Legal Characteristics of Forest Ownership

At the federal and state level, there are laws on forests in Germany that must be taken into account with every rating of forest investments. The federal states regulate rights and obligations differently. In the following see the example of the Hessian Forest Act (GVBl. 2013 S. 458 vom 08.07.2013).

The aim of the Hessian Forest Act is to protect the forest as a living and economic space for humans, as a community of animals and plants and because of its effects on climate protection, to increase it if necessary, taking into account the concerns of agriculture, and to protect it from harmful effects preserve. Sustainable and orderly management of the forest is to be guaranteed and forestry promoted. The Forest Act aims to achieve a balance between the interests of the general public and the interests of forest owners.

The goals of the Forest Act are to be achieved within the framework of sustainable and multifunctional forest management. The services of the forest and forestry are to be oriented towards different aspects. This includes the environment and the foundations of human life, the natural balance, biological diversity, the landscape, the soil, and the water. The purity of the air and the local climate must be protected. The forest makes a contribution to protection against noise, soil erosion and flooding (protective function). Forests should produce renewable raw materials and be sustainably usable. In particular, wood should be supplied for material, chemical, energetic and thermal use (utility function). The largest possible amount of carbon must be bound in the forest and its wood products (climate protection function). The forest offers people a place to relax and allows them to experience nature to enjoy pure air and tranquility, to increase health and well-being, for walking and hiking, for sporting, nature-friendly activities, for environmental education and for nature-friendly tourism development (recreational function).

In particular, proper forest management is characterized by a number of characteristics:

  • the longevity and sustainability of forestry production,
  • the preservation of forest ecosystems as a habitat of species-rich flora and fauna by building healthy, stable and diverse forests,
  • avoiding clear-cutting with an area of ​​more than 1 hectare,
  • the choice of tree species suitable for the location using suitable seeds and planting material while maintaining genetic diversity,
  • the site-adapted use of plant nutrients to maintain and improve soil fertility,
  • the use of the possibilities of integrated pest management while largely avoiding the use of pesticides,
  • the careful approach to maintenance, use and rejuvenation measures as well as transport,
  • the use of adapted stand and soil-conserving working methods in forestry operations,
  • needs-based forest development while protecting the landscape, stock and soil,
  • the functional design of the forest edges, which also takes into account issues of species protection, landscape maintenance and agriculture,
  • working towards game densities that are adapted to forest stands and their regeneration, as well as measures to prevent game damage.

The law requires regular forest management. It is management based on an operating plan to ensure proper forest management and sustainability. The forest owners of forests with a forest operating area of 100 hectares or more must define their forest management goals in operating plans. The operating plans are generally to be drawn up for ten years. The choice of the type of operation, the determination of wood production and its sustainability parameters is left to the forest owner, provided that this does not jeopardize the fulfillment of the basic obligations.

Bare areas, forest pelts and cleared areas with an area of more than 0.5 hectare must be reforested by the forest owner within six years through natural regeneration, planting or sowing. The forest authority can set a reasonable deadline for reforestation and order planting or sowing, provided that the forest does not naturally rejuvenate. It is forbidden to reduce coniferous wood stocks under the age of 50 and hardwood stocks under 80 years of age to less than 40 percent of the stock of the commonly used yield tables. Exceptions can be permitted by the higher forest authority if the further reduction of the stock is necessary for compelling economic, silvicultural, genetic or nature conservation reasons. Forest owners must adequately protect the forest against damage from animal and plant pests, natural events and fire.

If the forestry management of a forest area, in particular the logging and the removal of forest products, is not possible or is only possible with disproportionately great effort without the use of third-party property, the owner of the third-party property must tolerate its use. The forest owner must notify the owner of the foreign property in advance of the intended use and compensate for the damage caused by the use.

The upper forest authority in the state of Hesse can declare forests to be protective forests if it is necessary to carry out or refrain from certain forest measures in order to avert or prevent dangers, significant disadvantages or significant nuisances for the general public. In particular, the declaration on protective forests comes into consideration if the forest must be preserved in its existence and its external delimitation and if it is of particular importance for the climate, water balance, soil protection, privacy protection, noise protection or air purification.

Everyone in Hessen is allowed to enter the forest for the purpose of recreation.

Forest visitors have to show consideration for one another so that mutual nuisance or hindrance is avoided. The use of the forest must not disturb the community, hinder the management of the forest, endanger, damage or pollute the forest and not impair the recreation of others. Cycling, riding and driving with wheelchairs are permitted in the forest on paved or natural paths that have been laid out by forest owners or with their consent and on which safe traffic is possible with mutual consideration.

Forest can have public or private owners. Private forests can be managed in various legal forms. A community forest can acquire rights and enter into liabilities under its name, acquire, transfer and give up property and other rights in rem in movable and immovable property, and sue and be sued in court. Forest owners, whose forest operations are not suitable for independent, proper forest management, should join together to form forest operations associations.

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