“The woods are our teacher and our friend”

“Another 1700 metres up and down again today”. Stefano Dell’Antonio is the cultural representative of the agency for state-owned forests in the Autonomous Province of Trento. It has been yet another day of inspections for him too: “We’ve got to get a move on and gather all the documentation we can before it snows” he explains.

At the moment it is impossible to estimate just how many cubic metres of trees were felled on 29 October by the fury of the wind. Several million to be sure, if we add up the damage in the province of Belluno, the worst hit area, on the Asiago plateau (Vicenza) and the mountains in the rest of the Veneto, Trentino, Alto Adige and Friuli.

“The figure is rising all the time” confirms Dell’Antonio. “Every day we make new discoveries and it’s a disaster. Every time we reach a ridge, we are filled with hope that we will find woodland untouched by the storm, but trees have been levelled everywhere”.

As well as the environmental damage, there is the economic aspect to consider: will the price of wood and labour plummet?

“Yes, there’s a good chance it will, but the institutions are taking measures across the regions to ensure we aren’t in competition with each other and to deal with the competition from Austria. We need to work together to solve this issue: this time only a joint effort will save us”.

So, all things considered, are you confident?

“Yes, I really hope the price of wood doesn’t fall. What we need to do is all sit down, not around a table but around the Dolomites, and work as one. Some of the wood won’t be usable, it might be viable as woodchips, but the woods here are top quality”.

And what will happen when you have cleared all the fallen trees?

“Large areas have been totally levelled, but I don’t think they can be turned into pastures or meadows, maybe only near the villages. We’re talking of about 50-60% of woodland of the same age which had already been replanted. We need fast-growing trees so should stick with the Alpine conifer. Our woods are so invaluable not only because of the soil and the climate, but due to their genetic make-up, without forgetting that the trees which give wood with such unique resonant qualities are a priceless treasure and we have a duty to grow them and protect them for the whole world”.

The landscape has changed…

“Yes, as we walk around, we have a lump in our throats and a knot in our stomachs. But we are also conscious of the fact that wherever natures passes, it creates a natural environment and we must accept it. The Dolomites are still beautiful. Our life in the Dolomites is still beautiful. We have to respect and protect the ethical and aesthetic part of the woods, namely everything to do with truth and beauty”.

Have you managed to do it these past few days?

“I’ve seen small trees, shining bright, full of life and ready to grow. We can learn so much from the woods: they are our teacher and our friend”.