Forestry companies want support for landowners to clear land

After the great fires of 2017, the call for land clearing, including the increase in fines for non-compliance, had practical effects in 2018, but cleaning work has been decreasing.

DR Photo

The National Association of Forestry, Agricultural and Environmental Companies (ANEFA) defends the revision of the legislation that requires the cleaning of forest land, to support the owners as to the cost of the works, because they represent “public service”.

“Owners have no chance of maintaining this cleanliness for consecutive years, because the income that comes out of these properties is not enough to cover these types of operations, so this is a cost that civil society has to assume as its own cost. What the owners are doing in these cleanings is a public service for the protection of peri-urban strips around urban areas ”, said the president of ANEFA, Pedro Serra Ramos, in statements to the Lusa agency.

After the great fires of 2017, the call for land clearing, including the increase in fines for non-compliance, had practical effects in 2018, but the work has been decreasing, because “there is no owner who can withstand this situation in consecutive years and vegetation grows at higher levels than what is stipulated in the legislation ”.

“In 2018, with the fear and terror that was installed, there was a race to clean up, in 2019 the race was already much smaller and this year it was much smaller, therefore, despite the records raised by the National Republican Guard (GNR) this year , few owners went on to clean up afterwards to try to prevent the fine from being imposed ”, said the representative.

In this context, the president of ANEFA reiterated that “there is no money” to carry out the forest fuel management works, explaining that “the owner does not earn, does not have enough income from the forest area to allow him to maintain this cleaning scheme” .

“That system, clearly, has to be revised, this legislation has to be revised and some way has to be found, somehow, to compensate the owners who have areas in these areas, if not the cleanings… the first one was done and finished ”, Maintained Pedro Serra Ramos.

In addition to the economic issue, the association considered that it is debatable whether or not this cleaning scheme is environmentally correct, since "it is contributing to an erosion process in these areas".

“Forest owners were not responsible for the appearance of urban areas near their properties there, in most cases that they already had trees and that were already forest areas, so at the moment when the owners are required to support them the costs of these operations, what will happen is that a large part of them will not comply with this and this has already been noticed ”, he declared.

Before the inspection phase of forest land cleaning work, which started on June 01 for owners and on July 01 for city councils, GNR accounted for “23.852 non-compliance situations detected until May 31”, which were communicated to the respective municipalities, "with a greater incidence in Leiria, Castelo Branco, Viseu, Coimbra, Braga, Santarém, Vila Real, Viana do Castelo and Aveiro".

From the beginning of the year until August 02, GNR installed 3.069 notices for violating the cleaning of forest land, of which 291 are from collective entities that are subject to fines ranging from 1.600 to 120.000 euros.

In response to the Lusa agency, GNR said that, of the 3.069 administrative offenses prepared for failure to comply with the measures provided for in the National System for the Defense of the Forest Against Fires, “2.472 concern the secondary networks of fuel management bands”, namely next to the public road and railway networks, electric energy and natural gas transportation and distribution lines, and population centers.

"Of these, 291 refer to legal entities / persons", he said, refusing to advance the number of administrative offenses related to the non-compliance of city councils, as well as the total amount of fines.

In case of non-compliance, the owners are subject to infractions, with fines ranging between 280 and 10.000 euros, in the case of a natural person, and from 3.000 to 120.000 euros, in the case of legal persons, while the city councils, who have an obligation of replacing defaulting owners, they may be penalized with the retention, in the following month, of 20% of the twelfth of the current transfers from the Financial Equilibrium Fund.

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