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Seeing the forest for the trees

The Entlebuch has taken a step towards sustainable development by creating a biosphere reserve Keystone Archive

Everyone is invited into the Swiss woods on March 21 to mark International Day of the Forest.

This content was published on March 15, 2002 - 14:48

Numerous events are being held across the country. Participants can take part in talks, forest hikes along interpretive trails and dine on dishes prepared with forest plants and herbs.

The organisers of the events are putting the accent this year on mountain forests and the important role they play in supporting sustainable tourism in the Alps. This year has also been declared International Year of Mountains by the United Nations.

Forests act as avalanche barriers, protecting mountain roads, villages and tourist infrastructure such as ski lifts. Forestry experts reckon that alpine tourism would be a far cry from what it is without the protection provided by forests.

High costs

About SFr700 million ($423 million) has been spent over the past 50 years to replant trees and build avalanche barriers in the mountainous canton Graubünden alone -Switzerland's top tourist region.

The mountain forests also protect fragile flora and fauna.

The events continue throughout the year. On May 20, a local choir will give a "music amidst the trees" concert at the Heiligkreuz pilgrimage site in the Entlebuch region of Central Switzerland.

The Entlebuch is Switzerland's only biosphere reserve as recognised by Unesco.

Barrier forests

Foresters will lead tours on June 15 through the "barrier forests" of the Lütschine Valleys below the famous trio of Bernese Oberland peaks, the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.

Visitors to Switzerland interested in contributing to the preservation of alpine forests can also work as volunteers.

Since 1987, the Mountain Forest Project, supported by Greenpeace and the WWF, has been organising project weeks across the Alps in Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

Under qualified supervision, volunteers carry out practical work including the replanting of trees and the clearing of trails.

Simple hut or hostel accommodation, food and accident insurance are provided.

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