Anna Varga, University of Pécs "Applied environmental history: re-introduction of forest grazing into policy, conservation and practices"

Helsinki University Humanities Programme, Helsinki Environmental Humanities Forum, March 9, 2021 (Tuesday), at 14.00- 15.30 (Helsinki time) via ZOOM

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“Forest grazing was, is, and will be.” This quote was written by Frigyes Fuchs forester, and it was published in 1861 in the book, called the Virgin Forests of Hungary. This sentence highlights many questions for the people dealing with environmental history, forest ecology or agroforestry management. When I started my research on silvopastoral systems around 2006; there was a kind of mythological atmosphere around it. The common sense about forest grazing was, that it was and old, dangerous and extinct forest use. The aim of my research was to discover the definition and details of silvopastoral systems, in particular, forest grazing and wood pastures. I analyzed historical sources (archives, forestry papers, old maps), and used ethnobiological methods (interviews, participatory research). In retrospect, the extensive and deep historical research was a perfect basement for the actions and innovations, that we were encouraged later. One of the results, which helped to dissolve the misunderstood state of forest grazing was that set up historical timelines of the changes of the related policies and laws (For example: it was generally accepted, that it was forbidden by the Forest law in 1876, however, it was totally baned only in 1961). Another crucial point was the changes and diversity of the definitions of the forest and forest grazing through time and different stakeholders. Oral history and ethnobiology interviews provided the details of management and refined the dangerous levels of grazing in the forest. Field studies and interviews with active stakeholders showed the urgent need to change the forest law (for example grazing is good tool against invasive shrub species in the floodplain forests). In summary, I think this story shows also how environmental history could be applied and be an important part for solving current environmental issues.


Anna Varga is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of European Ethnology - Cultural Anthropology, University of Pécs in Hungary. She is a biologist and a former Carson Fellow 2019-2020. In her PhD, she worked on ethnobiology, environmental history and vegetation science of forest grazing and wood pastures. She was actively involved in the forest grazing policy work, as a result of it was possible to graze again legally. Currently, she works on this project: “Environment and society transformation of common forest and pasture use in the 18th and 19th centuries and its contemporary effects in Southern Transdanubia” (NKFIH PD 135651, 2020-2023).

Anna Varga's Professional Website


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