Hungarian forest management regulations are among the strictest in Europe, however, there have always been investments and real estate developments that affected forest areas, the effect of which could so far be compensated by a fine in certain cases. As of 1 July 2023, the new provisions of the Forest Act brought pleasant changes, as even in the case of non-natural forests, the authority immediately obliges the developers affecting the forest area to reforest and not only to pay a forest protection contribution, if the size of the area reaches or exceeds one hectare.
This is a significant change compared to the previous rules, where up to now replacement afforestation was only automatic in the case of natural and nature-like forests. The new provisions also facilitate the creation of viable forests, as replacement afforestation areas of less than half a hectare are also acceptable if they are directly connected to an already existing, registered forest area.
In practice, the biggest challenge for replacement afforestation in larger developments is to find suitable sites of the right size and characteristics for afforestation. In smaller areas of one or two hectares or less, unless they are connected to a larger afforested area, it is much more difficult to ensure that the new forest can function ecologically as a forest.
These amendments can therefore ensure that when removing a forest of several hectares due to real estate development, the investor does not "tick off" the replacement afforestation with smaller forest patches of a few thousand square meters or by paying the forest protection contribution, and that developments affecting smaller forest areas are also sure to result in the creation of new forests.
By Borbala Maglai, Attorney at Law, KCG Partners Law Firm