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flanders and brussels: planting a new forest in ostende

For the past ten years, the Lappersfort forest on the edge of Bruges has been the site of a symbolic struggle to protect the few pieces of forest left in Flanders, one of the regions in Europe with the least green space and the highest density of motorways and cities. The forest was occupied by activists in 2002, and people spent months living in the trees to stop them being cut down. The result was that the majority of the forest has been successfully saved.
flanders and brussels: planting a new forest in ostendeTree hugging day in the forest before the last section was felled. But one last struggle has been for a 3.2 hectare area of forest: its owner, a subsidiary of energy giant GDF Suez, announced in 2009 that they wanted to clear the land to make way for industrial buildings. The forest, like one third of all forest in Flanders, had been designated as ‘industrial land’ by the government.


Although a second occupation began, and €20,000 was raised (to buy individual plots of the forest) by Friends of the Earth Flanders & Brussels, local action group Groene Gordel
Front, and the occupiers of the forest, it was not enough to purchase the land. The chainsaws and earthmovers finally entered the forest in March 2010, and felled the trees.


In response, in November 2010 over 100 people from the local community, together with those who had donated funds, planted a new forest in neighbouring Ostende. In total, the new forest will be more than twice the size of the forest that was destroyed. It will take some generations for the forest to become fully grown, but the model of cooperative land ownership will ensure that the land will be protected for generations to come.


The campaign also gave new momentum to the forest protection movement, putting the issue of deforestation in Flanders - and especially the issue of ‘wrongly designated forests’- at the top of the political agenda.


“The attempt to buy the forest, unfortunately, couldn’t stop the felling on March 4th. From the beginning we stated that – if we failed to buy the last piece of the endangered Lappersfort Forest – we would plant a new forest with the proceeds. We did this with the valued support of the forest occupiers, and several organisations including Friends of the Earth Flanders & Brussels.”


Local Friends of the Earth activist Andy Vermaut, who managed to attract several hundred people to donate to the ‘Save the Forest’ campaign


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