The forester Ferdinand Schorpp in his territory – the Waldachtal forest.

“To me, forestry isn’t a career – it’s my calling”

4. September 2020

Forests have always been immensely important to humans, animals and plants. They provide a habitat and a place for relaxation; they influence the climate and are also important to the economy. These alone are reasons enough to make forest protection a high priority. Ferdinand Schorpp nurtures and maintains the forest surrounding Waldachtal, not far from the headquarters of the fixings specialist fischer. We accompanied the district forester and asked him about the importance of the forest, what connects forestry and sustainability and why he loves his job so much.

Ferdinand Schorpp is surrounded by buzzing and humming sounds. The head forester of the Freudenstadt administrative district, who is responsible for the Waldachtal community forest, quickly treads the forest path with a concentrated expression, examining the trees for which he has been responsible for over three decades. The saplings have roughly reached his height by now. But they are a long way off from being ready for timber harvesting. Nevertheless, Ferdinand Schorpp appears to be pleased. While his job as a forester will be over in a few years’ time, these trees will outlast him. They serve as the basis for the next generations.

Forester Ferdinand Schorpp with a map of his territory.
Sustainability should be planned: Ferdinand Schorpp with a map of his territory.

“I wanted a job that has meaning”

For over 30 years Ferdinand Schorpp has been taking care of the maintenance, cultivation and protection of the forest surrounding Waldachtal, around 70 kilometres to the southwest of Stuttgart. How did this come about? “After finishing high school, I had a growing desire to work outdoors in nature”, the 59-year-old says. “And I desperately wanted a job that has meaning”. When he opted for a degree in forestry engineering, he deliberately decided against a financially lucrative career in the private sector.

The family man was recently faced with this career choice once again, after his son had decided to pursue the same career path. “And so I thought about whether I would do it all again in the exact same way”. The answer soon became evident, and it was a resounding yes! For Ferdinand Schorpp, being a forester is more than just a way to make money. “In this profession you have to love nurturing and maintaining your values”. Some of the examples he names are the church forest foundations in his Waldachtal territory. “Nurturing the forest is seen as the preservation of creation”, Schorpp states. “I like to use that as a guideline”.

The 59-year-old qualified forestry engineer is the district forester of the Freudenstadt regional forestry office. In addition to his Waldachtal territory, he is also responsible for the community forest, the church forest and the private forest. Following his degree course at the University of Applied Forest Sciences in Rottenburg am Neckar, Schorpp initially worked for several years at what was then the Alpirsbach forestry office before transferring to the valley near Freudenstadt. Schorpp now lives in Grünmettstetten, close to Waldachtal. He is married and has three adult children.

Sustainability means only cutting as much wood as can grow back

Although his job involves logging trees, the forester states that preserving a healthy forest is the most important aspect to his role. Without nurturing the tree population, the forest has no future. “While focusing on turnover would lead to financial benefits in the short term, it would be a catastrophe in the long run”. This scenario has already occurred in the past: During the 18th century, more wood was felled over the course of industrialisation than could grow back. The result was that many contiguous forest areas were almost cut down entirely, including the Black Forest.

The Saxon mining administrator Hans Carl von Carlowitz (1645–1714) recognised this issue and was the first to coin the term “sustainability”. This meant that from then on, only as much wood as could regrow was allowed to be cut down. This approach has been pursued in forestry ever since. “To me, sustainability means operating economically in such a manner that allows the following generations to have the same opportunities as we had”, Schorpp explains. The forest must be used in a way that simultaneously allows new things to grow, as is the case when it comes to harvesting timber: “When a large tree is felled, it lets more light reach the ground, which in turn allows new life to emerge”.

Sunbeams break through the treetops.
Sunbeams break through the treetops.

Sustainability as a task for society

The forester would like to pass the knowledge that the forest has taught him on to the next generations. Schorpp therefore often gives groups of kindergarten children and school pupils tours of the forest to provide them with an understanding of nature. The aim is for all of society to be conscious of sustainability.

The fixings specialist fischer, whose headquarters are located in Waldachtal, also sets a good example in this aspect. “Social responsibility and active environmental management has played an important role at our company from the start”, says Christian Ziegler, Sustainability Manager at fischer. The company has been using spring water instead of drinking water for cooling purposes since the 70s, and has been heating its buildings using waste heat via thermal heat pumps since the 80s. “We aim for long-term economic success in harmony with the environment and society. For fischer, sustainability means safeguarding the company’s future viability”, Ziegler emphasises.

Sustainability at fischer

fischer has been cultivating professional sustainability management since 2015. Members of staff from every department formed small, cross-departmental teams that work together on various projects for this purpose. To find out more about fischer’s sustainability strategy and the projects it supports, read this blog post.

A church at the heart of the forest

The district forester Schorpp has also initiated his own project not far from the fischer sites. In 2010 he planted the outlines of the local Altheim church using 100 lime trees and 200 hornbeams with a group of confirmands. In 100 to 150 years’ time they will grow into the “Lindendom” (“lime tree dome”), a type of church located in the middle of the woods and whose roof is formed of leaves. None of the participants will ever get to witness the completed project, as a lime tree can live up to 1,000 years. But the message of this campaign is clear: “With our human lives we are part of the forest’s life span, and we have to take care of this forest to make sure our descendants can still harvest timber”. This is living sustainability incarnate.

Want to find out more about the topic of sustainability at fischer? Then click here!