Certified Forest Maps: how am I legally protected?
Every day, the press is flooded with publications with amendments and circulars on the subject of the posted Forest Maps. The Forest Map captures the morphology of the soil in order to apply the provisions of the forestry legislation to the subject areas through the forestry register. The forest register is drawn up on the basis of forest maps, which are its prerequisite element.
However, it must be understood that the process of posting, objecting and sanctioning a Forest Charter also has an important legal component, which requires the help of a specialized lawyer (in addition to other professionals) for its successful outcome. The specialized legal advisor advises and guides the client throughout its duration.
Against the content of the posted forest map, it is allowed to submit objections within an exclusive period of one hundred and five (105) days from the date specified in the invitation to submit objections.
With the objections, reasons are put forward that relate exclusively to questioning the nature or form of the areas appearing on the forest map, the correct depiction, application and validity of the Administration's actions and the lawful change of use thereof.
Judicial Protection against sanctioned (in whole or in part) Forest Charter
If, however, the objection raised does not succeed and the Charter is ratified, what legal protection is left?
The sanctioned Forest Charter is immediately published in the Government Gazette. From the date of its publication, it becomes final and has full evidentiary force in any administrative or judicial authority for all the sections marked in it with a green outline and green line, which are generally forest areas of paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of article 3 of Law 998/1979, as applicable.
Therefore, the only solution available to an owner, whose land seems definitively to be forest/woodland, is to go to court.
The ratified Forest Charter constitutes an enforceable administrative act, which can be annulled judicially, by the Council of State (see indicatively SC 555/2018). And this finding must, for the identity of the legal reason, apply both to the partially and to the fully sanctioned Forest Charter. Only in this way the right to judicial protection deriving from the Constitution and from supra-legislative sources (e.g. the ECHR) and the annulment control of the Administration is realized. The Minister of Environment and Energy can also apply for annulment against the sanctioned forest map, for the failure to include in it a certain forest area in general.
However, as pointed out, the partially sanctioned Forest Charter is a "half-measure", compared to full and total sanction, which would strengthen legal certainty and the protection of the bona fide administrator.