Verein Wald und Klima Ursern

“A sustainable connection between people, forests and the climate.” A group of like-minded individuals initiated this project Our aim is to combine our respect for and love of the Ursern Valley, nature, the climate and forestry.

Our connection to the Ursern Valley and its wild, rugged landscape has brought this group of people from different professions and parts of the country together. We jointly strive to reforest parts of this high valley with a below-average amount of forest, in order to enhance the landscape, to make a contribution to a carbon-neutral society and to raise awareness of how everyone can play their part in combating climate change.

To that end, we founded the Verein Wald und Klima Ursern and, at the same time, entered into a long-term cooperation agreement with the Korporation Ursern as the largest landowner in the valley. The basis for our project is a project study “Reforestation in the Ursern Valley” from December 2020, which was commissioned by the cantonal authorities.

The protection of the forest is fundamentally a joint task of the Confederation and the cantons. With our project, we are practically providing an “additional benefit” in terms of reforestation that goes beyond the tasks of the public sector, for the implementation of which both additional sponsorship and additional financing are required.

The entire project study covers around 58 hectares, which are to be planted in stages over several years and which will develop into forested areas over time. It is financed through donations that our association collects. The project is being implemented in the field by the Forstrevier Uri-Süd (Southern Uri Forest District), with the Korporation Ursern in charge of the project and the cantonal Forestry and Hunting Office providing technical knowledge.

Association members can make an active contribution by helping in the reforestation areas and helping with the planting, care and maintenance of the forested areas. These and similar activities can help to achieve a small global impact, but a large local impact.

History of the Ursern Valley

Archaeological excavations show that in earlier centuries, the Ursern Valley was largely forested up to approx. 2,000 m above sea level. However, the valley was almost entirely unwooded by as early as the 11th century. A change in the climate that pushed the tree line down, settlers clearing the forest to gain land and pasture, and grazing by cattle and small livestock should also have had a negative impact on the remaining forest stands. Natural hazards such as avalanches, debris flows and storms have certainly also contributed to reducing the amount of forest in Ursern.

In order to protect the village of Andermatt from avalanches, the people of Ursern put the forest on the Gurschen under a spell in as early as 1397. In 1802 and 1820, the first attempts at reforestation were made in the protective forest on the Gurschen. The beginning of reforestation in the Ursern Valley, always connected with extensive avalanche barriers, dates back to 1873 with the expansion of the protective forest on the Gurschen. In 1874, the reforestation began on St. Annaberg in Hospental, in 1883 above the village of Realp, and in 1934, the planting began on Kirchberg in Andermatt.

In the last half century, when agriculture and alpine farming declined, bush forests emerged on many of the originally used areas, a large part of which consisted of green alder. The emergence of spruce and larch forests is made considerably more difficult as a result, if not even prevented. These alder forests contribute little to the landscape and also pollute the soil with nitrate. This acidification disturbs the ecological balance and the water quality deteriorates.

Why now?

Currently, 6% of the entire valley is classified as forest. Even though we are in an alpine zone and trees are subjected to various natural hazards, there is a realistic chance of success in the Ursern Valley where reforestation is concerned. There are many reasons why the valley, its inhabitants and visitors can benefit from more forested areas: environmental and landscape protection, defence against natural forces, conveying knowledge, educational offerings for young and old alike with opportunities to see it and raising awareness locally, etc. Our association wants to combine all these reasons with a panoramic view, thus creating a symbiosis of as many factors as possible.

How can we help fight climate change with our project?

There are three ways for individuals to contribute to fighting our era’s greatest challenge:

  1. Reduce our individual carbon footprints and encourage others to do the same;
  2. Invest in new renewable energy generation
  3. Take carbon out the atmosphere by growing new trees (that store carbon as they grow) or other methods.

We want to raise awareness in all three areas, although our project focuses on removing carbon from the atmosphere by planting trees.

Planting trees in the high alps is difficult (because of the steepness of the slopes), expensive (due to the measures required to protect against natural hazards) and takes time (due to the short vegetation period), making the Ursern Valley far from the most cost-effective / economic place globally to plant trees and capture carbon in this way. However, we believe that acting locally is crucial: work close to home to start making the changes. The cooperation with the Korporation Ursern, which has already been managing and tending to the ground and soil in the valley for centuries, is a guarantee that the new forests will survive.

How do we work?

There are four key elements that will help us achieve our goals.

  • We raise money through membership fees and donations, both big and small. We are a registered charity for Swiss tax purposes.
Donations Membership
  • We use such raised money to fund the initial phases of the 58-hectare reforestation project in cooperation with the Korporation Ursern, the Canton of Uri (Office of Forestry and Hunting) and the Uri Süd forestry district.
  • We arrange for groups – whether individuals, schoolchildren, families, work colleagues and other volunteers – to come and help the foresters plant the seedlings and care for the forest for the benefit of the climate.
  • We help to raise awareness of our individual carbon footprint and show how we can reduce it.

How can you help?

  1. Become a member.
  2. Make Donations.
  3. Spend time with us in the Ursern Valley caring for the forests and helping plant the trees.
  4. Learn your carbon footprint and how to reduce it. Become carbon neutral by reducing your and your family’s carbon footprint and offsetting the rest by helping us plant trees!Become carbon neutral by reducing your and your family’s footprint and offsetting the rest by helping us plant trees!
  5. Get your company or work-place to become carbon-neutral too: by reducing its carbon footprint reducing the company’s carbon footprint and helping us plant trees through direct donations or active work reducing its carbon-footprint, buying carbon-credits from us and helping us plant trees through direct donations and company off-sites.