In the framework of multi-objective forest management, ‘priority areas’ which are relatively more important for the selected management objectives are commonly designated. Using a comparative analysis of guided interviews, we examined the use and importance of priority areas in forest planning in nine Central European countries. In all countries, priority areas have been widely used, forest function areas and protected areas being the most common. According to management objectives, more than 20 types of priority areas were recognised, with priority areas for protection against natural hazards, nature conservation, recreation, welfare, and production being the most prevalent. Criteria for the designation differ among the countries; however, site conditions and infrastructure facilities are most often used. The scale of designation ranges from 1:10 000–1:50 000, and the size of priority areas varies from 0.1 ha to several hundreds of ha. The level of participation of stakeholders involved in the designation of priority areas differs among and within the countries. The effectiveness of priority areas for forest management can be improved by transparent designation criteria, objective oriented management measures, and efficient financial instruments.
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Vol. 15 • No. 4