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Consolidated Text on woods and chains forestry

With a long-awaited provision, the national forest sector can be relaunched by stimulating active forest management through modern governance, sustainable production, infrastructure creation and knowledge transfer. The text is the result of a constructive dialogue between policy and industry stakeholders, aiming to ensure environmental and landscape protection, the development of new "green economies" and employment growth

by Matteo Monni
April - May 2018 | Back

In April, after 4 years of consultations between the many stakeholders in the sector and the necessary institutional steps, the Consolidated Law on forests and forestry chains was finally to be signed by the President of the Italian Republic.

We believe that in the history of the Italian forestry sector, there has never been such a diversified and participated path for the development of a regulatory text.

The main purpose of this provision is to promote a more efficient protection of the territory through an active management of the Italian forests that today cover almost 40% of the surface of Italy, extending over 11.8 million hectares.

Achieving this objective will depend very much on the ability to standardize the many regional laws to the principles enunciated in the National Consolidated Law. In particular, it will be necessary - and certainly not simple - to find a balance between the guidelines of the process drawn up by the competent Ministries (MiPAAF, MATTM) and the revision and implementation of the Forest Plans which are the responsibility of Regions and Autonomous Provinces. The continuation of an excessively protectionist orientation in managing Italian forests, which many liken to managing a museum, has meant that from the war until today, forests have doubled its size, with levels of maintenance and care that are not adequate to current needs. Constraints of various kinds such as poor governance, complex and stringent regulations, lack of infrastructure (particularly a lack of roads), little propensity to innovate the fleet of operating machines and train personnel, have led in many mountain areas to crop abandonment and demographic decline. This was followed by a growing vulnerability of the ecosystem equilibriums with increasingly frequent phenomena of hydrogeological instability, diseases, fires, etc. In defining the new forest code, to ensure a path in line with the principles of sustainable development, the many variables and peculiarities that characterize this complex sector have been duly taken into consideration. For example, an analysis was conducted on issues related to the ownership of forests (32% being state property), the protection of naturalistic aspects (28% of woods fall into protected areas), the human capital (400,000 operators and 80,000 companies), the market potential (80% of wood is imported), etc.

Besides concerning the functional enhancement of the agro-forestry-pastoral system, the active management of the woods also involves restoring safety conditions in the event of risks to public safety and ecological instability. In this spirit, the law intends to regulate forest management activities (Article 7) for the following forestry practices (trees and shrubs): reforestation and afforestation, pest control, fire prevention, improvement of the road system for forest services, forest water adjustments (also with naturalistic engineering techniques), as well as the first commercialization of wood products (logs, branches and toppings), if carried out jointly with at least one of the aforementioned practices or interventions. The stated principle is that the correct management of the forest is an imperative burden for public and private responsible parties, both for large plots and for fragmented, abandoned or “silent” landed properties (owners not found following preliminary investigation). If the owners of the forests do not comply with the necessary maintenance operations, the rule provides for forms of substitution of management and conferment to others for these forest areas. This is certainly not expropriation, but temporary assignment to companies, consortia and cooperatives to carry out the cultivation, favouring youth entrepreneurship. All the revenues obtained from the above operations will be set aside for a maximum period of two years before being given to the rightful owners. In the absence of a liquidation request, the reserved funds may be used by the Regions to be reinvested in the territory with environmental, landscape and socio-economic enhancement works. Another very interesting aspect is that, with a view to the productive development of the forest, an important role is recognized for the professional training and technical updating of the operators. We know very well that technological innovation and modern forest intervention techniques can significantly reduce the costs of recovery of the wood biomass, as well as reduce the impact on the environment and on workers’ safety. Greater guarantees on income and health are certainly an important aspect to stimulate a recovery in economic activities linked to forestry supply chains, especially in internal mountain areas more exposed to the risks of marginalization.

Finally, within the limits of the resources available under current legislation, public information activities will be promoted on the meaning and role of the forest, forest management, production chains and services generated by forests and their rational management in favour of society. It would be useful for these information campaigns to also involve our political decision-makers, given that the actual effectiveness of the provision depends strongly on how the implementing decrees envisaged in the text will be written and the regional reference standards adapted.  

The purposes of the decree

• Fuarantee the protection of forests in their extension, distribution, geographical layout, and ecological and bio-cultural diversity.

• Promote the active and rational management of the national forest heritage in order to guarantee environmental, economic and socio-cultural functions.

• Promote and protect the forest economy, the mountain economy and the respective production chains as well as the development of agro-forestry-pastoral activities through the protection and rational use of the land and the productive recovery of fragmented land properties and fallow or abandoned land, supporting the development of associated management forms of public and private forest properties.

• Protect the forest by promoting actions to prevent natural and man-made risks, hydrogeological defence, fire protection and biotic and abiotic adversities, adaptation to climate change, recovery of degraded or damaged areas, carbon sequestration and supply of other ecosystem services generated by sustainable forest management.

• Promote the planning and scheduling of forest management interventions while respecting the role of the Regions and local authorities.

• Encourage the development of general principles, national policies and guidelines for the protection and enhancement of forest heritage and rural landscape, with reference also to the intervention tools provided for by the common agricultural policy.

• Encourage the active participation of the Italian forest sector in the definition, implementation and development of the European forest strategy and related policies.

• Ensure and promote the knowledge and monitoring of the national forest heritage and its ecosystems, also in order to support the exercise of political functions in the forest and environmental sectors.

• Promote and coordinate, in this sector, the training and updating of operators and the qualification of companies.

• promote research, experimentation and technical information in the forestry sector.

• promote forestry culture and environmental education.


The decree will not affect

• Any current environmental protection law.

• Any protected area, of any kind.

• Requests for authorization for landscaping purposes, where it is currently planned.

• Authorizations for the purpose of hydrogeological protection.

• The power to the Regions and the Autonomous Provinces in regards to forests, so that all current laws, regulations and protection provisions will remain in force.

• Property right, so no expropriation of forests is envisaged.



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