Charge for felling Flanders’ woodland increases

Summary

The Flemish environment minister has raised the amount industry and individuals must pay to cut down trees for building projects

Quality forestation

Flemish environment minister Joke Schauvliege has announced an increase in the charge imposed on anyone who plans to cut down woodland. The charge goes up from €1.98 per square metre to €3.50 and applies to all forms of construction, from families building a home to a company clearing land for a new factory.

Most projects requiring substantial deforestation are industrial. A recent example was the plan for a new depot in Limburg by logistics company H Essers, which involved cutting down 11 hectares of coniferous forest.

The Flemish government’s decision to allow the felling led to a media clash between Schauvliege and comedian Wouter Deprez. Nature conservancy organisation Natuurpunt started a crowdfunding campaign to take the case to the Council of State.

Before the introduction of the euro in 2002, a square metre of woodland would cost 120 francs – roughly €3 at contemporary prices. In 2001, it fell to €1.98, where it has remained since.

The law also allows the felling of woodland to be compensated by the planting of replacement trees elsewhere, but in eight out of 10 cases, applicants elect to pay. The money goes to the Woodland Compensation Fund, which is used to organise the planting of new forest, much of it administered by Natuurpunt.

“We want to not only keep the woodland we have in Flanders but to reinforce it with quality forestation projects,” Schauvliege said. She recently issued an invitation for projects, with €1 million from the compensation fund to spend.

Photo: Wim Dirckx/Natuurpunt