HOW THE BLACK FOREST HAS EVOLVED OVER TIME …
The mountain range takes its name from the Roman denomination “Silva Nigra”, meaning literally “Black Forest”. However, this was not by poetry: they conceived the Black Forest as a gloomy expanse of impenetrable woodlands with steep sided gorges, infested with wild animals. For centuries, the mountain range really deserved the name “Black Forest”.
FROM DARK HOSTILE WOODLANDS TO A FLOURISHING TIMBER RESOURCE
In the late Medieval Ages, the Black Forest suddenly became a coveted source of raw material. Its treasure was the timber extracted from the endless woodlands, a widely used construction material at that time. Consequently, a profitable timber industry developed by the time. Huge rafts carried innumerable tree trunks down the rivers to domestic and foreign destinations. In the city of Amsterdam, large parts of historic settlements, built on stilts with timber from the Black Forest, can still be seen today. The mighty trunks of Black Forest trees also provided a sought-after raw material for the shipbuilding industry.
HEAT FOR ORE PROCESSING AND GLASS MAKING
The wood from the Black Forest was also used for centuries to produce charcoal and to generate heat in glass-making factories. Furthermore, the Black Forest became a stronghold of the mining industry. Thanks to the abundance of wood as heating material, the ores extracted in the Black Forest could be processed on the spot. Since the wood resources seemed to be inexhaustible, nobody seriously considered a systematic reforestation until the point of no return was almost reached.
WITH THE BLACK FOREST BRIGHTENING UP, A PROACTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION DEVELOPED
By the middle of the 19th century, the Black Forest had almost entirely lost its pristine character. With the mountain slopes having been widely cleared, the gloomy character of the countryside had vanished. Up to now, grassy slopes, woodless valley heads and expanses of prairies bear witness of the scars in the landscape left by the human activities. However, the deforestation also had desirable consequences: it has given the Black Forest a more hospitable appearance and the meadows complement the woodlands as a precious habitat for a rich and varied fauna and flora.
Environmental protection has been taken very seriously in the Black Forest until today, notably due to the experience of the ruthless deforestation over centuries.