be a solution? Will private forest owners know how to conserve valuable pieces of land? Until we will not give former owners their lands back, we will probably never know the answers for these questions.
3 thoughts on “State forests in post-communistic countries are created from the misery and suffering of normal people.”
Really interesting Rafa, I assume that the situation would be similar in other countries like Latvia right?
Yes Oscar, you are right. The forest land was nationalized also in Baltic States after 1940. However, the Latvia after 1990 started ownership and property rights reforms (Poland did not), and from 100% state forest ownership, Latvia went through the transition to 50/50 – public/private forest ownership. Thanks to such transition, timberland investments have taken place in Latvia and other Baltics during last two decades e.g. investments from Scandinavian investors who started to buy timberlands, plant forest etc. In my opinion, the wood market in Latvia has improved thanks to these reforms, and has become more attractive for foreign capital and investors.