Up to a AR$150,000 fine for removing a tree from your backyard.


02/03/2019

In Villa General Belgrano removing or pruning a tree without permission, even in your own backyard, can cost up to AR$150,000 with the requirement of planting 20 other trees. The last change to the Forest Code in the touristic town of Valle de Calamuchita has over a decade but, for the first time, it is been ensured that inspections will be thorough.

Although such penalties have never been applied, since January six cases were filed for transgressions. Ordinances existed in the past, but the executive branch has now provided more staff in the Environment and Inspections Office to take care of those issues. Their target is to enforce the ordinance. Enactments are much more strict than those from other municipalities of the same district, which do not punish what happens behind closed doors.

“The enactment declares all the trees as people’s heritage, whether they are public or private trees”, said Ángeles Ruiz Díaz, pacesetter in the Environmental Area. He explained that each neighbour is bound to give the Municipality notice and ask for authorization before any intervention that may involve the trees in their land. The municipality delivers a forestry guide and a specialists then goes to the place to check if the action is justified and, in that case, counsel them on how to proceed.

The officer explained that the ordinance does not pursue a monetary goal, intead, it aims to “call people’s attention to raise awareness”. Among other measures, trainings are offered for those gardeners who want to learn about pruning. There is a Registry of Forest Workers in town and if some member makes a mistake or transgression, he or she will also be punished.

A little bit further.

Section 19 of the Code declares a series of “protected species” and their extraction, rotation, pruning or manipulation is prohibited and will only be authorized by the City Council. Under this legal “umbrella” are included all the native ligneous argentine species and 21 are enumerated as examples (acacia visco, aguaribay, algarrobo blanco y negro, chañar, molle). 12 other exotic species are under protection as well (ciprés, nogal, roble, tilo). Punishments start from AR$1,500 (smaller trees and “non protected species”) and can reach a $AR150,000 penalty depending on the size of the tree and it is always compulsory to mend the situation by planting more trees.

“Our goal is to raise awareness. In some cases we’ve had to sort out minor offences and we have disposed community services”, said the Government Secretary, Guillermo Friedrich.

“The Municipality exerts its police power. There is a chance of intervening in private property. Not having a search warrant does not limit us to give fines if we can prove that some kind of extraction has been made without permission and the corresponding forestry guidance”, Friedrich explained.

With a tree under the arm.

An officer declared that the enactment is under the widest politic line regarding environmental protection, that planted and gave out 1,800 new trees between 2017 and 2018. One of the ongoing projects is the delivery of a native tree to each newborn that is enrolled in the Civil Registry. The officer also said that, besides environmental protection, the grove contributes to the town’s touristic profile.

From 6 opened files, only one has a resolution, which consists of community services related to spreading what should be done to others. The rest have not been solved yet, but it is said that the punishments will be severe.

Section 4 of the Act stated that it will only be justified the manipulation of non protected trees because of building constructions, people’s and good’s security, delivery of public services, streets openings, internal paths, property enclosures and house isolations, and only if these projects are allowed.

Protected sidewalks.

The municipality is responsible for urban woodland (sidewalks, squares). Service Companies that may need to cut trees down must ask for an authorization.

Another Section of the Act demands a minimum of tree canopy (tree covers) of  %15 in fields of up to a thousand meters, %20 in fields from a thousand to two thousand and a %30 in places which exceed two thousand meters.

In Villa General Belgrano, punishments and measured in unidades básicas económicas (UBE) [basic economic units (BEU)]. Each has a price of AR$15,000. The bigger the tree, the more expensive the penalty. The intervention in protected species is another aggravation to the rule.

In the case of “non protected” trees, the first non authorized prune forces the planting of another protected species’ specimen. In case of committing the same offence, penalties go from 0.1 to 5 UBE [BEU] (from AR$1,500 to AR$75,00). The liability in a first unauthorized “topping” (cutting branches indiscriminately) is to plant three protected species’ trees and committing the same offence costs from 0.2 to 10 UBE [BEU] (from AR$3,000 to AR$150,000). For a non authorized extraction, the penalty is planting 10 protected species’ specimens and paying a fee from 1 to 10 UBE [BEU] (from AR$15,000 to AR$150,000).

In case of extracting or pruning a protected tree, the same penalties will be applied And planting will be doubled. That is, for example, 10 UBE [BEU] (AR$150,000) and planting 20 native trees.
In other cities, penalties can exceed AR$150,000 but, only in public woodland.

In Río Cuarto, “it is forbidden to cut, prune, chop down and take out public woodlands unless an explicit authorization is delivered by the Municipality” by ordinance. Penalties go from 2 UM to 30 UM per damaged tree. UM consists of a 1,700 fee. They go from AR$3,400 to AR$51,000, outside private property.

In Río Tercero, the municipality assures that it controls that the urban woodlands and weeding of privated trees are tracked, although the opposition says that this control does not exist.

The penalties for cutting, pruning or chopping down a tree in public places go from AR$4,000 to AR$44,000 plus having to plant the damaged species. Councillor, Danilo Cravero, presidente of “Todos por Río Tercero” said from the opposite branch that “the great fault in this management is the lack of control”.

In Jesús María,the punishment for the public woodlands damage

is contemplated and it goes from indiscriminate pruning to extracting trees without a reason and without a permission. The penalty contemplates the payment of ten economic unit fees (EUF), that consist of AR$4,000, although the voluntary payment can rest up to a %50 of the amount.

Anyway, in practice there are extenuating circumstances for those who extract a tree without authorization but have replaced it with a new one, or for those who extracted an “invasive” tree (like siempreverde) and have replaced it with a native tree or a better adapted to the ground and weather.

To extract a tree in Río Segundo you have to ask permission at the Municipality. With the permission, the state of the tree is checked and then the extraction is  authorized or denied. In case of extracting ir, the officer will suggest a new species to plant.The penalties go from AR$9,000 to AR$87,000. “They are collected”, said a partner of the Intendant. They do not check the trees that are inside a private property.

In Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, another touristic Municipality from Valle de Calamuchita pruning and chopping down trees are also penalised when they are not authorized but only in public domains.

Translator: Sofia Degraf