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THE PROTECTION OF TREES AND WOODLANDS IN MALTA

Posted on: 07/11/2008

treesProposed new regulations aim at promoting native species

Providing stricter protection to a number of tree species, while simplifying the procedures for pruning, felling or uprooting of protected trees are amongst a number of proposals that the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) has included in the newly proposed Trees and Woodlands (Protection) Regulations. These proposed regulations are currently being discussed with NGOs, government agencies, the private sector and the general public. The proposed regulations are to replace the current Trees and Woodlands (Protection) Regulations, 2001 (Legal Notice 12/01).

One of the main proposed changes is to simplify the procedure with respect to pruning, felling or uprooting of protected trees. Under the current regulations, while the removal, cutting or felling of ornamental species does not require a permit unless the tree is over 50 years of age or located in a nature reserve, where a protected species is concerned, a permit has always been required. This permitting procedure is rather cumbersome, with permits only granted once a clearance from the Department of Agriculture has been obtained.

MEPA has recognised that this procedure is counterproductive, with people preferring to include non-native species in their landscaped areas rather than native species, so as to avoid the permitting procedure later, should they wish to revise their landscaping scheme. Here, the regulations suggest removing the need for prior clearance from the Department of Agriculture, with permission only being required from MEPA. The new regulations aim to tighten protection on protected trees in natural habitats, which have a higher ecological importance.

The new regulations propose the strict protection of a number of tree species, such as the Bean Trefoil (Anagyris foetida, Fula tal-Klieb), the Terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus, Skornabekk), and the Maltese National Tree, the Sandarac Gum Tree (Tetraclinis articulata, is-Sigra tal-Gharghar). Due to their rarity, it is being suggested that these species be protected irrespective of their location in the Maltese Islands.

Another group of species are proposed for protection only when they are located in protected areas and areas outside development zone (ODZ). These include more common species such as the Carob (Ceratonia siliqua, Harrub), the Olive (Olea europaea, Zebbug), and the Holm Oak (Quercus ilex, Ballut).

The regulations also put forward the protection of all trees of over 50 years of age in protected areas, in Outside Development Zone (ODZ) areas and in Urban Conservation Areas (UCA). This protection does not apply to alien invasive trees or trees which are damaging to the environment or to structures, or to features of natural or cultural heritage.

A final schedule lists a number of species, such as the Acacias (Acacia spp., Akacja), the Castor Oil Tree (Ricinus communis, Rignu) and the Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp., Ewkaliptus) which are alien, invasive or incompatible with Maltese biodiversity. It is being proposed that their use should be illegal, and MEPA may order the removal of such trees which are considered to be damaging.

The new regulations also make reference to Tree Protection Areas. These are areas which contain representative types of Maltese woodland communities, especially those communities which are rare, threatened or critical to Maltese biodiversity. It is recommended that MEPA should compile a list of such areas; and this list will be updated as necessary.

The proposed regulations will be discussed in a public consultation seminar open to all interested members of the public on Tuesday 11th November at the Mediterranean Conference Centre. Any person interested in participating in this discussion seminar can contact Ms. Rosalie Azzopardi on tel 22907108 or rosalie.azzopardi@mepa.org.mt

More information on these proposed regulations can be found on www.mepa.org.mt. The public is invited to submit its comments and suggestions by the 30th November 2008.