Legislation on aid to maintain and improve the ecosystemic benefits provided by forests allows for aid for conserving biocenoses which are endangered as a result of old and dying trees that are grouped together in specific areas of the forest stand, forming pockets of old growth. The aim is to keep all of the trees in such pockets where they are, including dead trees, whether standing or fallen.
Applicants must submit their application to the district authority with competent jurisdiction, which will notify them of the decision of the Nature Conservation Agency (Administration de la nature et des forêts).
Who is concerned
Anyone wishing to receive aid for the conservation of pockets of old growth in forests must apply in writing to the head of the district concerned.
To receive the aid, the applicant must confirm that the pockets of old growth in question:
- are in a listed green zone. Areas where pesticides are used or where ground work has been done which degrades the soil structure (e.g. tilling and stump removal) are ineligible;
- form a single contiguous wooded area, measuring at least 30 ares and at most 2 hectares, and account for no more than 10% of the total surface area of the forest stand;
- include at least 30 old trees or standing dead trees per hectare, whose diameter at chest height is greater than:
o 50cm for oaks, common beeches and spruces;
o 60cm for Douglas firs;
o 40cm for other species;
o 40cm regardless of species in the Oesling region;
- comprise species of tree which are suited to the local environment, so as to encourage flora and fauna species indigenous to the site;
- are at least 30 metres away from walking trails and other high-traffic areas.
How to proceed
Filing an application
When submitting an application, the applicant must state the following on the form:
- their surname and first name;
- their address;
- their telephone number;
- their banking institution and account number;
- their national identification number;
- the total area of the forest property;
- information about the surface area in question (commune, section, locality, land registry plot number, cadastral surface, surface area of the pockets of old growth, protection zone).
If the applicant owns a farm, they must also state:
- the farm holding number;
- the farm accident insurance number.
The application must be accompanied by the following:
- a topographic map (scale 1:10,000) showing the location of the site;
- a cadastral extract of the plots concerned;
- a copy of the management agreement entered into with the Minister;
The head of the district will inform the applicant of the Nature Conservation Agency's decision, and the measures to be taken to receive a subsidy.
Amount of aid
The aid is paid out in 3 five-yearly instalments. It is awarded at the rate of EUR 4 per are per year.
These grants are paid at the end of the five-year periods to which they pertain, so the first payment is made 5 years after the signing of the agreement.
The area of forest land for which this kind of aid is received is no longer eligible for other kinds of aid.
The landowner makes a commitment for a period of at least 15 years, and is required to:
- sign a management agreement with the Minister, setting out the specific operational or management conditions for achieving the desired protection goals, and the corresponding amount of aid. The boundaries of the pockets of growth in question must be clearly defined in the agreement;
- refrain from any forestry-related operations or infrastructure developing in the pockets of old growth;
- cause no damage to the pockets of old growth when carrying out tree felling in the surrounding areas;
- permanently mark the trees at the boundary of the pockets in question, and provide the authorities with the exact geographic details of those boundaries.
Repayment of aid
Any aid paid out must be repaid to the State Treasury when:
- it was obtained by means of knowingly false or incomplete representations on the part of the applicant;
- the beneficiary has failed to comply with the conditions to which the granting of the aid was subject. In that event, the beneficiary must also pay interest on the amount given, at the legal base rate, calculated as from the day of payment to the day of repayment.
If a false declaration is found to have been made through gross negligence or through failure to adhere to the principles of good forestry practices, the beneficiary is precluded from receiving aid for the year in question.
If they make a deliberate misrepresentation, they are excluded for the following year as well.