Government creates State-owned forest management company
In response to this summer’s devastating fires, the Government has decided to hand over the management of Portugal’s forests to a company that will be created in 2018.
The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development announced to parliament on Tuesday that “the government has decided and will have an allocation in this State Budget, to create a public company for forest management. We want the state to advance, to set an example and to have a more proactive attitude that demonstrates to society that it is possible to manage forests under a new system.”
Capoulas dos Santos said that “this company is not intended to manage privately owned forests. It is a company that will be created as a forest management entity whose main objective will be to rent or buy land, especially at smaller properties, to gain size and create a forest management company similar to those that we want the private sector to create using tax incentives.”
The government has already asked the Institute of Nature Conservation and Forests, the management body for national forests, to come up with measures to stabilise and renew the area affected by this summer’s fires.
In the same request, the government wants to see an evaluation of the models for territorial organisation, a revision of the forest management plans in force, a reforestation programme and a fire protection plan, all by February 2018.
Minister Capoulas Santos admitted that there already are 10,000 compensation applications from farmers affected by the fires in a process that will start to be dealt with at the end of this month.
The Left Bloc leader, Catarina Martins, said at the weekend that she feared commercial interests getting further involved in Portugal’s forestry sector and called for a model that respected and encouraged those living in rural areas. She opposed the abandonment of the land and wanted safer conditions better protected forest areas.
The minister said that the new Atlantic Forest company, in which the Ministry of Agriculture has a majority shareholding through the Institute of Financing of Agriculture and Fisheries, would be a fine example of a profitable company. He did not mention who would own the remaining shares.
On hearing the news, the National Confederation of Agriculture warned that the new company for forest management should not be created “just to facilitate a future privatisation” of forest areas managed by the State.
The Confederation also criticised the confusion around measures to sort out and compensate the damage caused by fires, “the response given by the ministry in the June fires was one thing, for July and August it was another, the response in October was another. What transpires is that this Government does not really have a strategic vision to this global problem.”
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