Legislation on aid to maintain and improve the ecosystemic benefits provided by forests includes an aid programme aimed at conserving endangered biocenoses connected with old and dead trees. Its purpose is to maintain old trees and dying trees beyond the end of their economic usefulness, and allow them to decompose naturally in the forest.
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 preservation of tree habitats must apply to the head of the relevant district.
The forest in which the tree habitats are to be conserved must have a single contiguous area measuring at least 50 ares, and be populated with tree species that are appropriate for that location. The habitats in question must be 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.
The tree habitats must meet the following criteria:
- they must be at least 30 metres away from walking trails and other high-traffic areas;
- they must be alive at the time of selection, and preferably exhibit at least 2 ecological features, such as rot in the trunk, peak cavities, large dead branches, cracks, etc.;
- they must be dominant and have a diameter, at chest height, greater than 60cm for oaks and common beeches and 50cm for other species, with the exception of the Oesling region, where trees of any species with a diameter greater than 40cm at chest height are eligible.
How to proceed
Filing an application
When filing their application, the applicant must specify 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 concerned (commune, section, locality, land registry plot number, species and number of trees).
If the applicant owns a farm, they must also state:
- the farm holding number;
- the farm accident insurance number.
The application is also required to state whether or not part of their forest holdings is part of the national network of freely evolving natural and semi-natural forests.
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 consists of a single grant of:
- EUR 450 per tree for oaks;
- EUR 210 per tree for common beeches;
- EUR 150 per tree for other hardwood or softwood species.
The grant is paid out in 3 instalments, each amounting to a third of the total amount of the aid, and paid at the end of each 5-year period.
In order to receive the aid, the applicant must make an undertaking:
- for a period of 15 years, and sign a management agreement with the Minister, setting out the specific management conditions for achieving the desired protection goals, and the corresponding amount of aid;
- preserve at least 4 and at most 8 tree habitats per hectare until they have decomposed completely;
- cause no damage to the tree habitats when carrying out tree felling in the surrounding areas;
- permanently mark the tree habitats and notify the administration of their exact geographic location.
Repayment of aid
Any aid paid out must be repaid to the State Treasury when:
- it was obtained by through 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.