European Rural Perspectives on Forest Protection

An exploration of rural communities’ needs, hopes, and concerns about European forests

As Europe gears up for the EU Parliamentary elections during the summer, discussions about green policies have become increasingly politicized and polarized. Over the last year, we have seen a “backlash” against the EU’s environmental ambitions, with policies like the Nature Restoration Law challenged and weakened as a result.  

In this increasingly challenging context for European environmental NGOs, Fern has commissioned GlobeScan to conduct qualitative research in Czechia, France, Germany, and Poland to better understand rural communities’ needs, hopes, and concerns about European forests. 

Findings show that forests are seen as a public good and integral to a healthy lifestyle. Rural communities have a strong emotional connection to their local forests, with many feeling highly concerned and distressed about the current state of European forests. As a result, there is a strong desire for more regulation at local and national levels to improve forest management practices. The role of the EU in forest protection is predominantly seen in providing incentives for improving forest resilience. 

The research explores attitudes towards “green backlash” campaign messages challenging the Nature Restoration Law and finds that these do not resonate even among more right-leaning forester communities. These messages are seen as extreme, oversimplified, or even irrelevant, providing an opportunity for European environmental NGOs to engage with these communities and better utilize their local knowledge.