The birth of a forest on a plain. Interview with Paolo Lassini

Phoresta / Compensation  / The birth of a forest on a plain. Interview with Paolo Lassini

He is the one who promoted the establishment of a forest on a plain. We defined his long career ‘A life for trees’. This is the second part of the interview with Dr. Paolo Lassini, graduated in Agricultural and Forestry Sciences.

Q: Let’s talk about your career

R: I have a degree in Agricultural Sciences. To take a license from the army I took part in the competition for the State Forestry Corps. I attended the written text as a joke, but I studies for the oral one. Everybody told me: if you are not recommended, you will not pass the exam. Instead I passed it

I joined the forestry corps in Milan which was then a fairly technical body, now it is a military corp of the carabinieri.

I dealt with mountains, avalanches and pastures.

Then I graduated in Forestry Sciences, while I was working, because I was in the Forestry Department and we started talking about the North Park. So I asked myself: but why instead of making these very expensive pastures we do not make forests? Indeed, since the end of the second world war, there have been no forests in the plains. The first one was “the Woodland in the City”, but 1974 and it was just a trial.

In 1984 I went to Holland with Italia Nostra of which I was Adviser and I saw that the Dutch were growing forests on their lowlands, indeed they have only lowlands. I thought: we must do it too.

In the North Park I started dealing with what is now called ‘urban forestry’. I wanted to establish a large forest in a plain.

At the same time, the enterprise for the management of regional forests was created, so I said to myself: this is my occasion.

Until 1976 in Italy anyone was free to destroy the woodlands in the plains with a bulldozer: now it seems unbelievable. There was no ban. The Lombardy Region was the first in 1976 that extended the legal constraints of mountain forests to the plain.

Q: It seems to me that there was even an Austrian law that imposed:  if you cut a tree you must plant at least another one … I don’t know if this is really true.

A: It is true, but it refers to the mountain. In the lowlands there was no such law. In our history, from the year 1000 onwards, the forests in the plains have always been destroyed, particularly by the monks. The forest of the Gonzaga in Mantua used to cover 2000 hectares and now only 200 remain. At the beginning the monks started with land reclamation and later the industrial agriculture, with its machineries, gave the final blow to the woodlands.

Q: Even the rows of trees have disappeared.

A: In the post-war period, the advent of mechanized farming required larger spaces, so all the rows of trees were removed. At the beginning of the 20th. century there were 200 meters of rows per hectare. Each hectare was hedged by rows on two sides. Now, there are 10 meters per hectare: one twentieth and the trees disappeared from the landscape.

Q: Yes indeed, also in Broni (town of the Oltrepo’ Pavese known for wine production), where I have been recently, you must go to the hills to find some woodlands.

A: As in the Franciacorta. There is no longer a free square meter. It is not a good thing. So we started again with the establishment of the North Park.  What happened in the Nord Park?

A: As in the Franciacorta. There is no longer a free square meter. It is not a good thing. So we started again with the establishment of the North Park. What happened in the Nord Park? It is a huge area (640 hectares) near the Bresso airport, which was declared a park in 1975, with a futuristic vision, 50% of the area had to be covered by woodlands. 

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In 1983, Breda, the land owner, wanted it back because it said that we didn’t make the works that had been agreed. The park had no money, but I thought that if we started planting trees, with a limited investment we could block the area

So even before formal approval, we started planting trees and we created ten hectares of forest.

Q: And they are still there.

A: The administrative approval of the whole operation was made when the works were already done. Nowadays it wouldn’t be possible. Then came the popular architect Francesco Borella (urban planner and landscape architect, creator and first Director of the North Park).

and now we have got a wonderful park. Out of its 600 hectares, 150 are woodlands

I would have preferred that it was all woodland, but then I changed idea, because a forest is more beautiful when there are also fields and springs that increase biodiversity.

From there my career began. From 1984, I worked 15 years for a forestry company and we created the Seveso North Park, we started with the reforestation of landfills.

Then, in 1998, I started working for the Lombardia Region and there I tried to put into practice all what I had learned, in cooperation with other partners. 

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