Nature and the environment
A primeval forest with a tram connection? You've read correctly – if you get on the tram at Saarbrücken's main station, in just 10 minutes you'll arrive at Germany's only primeval forest – situated just outside the gates of the city.At the "Von der Heydt" tram stop the visitor is greeted by a mighty dead oak tree before a narrow path leads you into the woodland covering over 1,000 hectares where chain saws are permanently banned.
Until a few years ago logging was still carried out in the woods of the Steintal and Netzbachtal valleys – but the woods are now being allowed to return to their natural state. Fallen trees are left on the ground, new trees compete bravely for air and light with beech trees that are several meters wide, and stag beetles, bats and black woodpeckers are finding habitats once again.
One of Germany's most wooded states
As in the primeval forest, oaks, beech trees and other deciduous trees also predominate in Saarland's other woods and forests. As one of Federal Republic's leafiest states, Saarland is among the most densely wooded regions of Germany. With deciduous woods covering over a third of its area, Saarland bears a special international responsibility for the preservation of beech woods. Over half of the wooded area in Saarland is ecologically managed in accordance with the strict criteria of the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). Saarland is therefore the Federal Republic's non-city federal state with the highest proportion of woodland managed according to FSC criteria – just behind the city state of Hamburg.
Agriculture in Saarland is actively addressing the challenges of the future: ecological agriculture is a particularly resource-efficient and environmentally-friendly form of economic activity based on the principle of sustainability. In recent years Saarland has always had a leading position in Germany in terms of its proportion of ecologically managed farms. This is also a testament to the above-average interest that people in Saarland take in local, organic products.
Agriculture in Saarland is particularly eco-friendly, and it has produced a unique cultural landscape, for instance in the Bliesgau area. There are over 20 types of orchid growing in many of the steep, dry meadows! Here, in southern Saarland, in a UNESCO-recognised biosphere region around the small baroque town of Blieskastel that was once the seat of counts, the aim is to provide hands-on education in sustainable development. "Spohns Haus" is a beacon of environmental education with influence extending beyond the region is, an internationally oriented ecological school in Gersheim where young Europeans from Germany, France and Poland can improve their 'hands-on' knowledge of sustainability.
The Hunsrück-Hochwald National Park
Through their joint stewardship of the national park, the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland make their contribution to conserving biological diversity and securing the region's future. The joint national park is a highlight of Germany's natural landscape.
For years now woodland policies have concentrated on managing land in close harmony with nature. Saarland is regarded as the pioneering German state in this field, and it has already received an award from the Federal Nature Conservancy Council (Bundesverband des Naturschutzbundes). The project adds impetus to nature conservation efforts and to economic development and tourism in the region. Regular forestry operations have now been discontinued in almost a quarter of the area, and some parts are permanently protected as a nature sanctuary or natural woodland area.
The Saar-Hunsrück Climb was voted Germany's most beautiful long-distance path in 2017, and in April 2015 it was opened at Orscholz as the first 'premium walking route' in Germany.
The valuable biological communities and species in the protected area include in particular beech woods and ravine and bog woodland, species that live on rocky ground or scree-covered slopes, and birds such as the honey buzzard, grey and black woodpeckers, and the Tengmalm's owl. The area includes two natural woodland areas (Dollberg and Kahlenberg), which cover an area of approx. 110 hectares, as well as the Moosbruch nature sanctuary of almost 17 hectares. No forestry is carried out in any of these areas. The other state areas of woodland are managed by semi-state company SaarForst Landesbetrieb. Part of the development of the area to promote nature conservation will include gradually converting existing coniferous woodland into deciduous or mixed woodland.