Since joining the IMFN in 2012, the Montagne Fiorentine Model Forest has developed its own ethical and sustainable wood certification label and taken important steps toward sustainable tourism in the area. More importantly, it has become a firm practitioner in sharing best practices with other Model Forests in the region.
The 55,000 ha Montagne Fiorentine Model Forest (MFMF) lies just east of the famous city of Florence, Italy. The MFMF developed its Il Legno (“The Wood”) trademark in 2015 as a means to comply with European Union regulation on wood traceability, coupling it with the opportunity to better promote locally sourced wood. Participants throughout the supply chain see the trademark as an enticing avenue to guarantee the origin of the wood, and to add value by underlining the sustainable production practices of the local forestry sector.
“The wood comes from a small area, and there are only a few local sawmills. We are not talking about a massive volume of trade,” says Dr. Antonio Ventre, Manager of the MFMF. “But this process allows for all the actors throughout the supply chain – from producers to businesses in Florence – to collaborate in ways they never have before. It has created a very positive dynamic that values local, sustainable wood and increases the visibility of our producers. We believe this process could be reproduced elsewhere in Italy and even throughout the Mediterranean Model Forests.”
The wood is harvested in one of the seven communities within the Model Forest’s territory. Compliance with environmental, health and safety practices is monitored by a committee of the Union of Municipalities in the Valdarno and Valdisieve, in accordance with a locally developed protocol, the APROFOMO (Avvio del PROcesso di FOresta MOdello).
While some producers initially hesitated to join a common value-added supply chain, most embraced the opportunity from the start. And as of now, over 100,000 kg of firewood, timber and other hardwood products has been traded through the internet-based transaction platform, legnoforestamodello.it.
The certification also managed to land a celebrity endorsement, as Florence-based chef and TV personality Fabio Picchi, owner of renowned restaurant Cibrèo, ordered Il Legno-certified floor parquet and furniture, as well as locally produced food.
Along with its trademark initiative, the MFMF is providing workshops, training and extension services to small forest lot owners in the area, such as the Boschi chiavi in Mano (“Turnkey Wood”) programme, where professional foresters help woodlot owners navigate best practices in silviculture and facilitate the trade of wood products.
Sustainable tourism drawing on Florence visitors
The city of Florence, neighbouring the MFMF, attracts over 9 million visitors annually. The Model Forest is looking to attract their interest by developing its sustainable tourism capacity.
Working with other local actors through its Culture and Tourism commission, the Model Forest is promoting the Montagne Fiorentine landscape at events and is working to improve the local offer in high-quality tourism, coupling it with related activities such as valuing local agricultural production.
Since 2014, the MFMF has been organizing Tre passi a monte (“Three Steps to the Mountain”) walking tours with forestry professionals as means to promote the Fiorentine Mountain area, educate visitors on local heritage and resources, and provide an eco-friendly way to increase awareness of the connections between the city and the forest.
“If we could attract even 1% of the tourists flowing through Florence, that would be a great boost to us. What we are working on, ultimately, is to develop an improved offer and get tour operators onboard, so they can include us in their packages,” Dr. Ventre explains.
This reality is shared with other European Model Forests. Dr. Ventre points to the Provence and Czech Model Forests as examples of where the proximity to European tourism hotspots could be harnessed to attract visitors.
Sustainable tourism was identified as a preferred area for collaboration between members of the Mediterranean region’s Model Forests. The MFMF is taking an active lead in enhancing region-wide networking and developing a common proposal for activities such as joint promotion.
This was discussed recently when members of the MFMF travelled to the Czech Republic Model Forest’s Inauguration Ceremony at Krtiny Castle, where delegates deepened their ties andstrengthened partnerships and shared best practices with university professors, forest managers and other Czech professionals.
Growing more Model Forests in Italy
Montagne Fiorentine might soon have company in Italy, as discussions are underway to establish another Model Forest in the Abruzzo region, centered around the Sirente Verino Regional Park.
In the past year, MFMF and Abruzzo representatives have held several meetings and are working on developing the necessary framework and actors underpinning a successful Model Forest proposal.
“It is a beautiful region, with breathtaking sights. But it is isolated and sparsely populated. Visitors to the area tend to visit only the well-known National Parks of Abruzzo, such as Gran Sasso, limiting the opportunities for locals to benefit from this. The Model Forest approach could help them initiate greater cooperation between the various actors, pooling resources and making it possible for them to develop an attractive offer that will help them to prosper and diversify,” says Dr. Ventre.