Last week the government accepted new regulations regarding tree felling. The measure aims to provide a safe route for the country to acquire sufficient quantities of firewood for the winter. The regulation has been attacked from many sides; however, experts claim that it will not cause massive deforestation – Mandiner commented.
Several NGOs and scholars have voiced concerns about the future of Hungarian woods, arguing that the new regulation will allow large-scale felling, even in nature reserves, which may cause irreversible damage. Not only green groups and think tanks, but opposition parties have also launched attacks on the government. LMP, the only parliamentary party that positions itself as an environmentalist force, has been particularly active in denouncing the governmen’s plans, and has started to collect signatures for a petition and to organize a protest against the new law. Most of the protesters are worried that the law would allow the indiscriminate cutting down of trees in the most valuable forests owned by the state, and object to the fact that it limits the time when tree felling is not allowed.
The minister of agriculture, István Nagy said in a statement sent to MTI that ‘Tree felling will not equal deforestation, it will not reduce the total forest area of the country and will not damage the ecological status of forests either.’ He added that due to the war and the sanctions by Brussels an energy crisis is afoot. The gas-supplies of Europe are in danger, therefore the government must provide people with alternative heating sources, including wood.
Securing Enough Firewood
The government has ordered a ban on the export of firewood. In addition, forestry directorates have been instructed to increase production of firewood, to make sure they are able to meet the growing demand. The new regulations have eased the rules of felling, but in such a way as to not endanger the sustainability of the forestry industry. István Nagy reassured the public that ‘By the time we need to use wood for heating, there will be enough in the country.’ The minister added that the two million acres of forests in the country are the most important natural resource of Hungary, and the govenment is committed to making sure that the forestry industry is a long-term investment.
He also highlighted that the demand for firewood has been steadily climbing since 2021. Hungarian forest management has been producing 3.5 million cubic meters of firewood annually for the country, in a stable and renewable way, the minister reminded.
The political director of the prime minister, Balázs Orbán reacted to a Facebook post by LMP politician Péter Ungár. Mr. Orbán noted that he finds it rather ironic that the leftist media and politicians alike are trying to make people believe that the new regulation equals deforestation, because the government is trying to curb the energy crisis by destroying the woods. This statement is not true, since there is no correlation between the two – he said.
He also added that thanks to the government’s politics in the last ten years, the demand for firewood in Hungary has become lower, resulting in about twice as much firewood being produced than what people actually purchase in a year. This means that most forests in Hungary are overgrown. The climbing demand means that these forests will be thinned, while new, healthier and more sustainable ones will be created.
‘If this does not happen, our woods will turn unhealthy soon. These trees need to be cut down. So, despite the fake news spread by the left, there are no plans for deforestation in the country. On the contrary, the regulation aims to renew our forests. Meanwhile, the government is working toward providing households with enough energy for the winter. Over a quarter of Hungarian households are using wood for heating, so making more of it available helps their situation as well,’ the minister added.
Attacks From the Left
Péter Zámbó, state secretary at the agricultural ministry explained in an interview that ‘the new regulation is only for emergencies.’ The rules regulating tree felling will only be applicable when the energy crisis reaches an emergency level, where the currently produced firewood will not be enough to meet the demands. If this level is not reached, there will be no need to deviate from the original forestry management plans of 2022. Mr. Zámbó remarked:‘There is of course no reason to think that we are endangering Hungarian forests. These are just the regular lies of the Left.’
He also said that it is ironic that this type of protest is coming from the left, since they have been advocating for a full cut-off of Russian gas, with total disregard for what energy sources households are supposed to use as a consequence. As opposed to the alarmist rhetoric of the opposition, the area of Hungarian forests is constantly growing thanks to the renewable forestry industry, Mr. Zámbó declared.
Tamás Szeverényi, forestry engineer said in an interview to Radi Jazzy that professionally, he thinks that the new regulation is a good step that helps the industry. ‘We do not need to worry about the forests.’ – he added.