April 24, 2018

Mexico Passes New Law for Sustainable Forest Development

On April 24th, the Mexican House of Representatives approved the amendments to the General Law of Sustainable Forestry Development. The bill, first introduced on September 20, 2016, passed after a year and a half of consultation and analysis among diverse actors, including legislators, the federal government, civil society organizations, indigenous organizations, academics, forestry engineers, and others.

Following consultations with stakeholders, legislators made substantial changes to the text of the bill. The new law introduces improvements for the forest policy including: recognition of community forest management initiatives, the consolidation of social and environmental safeguards, the integration of the forestry sector in compliance with the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), an integrated ecosystem approach, the assurance that the government purchases forest products with proper licensure, the integrated management of fire, and the assurance of the inclusion of women and young people in forestry activities.

Specifically, the amended bill includes a Community Forestry Management Program, which is fundamental in a country where most of the forests and jungles belong to indigenous and agrarian communities or are publicly owned, and establishes social and environmental safeguards, including the right of indigenous people to be consulted on forestry issues in their territory. Further, it recognizes the National and State Forestry Councils’ powers of supervision and monitoring of forest policy; the government will be required to consult them in all matters of forest policy. The bill also shifts general forestry authority from the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) to the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) and restores to SEMARNAT the authority to issue and revoke forest exploitation permits.

A number of Members of Congress were involved in the drafting and editing of the bill including Senator Silvia Garza Galván, who advocated for community forest management on the Senate floor, Senator Ninfa Salinas Sada, Co-President of the Mexican Parliamentary Conservation Group (GPCM), Congresswoman Alma Lucía Arzaluz Alonso, who first introduced the bill, Congressman Ignacio Pichardo Lechuga, who led the negotiations with SEMARNAT, and Congresswoman María García Pérez, who promoted dialogue with civil society organizations.

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