On 20 June 2022, the Verkhovna Rada adopted in the second reading the draft law on amendments to some legislative acts on forest conservation (registration № 5650) that was developed by members of the public in order to correct the environmental imbalance caused by the adoption of the draft law №2194 and to preserve self-seeding forests.
The following amendments to the legislation have been approved:
the term “self-afforested area” was introduced. In the course of implementing land management activities, land managers will be required to identify self-afforested areas that will become part of the forest fund;
owners of such plots got an opportunity to simplify forestry management on them.
owners of eroded land plots (mainly arable land) now have the right to conserve land plots at their own discretion, in particular by afforestation, if such plots meet the criteria for necessary conservation;
the state received the right to purchase private land plots for the purpose of forestry management or creation of territories and objects of the nature reserve fund, as well as the possibility to compensate to forest owners and forest users the costs of forest management;
the definition of steppe areas has been enshrined in the Law of Ukraine “On Land Protection” and afforestation has been prohibited in such areas;
the term “invasive tree species” has been included in the Forest Code of Ukraine and distribution of such species in natural ecosystems during reforestation and afforestation has been prohibited. This will be an important step in counteracting the spread of invasive forestry species in Ukraine;
the deadline for confirmation of the right of permanent use of land plots of forestry purpose through submission of planning and cartographic materials of forest management has been extended until 2027. It is an important norm for prevention of misappropriation (deriban) of forests.
At the same time, many important norms proposed and supported in the first reading of the draft law were not included into the second reading of the draft law. In particular, we are talking about the following proposals for changes in legislation:
simplification of forest management procedures for owners of forests up to 100 hectares, which is necessary to stimulate private forestry on privately owned self-afforested areas;
permission to perform forestry management by permanent communal forest users or owners of forests with an area of up to 100 ha on lands of all categories except lands of nature reserves and other nature protection purposes. This is required to ensure the possibility to perform forestry management on self-afforested agricultural areas without changing their purpose.
Summarizing the above, it should be noted that the adoption of the draft law № 5650 in the second reading is an important step to preserve self-seeding forests and increase the forest cover of Ukraine, without destroying steppe and meadow natural ecosystems. At the same time, due to exclusion of important norms, the adopted Law turned out to be largely declarative and will not fully guarantee a significant improvement of the situation with preservation of self-seeding forests in the near future.