On 5 June 2018 the New General Law for Sustainable Forest Development (Forest Law) was published in the Federal Official Gazette. The law will take effect on 2 December 2018 when the preceding law, which is nearly 15 years old, will be abrogated.
The key changes introduced by the new law are as follows:
- All properties located within the boundaries of a population centre will not be considered to be on forestry land and will thus not be subject to a forestry land change authorisation procedure. However, the term 'population centre' remains undefined.
- All forest-related projects (both timber and non-timber production projects) or development works which require changes to forestry land belonging to commoners or indigenous peoples will require their prior written consent.
- Non-compliance with conditions established under a forestry land change authorisation will now be punishable by:
- the suspension or revocation of the authorisation; and
- the restoration of the affected areas.
These measures will be independent from additional penalties imposed under other applicable legal provisions.
Approximately 70% of Mexico's territory has some degree of forest vegetation. Forests, jungles and other ecosystems represent 47% of the country's total forest area. In recent years, Mexico has seen the significant deterioration of its forest resources, making it one of the 10 worst countries in terms of deforestation.
Inclusive approach Legislators have attempted to focus Mexico's forestry regulation on better management of resources, while also safeguarding human rights and social involvement. This is particularly the case for indigenous peoples, who have been granted greater autonomy to maintain self-sustaining communities and cultures which have strong ties to the land.
Based on this new inclusive approach, the new law has introduced an obligation for companies interested in developing forestry-related projects – both directly related projects (eg, timber and non-timber production projects) and projects that are not primarily related to forests, but nonetheless affect them (eg, by removing soil from forestry land). Before undertaking such projects, companies must obtain written consent from the local communities that may be affected (either commoners or indigenous people).
However, although this obligation is set out in the new Forest Law, it has yet to be enacted, as the Forest Law requires the Federal Executive Branch to issue new regulations providing details on the obligation's feasibility.
Definition of 'forestry land' The Forest Law has significantly changed what constitutes forestry land. The previous law defined 'forestry land' as land on which native vegetation could be found. However, the new law defines it as land covered in forest vegetation on which forestry services are undertaken. It also states that any land within the boundaries of a 'population centre' – as defined by the General Law for Human Settlements, Territory Ordinance and Urban Development – will not be considered forestry land (with the exception of natural protected areas).
While the definition of 'population centre' remains unclear, and a proper territory ordinance policy should be designed and enforced before this concept is defined, this change will expedite the development of certain projects.
Under the existing Forest Law, forestry land is subject to various construction and development restrictions. For example, in order to remove any native vegetation from a specific plot of land, a forestry land change authorisation must first be requested from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. If the authorisation is granted, a series of conditions must be complied with, including:
- making a monetary donation to the forestry fund as compensation for the loss of trees and vegetation; and
- undertaking reforestation efforts in certain designated areas which contain specific species of flora.
Therefore, removing land within population centres from the definition of forestry land implies a significant reduction in the obligations and conditions for parties undertaking certain projects.
For further information on this topic please contact Brenda A Rogel Salgado, Jeanett Trad Nacif, Juan Francisco Torres Landa or Mario Jorge Yanez at Hogan Lovells BSTL, SC by telephone (+52 55 5091 0000) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Hogan Lovells BSTL, SC website can be accessed at www.hoganlovells.com.
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