Historical influence of forests on the territory of the Czech Republic dates back before the first surviving written records. The first extensive deforestation occurred probably in 8-9th century in the southern and central Moravia during the peak of Moravian Empire. Similarly, with gradual colonization of Bohemia, namely Czech basin delimited by the lower Elbe and Vltava rivers were also extensively deforested. During the Middle Ages, hilly regions and uplands were gradually colonized. Greater need for firewood and new requirements for wood as a material for building and mining lead to a strong devastation of forests and further deforestation in some regions, especially in central Bohemia.
Historically the most important Czech ruler – Emperor Charles IV, responded to the situation by writing the first written report about the need to protect forests for their future benefit. In 1355 a generally valid code for the Czech lands, so called Maiestas Carolina, was issued. This code mentioned the importance of forests (meaning royal forests) for the society: “ We want not only waste but also protect the beautiful set of our forests, inspiring admiration of foreigners, from all felling. Whishing forests to remain untouched and eternal we order none of our foresters and hunters or any other person to be allowed to cut down, export, steal or sell any wood but dry and that which succumbs to strong winds... Who would have acted to the contrary will be punished by cutting their right hand. ”
During 12th-14th century central part of the present Czech Republic – Czech-Moravian highlands, and the foothills of the border mountains surrounding nearly the entire territory of the present state were colonized. The original forests were spontaneously felled and a secondary forest grew in their place. This forest still retained the parameters of original forests – species composition, spatial and age structure. Since 15th century these areas recorded development of iron and glass craft and thus the territory of the present state was with the exception of higher mountains (about 1000-1100 m above sea level) continuously colonized already in the 17 century.
The eastern part of the territory – the Moravian Carpathians along the present state border with Slovakia – was in 13-15 century affected by so called Vallachian colonization. A number of top parts and gentle slopes in these mountains were deforested and used for grazing. The cattle wandered into the surrounding forests and caused there long substantial damage.
Constantly increasing wood consumption in 17-18th centuries, now especially for the initial industry, led to the first attempts to introduce systematic forest management, to create an overview about the state of forests and to purposefully manage their use. 18th century can be therefore marked as a century of systematic introduction of intensive spruce management in the Czech lands, which initially flourished at medium altitudes of the highlands (about 500 m above sea level and higher) and in the mountain regions. The first generation of spruce stands after primary virgin forests or secondary near natural forests achieved very good increments and so far avoided calamities which were linked with later spruce monocultures and which have prevailed until now. Especially in the 17th and first half of the 18th century several forest orders were issued. They were valid for an estate of respective nobles (e.g. Černín instruction – 1654; Frýdlant – 1674; Adam František from Schwarzenberg forest rules – 1710; Harrach instruction – 1722; etc.) and regulated forest use to various degrees (Konšel 1934).
In the mid-18th century, however, a paradigm shift occurred because the Empress Maria Theresa issued “Imperial Royal Patent on woods and timber, concerning the Czech Kingdom and published at the Prague Castle on 5 April 1754” and following approving patents for other territories (1756 for Silesia) (Konšel 1934, Nožička 1957). The patent prohibited e.g. all grazing in young forest stands as well as raking moss revealing the tree roots in the coniferous forests, etc. Other rules were e.g. obligation to plant new forest after harvesting, registration and targeting all forests and recommendation of systematic and intensive spruce economy to enhance the state of the forests and to increase production in the plundered forests.