Eva Weber has been Mayor of the City of Augsburg since May 1, 2020. The Mayor is the chairwoman of the City Council and its committees with advisory and voting rights. She implements the resolutions of these bodies, manages the entire administration and represents the city to the outside world. The Mayor also makes decisions in urgent cases in place of the councils and committees and supervises the city’s civil servants, staff and workers.
One-fifth of Augsburg’s urban area is covered with forest – does "forest" have a special meaning for the people in the city?
"The city forest has many functions. It supplies about 360,000 people with drinking water so pure it does not even require treatment. It provides a habitat for animals and plants, including many rare and protected species. The local Stadtwald Augsburg recreation area is visited by about 3 million people a year, and is recreation-certified by the PEFC.
"In addition, the city forest provides us with a renewable raw material – wood. It also stores climate-impacting carbon dioxide (CO2) and thus helps the climate. And Augsburg is the largest municipal forest owner in Bavaria. The forestry administration manages 7,700 hectares of forest – added together, this would equal the area of Lake Chiemsee. So to answer your question: Yes, forest has long had and continues to have a special significance for the people of Augsburg and makes a substantial contribution to their quality of life."
Urban forest districts are drinking water reservoirs, pollutant filters, recreational habitats – but also economic factors. How do they balance these factors?
"Forestry is demanding, because a wide variety of interests and demands are placed on the forest. Time and again, it is necessary to find a balance between the various concerns such as timber utilization, recreation, nature conservation and drinking water protection and to reconcile them all. The municipal forestry administration ensures that the diverse benefits of the forest ecosystem continue to be available to our society – i.e., in a truly sustainable manner."
A political demand that I'm sure you've heard many times as a politician: Why don't you just let the forest “grow wild”?
"I have heard these demands, but I see them with a critical eye. I only want to speak for the Augsburg forest. In our case, especially in times of climate change, it is important to take care of this forest – in other words, to manage it carefully. And the main tree species of our municipally owned forests is still spruce, which we know, at least since the three devastating drought years of 2018–2020, is suffering particularly badly from climate change.
"If we were to simply let these forests grow wild, it could lead to large, collapsing forest stands. So our foresters are taking countermeasures. Spruce-dominated stands are steered toward becoming hardwood-dominated forest areas through maintenance interventions. The wood removed in this way is then used in the best possible fashion in the subsequent utilization chain. Weak wood is turned into paper, and strong wood into shutters, beams and planks for modern timber construction.
"Several solid cubic meters are deliberately left behind in the forest and become deadwood with its enormous biodiversity. Wood is the only truly sustainable renewable resource we have in Augsburg. Would it be better to import our construction and furniture wood from other continents, even though it grows on our doorstep? At the same time, we also leave significant portions of Augsburg’s forests to their own devices – in other words, we consciously forego their use. These are mostly areas that are valuable for nature conservation."