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Environmentalists Concerned That New Law Will Allow Gov’t to Raze Hungary’s Protected Forests

picture of Hungarian National Park

Two years ago, Egererdő Zrt. cut down an 180-year-old ancient beech wood near Tar-kő in Bükk National Park, which is one of the most valuable forests in the country from a conservation point of view, writes Népszava. Deforestation specifically for logging caused invaluable damage in the Natura 200 protected area, the paper claims.

The Bükk case is by no means unique. Around Vöröskőbánya mine in Budakeszi, Pilisi Park Forest Management recently cut down a birch forest with a special atmosphere, then began filling the mine with rubble.

And the destruction of ancient woods in the Csarna Valley in the Börzsöny mountain range, the largest undisturbed forest in the country, was brought up as a possibility in 2018 by Ipoly Erdő Zrt. to build a questionable narrow-gauge railway line. In the end, NGOs led by WWF and the press managed to have the matter resolved with the forest land being transferred from forest management companies to the Danube-Ipoly National Park administration, which saved the forest.

Because of these past events and others, conservationists are now alarmed by a recent legal amendment in which protected forest land purchased by the state from public money will be run by forest management companies instead of national park authorities, which until now has been the rule.

As summarized by environmental portal Greenfo.hu, the government’s budget includes a separately-allocated amount for national park directorates each year to purchase protected or valuable forests.

The procedure thus far has been for a national park to buy land on behalf of the state and automatically assume management of that forest or piece of forest. At the moment, 90% of Hungary’s protected forest areas are state-owned and managed by one of the national parks, while the remaining 10% is mostly divided between military-managed state forests and private forests.

Regarding the legal amendment, WWF Hungary Director Katalin Sipos said that the budget will continue to allocate funds for purchases to national parks, but on paper they will no longer have anything to do with this money, as it will go to profit-oriented state forestry management companies.

Népszava also learned from other sources that this situation may only be temporary: there is a belief that some of the affected forests will end up in Fidesz-connected foundations. The amendment would facilitate privatization as well, which, together with possible hunting uses, would hamper any close involvement from the national parks.

László Gálhidy, head of WWF Hungary’s forest program, told the portal that the state of Hungarian forests is already poor, partly due to the fact that logging is occasionally allowed in highly protected forest areas where even a simple hiker cannot enter, ostensibly for environmental considerations.

The nature conservation organization considers the recently-adopted bill unconstitutional and therefore calls for the President of Hungary to intervene in the matter. The Constitutional Court has ruled that the level of environmental and nature protection previously enshrined in law cannot be legally reduced any further. President János Áder should now ensure to enforce this resolution, which is still in effect.

[Népszava]

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