Engagement means listening first: SUPERB’s Po Valley Demo

Effective stakeholder engagement is key to long-term forest restoration success. Being aware of that, SUPERB’s  Po Valley Demo team, after considering the internal skillset (mainly academic and technical), chose to seek support on this task from experts in this field. 

After a selection process in the private sector for a consulting association, the Po Valley Demo team joined forces with NGO Demetra Onlus, a social promotion and international solidarity organisation working on social engagement in different fields, including counseling on stakeholder inclusion in environmental projects, environmental education in schools, and children playground design for outdoor parks. 

As part of a recent stakeholder engagement workshop that took place in September 2023, at Parco Nord HQ in Milan, Demetra presented a 2-year long stakeholder engagement strategy as a three-fold approach with different focuses: 

  • First, raising school children’s perception and interaction with the area in concert with the growth of the plantation: environmental talks in local primary schools with visits to the plantation areas, with the idea that the plantation itself will grow together with that particular generation of citizens. First sessions with the students in Legnano (the first SUPERB planting site in the Po Valley area) were successfully carried out. And many teachers at the school asked to repeat the sessions in other classrooms! 
  • Second, a screening of NGOs, civil society actors, public institutions, dog lovers’ associations, bike riding groups, among other common actors that could actively use the area and include them in the strategy development and implementation by making their needs and preferences known to the Po Valley Demo team. 
  • Third, a scouting of the local businesses possibly interested in co-financing the plantation maintenance after the SUPERB project ends in 2025. At that point, synergies between private partners and public municipality could be a win-win situation for both, allowing for a reduction of the public maintenance costs for the municipality and a green marketing possibility for the private sector. 

Demetra, the SUPERB Po Valley team and the local stakeholders are now looking forward to seeing the trees, the environmental knowledge and the engagement grow. Some of this excitement is reflected in the outcomes of activities involving local stakeholders in previous meetings, including families, elderly groups, and sport-related associations, answering the question: How do we involve citizens in the new forest? 

Reforestation in our demo area in Vysocina region

In the Vysocina region, mature Norway spruce stands were heavily infested by bark beetles. It resulted in massive salvage logging and an abrupt decrease of the area of older coniferous stands by 20%. In one of the most affected forest districts, Ledeč nad Sázavou (Forest of the Czech Republic; Lesy České republiky s.p.), salvage felling in the period 2018–2022 amounted to 2 219 333 m3. Affected trees were continuously removed, and sites were prepared for restoration. The main restoration measures are natural and artificial regeneration (planting and seeding) of site-specific tree species of local provenances (following national legislation – decree 456/2021) and subsequent weed control. In the Czech demo areas, planting took place in the spring and autumn of 2022. Protection through the fencing of broadleaved and Abies alba was necessary to prevent game browsing. The main tree species used for reforestation are Quercus petraea, Fagus sylvatica, Acer pseudoplatanus, Picea abies, Alnus glutinosa, Pinus sylvestris and Prunus avium. The design of reforestation is based on site-specific conditions, the mosaic of site types and targeted tree species composition. In the coming years, we plan on improvement of afforestation in case of failures, mechanical weed control, and consequent use of repellents outside the fenced areas.