New Federal Forest Act – Who Is Allowed in the Woods?

The new Federal Forest Act (German: Bundeswaldgesetz) is awaited in excitement. For example, will there be restrictions for mountain bikers? Here is why it is important to keep areas free of access for people.

The German Federal Forest Act dates back to 1975. At that time, people didn’t care too much about climate change and mass extinction. That’s why many politicians consider an amendment to the law as necessary. As of now, the final draft hasn’t yet been published, but every now and then parts of the content is leaked in media reports.

According to one of these leaks, cycling in the forest may only be permitted on designated paths. The Federal Ministry of the Economy has already announced that riding a bicycle in the woods will not be prohibited generally. Instead, the federal states will have to decide for themselves who will be allowed in the forests and on which paths – and they would also have to implement the measures and care for the signs.

When the Federal Forest Act was passed 50 years ago, there were no such things as electric mountain bikes. They have enabled almost anyone to race through the forests nowadays with their wide tires, electric drive support, and comfortable suspension. Back in the day, only biking experts could ride in the woods, but now anyone can dash through the undergrowth. 

Sure, cycling and being active are good things. But it goes without saying that the forest floor must not be damaged, and animals must not be scared away. Of course, cyclists do not pose the greatest threat to forests – but the forestry industry does. Also, the question remains how much forest area can effectively be protected by a law amendment that says only in a few situations: “You’re not allowed in here.” 

What we really need are huge, contiguous areas with access for neither humans nor machines. Permanently. For years, decades and centuries to come. Only then will new jungles be able to form, preserving and strengthening life and biodiversity. 

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