On 25 June 2011, something great for German nature conservation happened at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris: Five forest areas became part of the World Heritage Site "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany”.
Even if this did not add a single square meter to the already protected forest areas this decision underlined the uniqueness of the beech forests and the global responsibility for their conservation.
I still remember very well the 35th meeting of the World Heritage Committee, which took place in 2011 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The committee received nominations from Germany for the inscription of the Fagus Factory in Alfeld and the extension of the Slovak-Ukrainian Natural World Heritage site Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians by ancient beech forests located in Germany. Moreover, under Swiss respectively French leadership we were involved in the serial nominations Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps and The architectural Work of Le Corbusier. Neither before nor after did the committee have evaluate so many international transboundary nominations from Germany.
Incidentally, we are now the State Party of the World Heritage Convention, which is the front runner in terms of participation in transboundary World Heritage properties.
Bi- and multilateral cooperation – on the heart of the convention according many documents of the World Heritage Committee and the World Heritage Centre – distinguishes the World Heritage program and the World Heritage List, the latter being the most high-profile tool of the Convention. This basic idea is embodied in particular by transboundary serial World Heritage properties. Even in the first few years, transboundary sites were nominated and listed, i.e. the Białowieża Forest in Poland and Belarus.
There has been at least one international transboundary nomination per year since the mid-1990s. The total number is now 27, which makes up 2.41 % of the 1121 World Heritage sites. The number appears marginal, but is put into perspective by the fact that 62 countries, i.e. almost a third of the 194 signatory states to the World Heritage Convention, are actively working together in this way to protect and preserve the cultural and natural World Heritage. Usually two or three countries cooperate. The participation of 12 countries as it is now – I have to say in view of the extension which will be presented to the committee for decision at the end of July – is the absolute exception. So this year we not only have to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the inscription of the German component parts, but probably also the participation of almost 20 European countries in this European in this ambitious project.
We are committed to preserving this natural heritage. By doing this and continuously cooperating with our European partners, we also contribute to cohesion and mutual understanding in Europe.
Actually, that would be a reason to do the same as the Canadians. They have a gold coin popular with collectors and investors, the ‘Maple Leaf’, on the reverse of which is embossed the maple leaf that also adorns their flag. A perfect European match could be a coin with a leaf of beech on the reverse, a ‘Beech Leaf’ so to say. It doesn't have to be right away, but by the next big anniversary it might be possible if we submit the proposal to the German mint in proper time.
Regardless of all material and intangible, outstanding universal or only regional values: beech forests and just beech hedges can also simply be enjoyed, especially in summer temperatures.
Dr. Birgitta Ringbeck
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Coordination Office World Heritage
“Congratulations to those who worked so hard to preserve the Beech Forests of Germany for all humankind. I am proud to have been a small part of a team of dedicated people. But most of all, congratulations to all Germany for choosing to preserve wild nature for future generations to know and understand the Beech Forests and their value to all Europe. The story of the Beech is the story of Europe."
Welt-Schutzgebietskommission der ICUN (Evaluation 2010)
Missoula, Montana USA
"Dear World Heritage actors of the German beech forest areas, 10 years ago, the "Ancient Beech Forests of Germany" were awarded the UNESCO World Heritage title. I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to the 5 German beech forest areas on this anniversary! Today, the World Heritage Site “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” comprises an impressive 78 beech forest properties in 12 European countries. There are few other World Heritage Sites where international cooperation and solidarity are put into practice as directly as they are here. Preserving our common heritage across national borders – this is also the key concept of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. My special thanks, therefore, for your commitment to a secure future for this unique forest ecosystem."
Prof. Dr. Maria Böhmer
President of the German Commission for UNESCO
Photo © Danetzki
"10 Years World Natural Heritage – Ancient Beech Forests I am delighted that we can celebrate 10 years of UNESCO World Natural Heritage Beech Forests this year. Beech forests once characterised the appearance of Europe. Today, the near-natural European beech forests have been reduced to a few areas. They have become highly endangered habitats. We must preserve these last remnants for future generations. It was therefore a great day for nature conservation in Germany and a milestone for the preservation of the last unexploited primeval beech forests and near-natural old-growth beech forests throughout Europe when the five German beech forests were inscribed on the World Heritage List ten years ago, as an extension to the World Heritage Site "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians" listed in 2007. Since 2017, the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe" has comprised old-growth beech forests in 12 European countries and the process for an additional extension is underway – what a success story! A big thank you is due to all those who are committed to preserving our precious beech forests. Their contributions deserve respect and recognition. Seize the anniversary as an opportunity to venture into the forest and enjoy this precious ecosystem with open eyes and ears!"
Dr. Christiane Paulus
Head of Department "Nature Conservation and Sustainable Use of Nature"
of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU)
"Who would have ever thought that our Hessian National Park would develop so well, that sub-sections would have such a high conservation significance that a relevant part of the National Park was awarded the title of Natural World Heritage ten years ago. We are thus in the context of large and significant Natural World Heritage Areas, such as those in the Ukraine, which received this award several years ago as shining examples.
Looking back at how much resistance there was at first and how much approval there is for the National Park today, it shows us that the commitment to nature, to a little more wilderness, is worthwhile even in our densely populated country. We are proud of our contribution to the World Natural Heritage Beech Forests.
Keep up the good work!"
State Chair BUND Hessen e.V.
Chair State Nature Conservation Advisory Council Hessen
"In the old forests there was a moment and eternity" (Günter Eich) We can be proud of the fact that five beech forest areas in our densely populated country, including two from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania with the Jasmund and Müritz national parks, have been included in the World Heritage List. We should not see this title - World Natural Heritage - as an honor, as a "moment", but also as an obligation. Because with the title we have at the same time taken responsibility for ensuring that this unique natural heritage is also preserved for future generations and that they can experience it.
Forests need time - "eternity". They have a different time frame than modern, economically thinking people. Our foregoing economic profit today is therefore a major investment in the future. We should therefore do everything in our power to stop and reverse the decline in the species-rich communities that were once so diverse in beech forests. To achieve this, we must ensure that not only the five designated World Heritage Forests, but also other, larger beech forest areas, and especially the trees over 100 years old, are taken out of conventional use and managed as naturally as possible.
"Here the forest grows even without forest roads", this is how an old forester summarized many years ago on a hike through a Romanian beech forest. We should therefore show more courage - courage for more wilderness, courage not to interfere and thus also courage for the benefit of future generations.
The beginning has been made. Let the five protected primeval beech forests of the World Heritage Site be followed by others.
BUND - state chairman in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
"10 years young, yet very old Safeguarding valuable old-growth beech forests as Natural World Heritage is a milestone in the protection of our natural heritage. A great treasure for our descendants, which becomes more precious with increasing age and yields a greater "return" for biodiversity and people alike than managed forests. My heartfelt thanks to all involved in making this possible. May many other forests follow, so that wild beech forests can finally be experienced again by many, which ought to be a matter of course for Europe."
NABU Hessen, Director Nature Conservation