In a nutshell
Model Forest Istria, previously called Model Forest River Mirna Basin, is located in the Northwestern part of the Istrian peninsula in Croatia. Over the last 40 years, pastures and agricultural lands have been abandoned, especially in the highlands, where the population has migrated to urban areas. During the last decade, the area has been revitalizing by developing tourism services and planting new and diverse agro-forestry cultivations. One of the main challenges for local stakeholders is finding the right solutions to generate income on forested landscapes since timber is of low market value.
The idea of establishing the Model Forest Istria resulted from the need to affiliate all territorial representatives in order to gather knowledge and encourage participation in the commercialization and management of natural resources, in particular non-timber forest products and education.
Model Forest Istria is in Region of Istria is comprised of the territories of three cities and nine municipalities, with many smaller rural towns, and a population of 39,335. The Model Forest’s landscape is diverse, covering the River Mirna basin, which includes the highlands of the Cicaria and Ucka mountains, the lower hills known for grape production and valuable truffle habitats, and the coastline where the river estuary meets the Mediterranean sea. Approximately 57% of the Model Forest’s land base is forested, about 66,556 hectares, much of which is privately owned.
The territory is at the intersection of several large floral areas (Dinaric, Alpic and Mediterranean) and the forest cover is diverse. Beech with autumn moor grass (Seslerio -Fagetum sylvaticae) is the predominant forest species up the Ucka mountainsides. Lower areas and interior forests are Oak and Oriental hornbeam (Querco -Carpinetum orientalis), while the Mediterranean zone has primarily Pine and Mediterranean oak.
The most important forest resource within the territory is white truffle, which makes Istria and the Model Forest an excellent gastronomy destination. The truffle species are harvested intensively by the local population and provide a key source of income to the local rural population. Truffles collected are the big white truffle (Tuber magnatum, T. borchii) and the black truffle (T. melanosporum, T. aestivum, T. uncinatum, T. brumale). Ninety-nine percent of the truffles harvested are for export, with only 1% for local consumption.
Several species of mushrooms in the region are picked and used for local consumption, including chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius); black trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioides); boletus (Boletus aereus, B. edulis); hedgehog mushroom (Hydnum repandum, H. reufescens), and honey fungus (Armillaria sp.).
Agricultural land comprises a significant part of the territory (28,308 ha), where a variety of fruits and vegetables are produced, as well as sheep, goat and cattle farming. There has been increased olive production over the last 10 years; however, this is coupled with increasing abandonment of pastures, resulting in an increase in forested landscape. Fisheries are a key source of income for locals living on the coastline.
The Model Forest Istria is a legal non-profit association. The association has selected a specific structure to guarantee compliance with the six principles governing any Model Forest. It is composed of two bodies. A General Assembly which is comprised of 25 members (15 regular and 10 supportive), is held twice a year, to vote on the financial and annual work plan and then to evaluate the previous year’s performance. A Steering Committee, comprised of 4 members, including a President, carries out activities voted on in the General Assembly and reports on them.
The Model Forest is comprised of 25 members:
Local and Regional Governments:
• Region of Istria
• Three Cities: Pazin, Novigrad, Buje
• Nine Municipalities: Brtonigla, Karojba, Lupoglav, Oprtalj, Groznjan, Kastelir –Labinci, Tar-Vabriga, Lanisce, Lupoglav
• Nature Park Ucka
• Institute for Agriculture and Tourism
• Croatian Forest Research Institute
Civil Society Stakeholders
• Hunting Federation of the Istrian Region
• Istrian Hiking Federation
• Hiking Association Cicarija
• Zigante Truffles
• Montona Tours
• A&Z honey
• GIR Truffles
• 2 individual members
The Model Forest Istria was created in order to collaborate with all relevant stakeholders to sustainably manage the Mirna River flow and preserve all significant surrounding ecosystems and valuable forest products.
It’s main objectives are:
• Education for sustainable development; forest pedagogy
• Non-timber forest products protection and commercialization
• Development of socio-cultural and tourism activities, products and services
Key actions in place to reach these goals:
Forest pedagogy in Istria is a forest education program for children and adults. Model Forest members and external experts collaborate to create workshops on forest education and sustainable development through local elementary schools. The program’s intent is to educate teachers about the benefits and skills associated with forest pedagogy, so they can implement their own forest pedagogy activities with children. Forest pedagogy is a discipline that connects forest ecosystems with educational work in the natural environment. The goal is to encourage positive feelings for children during their visit to the forest, so that they continue to come back to the forest and recognize it as a high value ecosystem.
Truffle Habitat Conservation Project aims to project the White truffle, one of the most important forest resources in the lower river basin, making Istria and the Model Forest a destination for gastronomy tourism. Black and white truffle varieties are intensely harvested, resulting in habitat degradation and becoming more endangered due to non- sustainable harvesting. Increasing demand, low availability and expensive reproduction raise a need for the improved practices to make it sustainable industry. The Model Forest is working with local stakeholders, advocating for truffle protection, organizing campaigns for the conversation of truffle habitats and the commercialization of truffle species.
• “Forest Stories” is a program designed for children to learn by directly experiencing nature. The program started in 2018 and has reached 300 children, ages 5 to 9, and their parents, from the cities of Pula, Porec, and Rovinj. In the program, children develop independence, empathy; learn teamwork and acceptance of others. Children are encouraged to explore and observe independently, express themselves creatively and strengthen their coordination and dexterity.
• Publication of the “Istrian Mountain Path – Guide and Diary” in collaboration with the Istrain Hiking Federation.
• Billboard on the main state road stating: “Truffle habitats are endangered! Preserve them with regular collecting”. This helps raise awareness to pickers to cover the hole after picking so that new truffles can grow.
• Promoting Forest Pedagogy in Region of Istria and in Croatia in cooperation with schools, kindergarten, experts and the public by organizing workshops and lectures for children and adults.
• Informing the public about the significant importance of the truffle to both the local ecosystem and the local economy.
Learn more about Model Forest Istria:
News Article: Forest Pedagogy
Strategic Plan: 2014-2018