Italy: New Consolidated Forestry and Forest Supply-Chain Law Takes Effect

(May 11, 2018) On May 5, 2018, a new law on forestry and forest supply chains came into effect in Italy. (Legislative Decree No. 34 of April 3, 2018, Consolidated Text on Forests and Supply Chains) (L.D. No. 34), GAZZETTA UFFICIALE (G.U.) Apr. 20, 2018 (in Italian), G.U. website.)

General Purpose of the New Legislation

The Italian national forestry heritage is said to represent 39% of the national territory, with 32.4% of the forests under the control of the state, the regions, or the municipalities.  (Il Nuovo Testo Unico Forestale è Stato Approvato [The New Consolidated Forestry Text Is Approved], GREENREPORT.IT (Mar. 16, 2018).) The purpose of the new law is to harmonize the national legislation concerning forestry and forest supply chains and to formulate national guidelines for the programming, planning, protection, and active management of the national forestry heritage, in particular of the mountainous areas throughout the country. (Approvato il Testo Unico Forestale, Positivo il Giudizio di Legambiente [Consolitated Forestry Text Approved, Legambiente’s Opinion Is Positive] LEGAMBIENTE (Mar. 16, 2018).)

Principles Governing the Italian Forestry Sector

The new law enumerates the principles that govern the national forestry heritage, seeking to protect the public interest and guarantee the well-being of current and future generations. (L.D. No. 34, art. 1.) The legislation also aims at, among other goals, protecting the ecological diversity of forests, preventing natural and man-made risks, protecting rivers, securing the participation of local communities in forestry development, and promoting forestry research and environmental education. (Id. art. 2(2).)

Basic Definitions

The new law defines areas that are classified as forests for regulatory purposes and those excluded from that definition. (Id. arts. 4 & 5.)  The law also defines forestry management activities, which include phytosanitary initiatives, control of forest fires, reforestation and afforestation, agro-silvo-pastoral activities, and forest-hydraulic projects. (Id. art. 7(1).) Additionally, the law includes provisions on naturally-growing non-wood forestry products used in food and nonfood products, and natural forest materials used for such purposes as household consumption of firewood, commercial collection of forest timber, or the harvest of genetically-modified forestry products. (Id. arts. 11 & 13(1); Legislative Decree No. 386 of Nov. 10, 2003, Implementation of Directive 1999/105/CE on the Commercialization of Forestry Multiplication Materials, art. 17(1), G.U. Jan. 29, 2004 (in Italian), G.U. website.)

Forestry Planning at the National and Regional Levels

 The law mandates that the national government approve a National Forestry Strategy, which must be in tune with European Union forestry principles and updated every five years. (L.D. No. 34, art. 6(1).) Italian regions preserve the power to regulate certain aspects of the forests under their jurisdiction through regional forestry programs, which are subject to national legislation and guidelines. (Id. art. 6(5) & (6).) The Law mandates that the national government approve regulations establishing minimum national criteria for declaring that certain forests are in a state of abandonment, thus allowing their use for agro-pastoral activities. (Id. art. 7(11).)

The new law directs Italian regions to promote the growth of companies operating in the forestry and environmental sectors. (Id. art. 10(1).) To that effect, regions must create rosters of local companies and cooperatives engaged in forestry activities and establish financial and other incentives for such activities. (Id. art. 10(3)–(14).)

Transformation of Forests and Compensation for Environmental Damage

For legal purposes, any elimination of tree vegetation or existing trees for purposes other than forestry management is regarded as a transformation of the forest that causes environmental damage, for which compensation must be paid. (Id. art. 8(1) & (2).) Such transformative activities include improvement and restoration of forests; reforestation and creation of new forests, particularly native species; implementation of forestry infrastructure, especially hydraulic systems; and programs for the prevention of forest fires. (Id. art. 8(4).)

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