Deforestation in Italy: new regulation and new problems

On the first of December 2017, the Council of Ministers approved the so called Testo Unico Forestale, a Consolidated Act aimed to regulate the forest management  in Italy.

So far, an organic regulation of the sector was missing. The act aims to fill the gap and provide new instruments for the promotion of the Italian forest heritage. The core of the normative – according to the Minister of Agricultural Food and Forestry Policies Maurizio Martina – is to stimulate an active management of the forest, an essential resource both for the protection against hydrological instability and to fight the depopulation of rural areas.

“Moving away from a museum vision of the forest – claims the minister – we aim to a sustainable management, able to safeguard the requirement of the environment and the job opportunities for the communities who live inside the area”.

However, despite the enthusiasm  of the minister and other members of the Government, there are still adverse opinions, who define the act as an “attack to the Italian forest”. Let’s check a bit deeper the reasons of the criticisms.

No proper zoning of the woodland

There is not any clear distinction between areas that have to be conserved and areas for the production of wood. That’s a clear back step even with respect to the legislation of the 1923 (legge Serpieri). According to that law, you cannot eliminate some particular areas, defined as “untouchable”, because of ecological, touristic and cultural reasons. The new legislation does not set any similar disposition and that’s the reason why professor Paolo Maddalena defined the decree unconstitutional and conflicting with some funding principles of our democratic and constitutional system (remember that the 9th article of the Italian Constitution states that the Republic “safeguards natural landscape and the historical and artistic heritage of the Nation”).

Moreover, both areas where the forest is spontaneously growing again and areas where intervention of artificial reforestation are going on are not into the definition of forest and, consequently, may be freely eliminated. Those represent 40% of the current Italian woodland area and we have also to remember that the reforestation process required a lot of public resources: loosing those areas would represent a huge loss in terms of both public money and environmental resources.

The possibility of compensation

Another problem relates to the idea of compensation. According to the decree, you can eliminate or transform a forest area if you are able to compensate. You can do it through reforestation activities, which include a large variety of projects and services (e.g. a new road), independently of their different and uncertain effects. But, even worse, you can economically compensate the loss, whether allowed from the Region, simply paying an amount of money that will be collected into a forest fund.

The management of forest inventories

There is also a lot of uncertainty about who is going to manage forest inventories. In the past it was a task of the State Forestry Corps but now the Corp has merged with the police force and there’s no clarity about who is going to be charged with the management in the future. The decree covers this issue only superficially and no dispositions ensure any scientific methodology, accuracy and truthfulness.

Which is the “real” main objective of the policy?

Finally, there is also a sort of discrepancy related to the main objective of the policy. The writers of the decree wanted to promote an active management of the forest and enhance of the production of wood material. The availability of wood may be a good news for the sector of woodworking in Italy. The problem is that there is not any production structure on the territory. That means that the real objective of the decree is to provide the electricity producers with biomass! In fact, in the past, they have been authorized and established without considering the availability of raw material.

These are only few points among the many issues raised after the approval of the decree. Although a comprehensive legislation over the topic had been necessary for a very long time the result is not so satisfactory as expected. There are many problems in the text of the law and the norm is superficial and not specific enough in many points. Let’s wait and see how things will evolve in the close future.

 

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