The book provides a look at the dynamic upheaval


A pioneer in environmental policy: the book about Johann Coaz provides an insight into a dynamic period of upheaval

Johann Coaz had a lasting impact on national forestry. A book about the first federal forest inspector, which was presented in Altdorf, has now been published.

Author Karin Fuchs (left) and author Martin Stuber (middle) talked about their exciting research work for the research project.

Image: Urs Hanhart (Altdorf, March 21, 2022)

The Uri Institute Cultures of the Alps held a book presentation on Monday in the Uristiersaal of Datwyler AG in Altdorf, which was attended by around two dozen interested parties. The focus was on the book “Use and protect. Johann Coaz (1822–1918), the forest and the beginnings of Swiss environmental policy». Author Karin Fuchs and author Martin Stuber spoke about their research work on this 275-page work, edited by the Institute for Cultural Promotion Graubünden. This was followed by a podium discussion moderated by Romed Aschwanden, Managing Director of the Institute for Alpine Cultures, in which all those gathered were able to participate and contribute.

The publication, which was developed as part of a research project by the Graubünden Institute for Cultural Promotion, was presented in Altdorf with a look at Coaz’s work in Uri. He was a central figure in Swiss environmental policy that was developing in the 19th century. Coaz was involved in the Dufour map project as a cartographer when he was young, and then worked for more than two decades as a forest inspector for the Büdner Forest. At the same time, he worked as an expert in many places, including for the protected forests near Altdorf and in Ursern. Later, when he was elected the first federal chief forest inspector, he implemented a sustainable forest policy at the national level.

Be able to draw from the full

«Johann Coaz is a prime example of combining close-up and long-term vision. He had a wide range of interests and was an excellently networked spirit,” said Cordula Seger, Head of the Institute for Cultural Research Graubünden, in her introduction.

“The source situation around Coaz is unique. His personal and professional diaries, kept in the Graubünden State Archives in Chur, are an incredible treasure.»

That’s why Coaz’s 200th birthday was taken as an opportunity to look at this character and his achievements in a modern and contemporary way. “And we were able to do this with proven researchers,” says Seger. In addition to historian Karin Fuchs, who acted as project manager, and Martin Stuber from the Historical Institute in Bern, Paul Eugen Grimm was also involved as an author. He dealt with the rich legacy of Coaz, which, in addition to the diaries, also consisted of hundreds of letters, photographs and documents of all kinds.

Romed Baumann, Managing Director of the Institut Kulturen der Alpen (left), with authors Karin Fuchs and Martin Stuber.

Romed Baumann, Managing Director of the Institut Kulturen der Alpen (left), with authors Karin Fuchs and Martin Stuber.

Image: Urs Hanhart (Altdorf, March 21, 2022)

Fuchs described Coaz as a pioneer of Swiss forest and environmental policy. His work was important and formative for the entire Alpine region, including Uri. Stuber pointed out that Coaz, who worked as a federal forest inspector for almost 40 years from 1875 and undertook countless journeys in this function and also helped to initiate the establishment of the Swiss National Park in Graubünden, was already using the term sustainability and also implemented it in terms of content. It was used primarily in the areas of forestry and forestry. Sustainability in the broader sense, i.e. social, economic and ecological, is more recent.

Not just a messiah

Beat Annen, Uri’s cantonal forest manager, pointed out that Coaz had brought money in the form of subsidies to the mountain regions for the first time in order to implement forestry projects. From today’s perspective, it is very remarkable that the forest law of the time was passed. “Regarding property restrictions, it was a law that would be unthinkable in today’s democratic conditions,” says Annen.

“At that time, private property was heavily encroached upon, which is unimaginable today.”

The use was very restrictive, which meant that ordinary citizens had to run after the firewood up to the uppermost forest regions. “Years after Coaz there were assassinations of community foresters in Altdorf. They had to fight everything that came from Bern. Coaz was definitely not seen as a messiah,” said Annen, indirectly answering a question from the audience as to whether the first federal forest inspector was a star in his time.

Finally, the members of the audience suggested that the Institute for Alpine Cultures launch a scientific research project in connection with Max Oechslin, head forester of the canton of Uri for many years. Romed Aschwanden gratefully accepted this information and promised that this would be brought up internally.