Summary of Environmental Law in Mexico

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20 Forests and Forest Management


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20.1 Institutions with Authority over Forestry


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Article 27 of the Political Constitution of the United States of Mexico (hereinafter Mexican Constitution) entrusts to the State the promotion of rural development and farming and forestry activities in order for the optimum use of land to be achieved. The following laws and the regulations adopted thereunder govern the use, preservation and control of domestic forests:

  1. The General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection (Ley General de Equilibrio Ecológico y Protección al Ambiente) (hereinafter Ecology Law);
  2. The Regulation under the Ecology Law Regarding Environmental Impact (Reglamento a la Ley General de Equilibrio Ecológico y Protección al Ambiente en Materia de Impacto Ambiental) (hereinafter EIA Regulation);
  3. The Forestry Law (Ley Forestal);
  4. The Forestry Law Regulation (Reglamento de la Ley Forestal); and
  5. The Agrarian Law (Ley Agraria).

As a result of the amendments made to the Organic Law of the Federal Public Administration (Ley Orgánica de la Administración Pública Federal) (hereinafter Federal Administration Law), the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaría del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT)), with the assistance of the Secretariat or Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación (SAGARPA)), is now responsible for enforcing the Forestry Law. The forestry responsibilities of SEMARNAT include: undertaking official acts with regard to the application of the policy of sustainable use, conservation, protection and restoration of natural resources and soils; developing and assessing restoration programs for recovering degraded nonforest soils, as well as evaluating the results of reforestation programs; authorizing, suspending, revoking, voiding, and nullifying forestry land use changes; creating and updating the soil inventory; leading and technically supporting forestry and soil sector programs; granting, modifying, suspending, revoking, voiding, nullifying and canceling authorizations for planting, the use of timber resources, forestry health and the importation and exportation of forest products and byproducts; creating and updating the national forest inventory and the zoning of forestry lands and forestry suitability; and establishing, creating, operating and updating the National Forestry Registry, among other duties.

There are four independent bodies that assist SEMARNAT in the development and implementation of federal forestry policies: (1) the National Forestry Commission (Comisión Nacional Forestal (CONAFOR)); (2) the National Technical Forestry Advisory Council (Consejo Técnico Consultivo Nacional Forestal (CONAF)); (3) the State Councils; and the National Commission for Protected Nature Areas (Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP)).

National Technical Forestry Advisory Council

The National Technical Forestry Advisory Council (hereinafter CONAF) is made up of representatives from SEMARNAT, other government agencies, academic institutions, research centers, forestry farmers and businesses and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). CONAF issues its opinion to SEMARNAT on the following matters: the forestry inventory; Official Mexican Standards (Normas Oficiales Mexicanas (NOMs)); denials of authorizations for the use of natural resources, planting or reforestation; land use changes; the establishment of reserves, forestry zones and national parks; forestry bans; forest conservation, protection and restoration; forest plantations; forestry culture, education and training; and forestry research, among other matters.

State Councils

State Councils are consultation and participation bodies, the structure of which resemble that of CONAF. They advise SEMARNAT on the same matters as the National Council, as well as on the matters set forth in the Forestry Law and Regulation. Their purpose is to analyze the local aspects of forestry, in order to issue opinions and proposals to aid in the decision-making process.

Both CONAF and the State Councils may create permanent and temporary technical committees to analyze and issue opinions on specific priority matters. They may also create Regional Councils.

National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR)

CONAFOR is a decentralized public agency created by presidential decree on 4 April 2001. Its purpose is to develop, further and promote forest production, conservation and restoration, as well as to participate in the development of plans, programs and policies on sustainable forestry development.

SEMARNAT is responsible for CONAFOR coordination, with four main programs: Commercial Forest Plantation; Forestry Development; Mexican Forest Resource Conservation and Sustainable Management; and the National Reforestation Program.

National Commission for Protected Nature Areas (CONANP)

CONANP is an autonomous agency under SEMARNAT, and is responsible for managing Protected Nature Areas (Areas Naturales Protegidas) and for carrying out the Regional Sustainable Development Programs (Programas de Desarrollo Regional Sustentable) in the Protected Nature Areas and in other priority conservation regions not covered by a protection decree.

National Council for Protected Nature Areas

Created by SEMARNAT on 8 August 1996, the National Council for Protected Nature Areas comprises members of SEMARNAT itself, non-governmental groups, scholars, representatives of growers and businessmen and experts. The Council is responsible for advising CONANP on the creation, implementation and follow up of environmental policies pertaining to Protected Nature Areas.

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20.2 Forest Management on Public Lands


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Pursuant to the policies set out in the National Property Law (Ley de Bienes Nacionales), federal public lands are to be managed in such a manner that the most efficient use possible is achieved. Pursuant to the Federal Administration Law (Ley de la Administración Federal), the use or exploitation of federal public lands must be carried out in a "sustainable" manner. Interested parties that wish to be granted an assignment, concession or permit for the use of federal public lands must demonstrate the need for undertaking the activity or use, as well as the social and economic benefits that will be brought about as a result. A concession may be granted for up to fifty years and does not give rise to any right whatsoever to federal property. SEMARNAT, in conjunction with other agencies, may also place a lien on the concession and require the interested party to pledge a sum of money equal to the amount of the lien. A concession may be revoked if it fails to meet the ends or the conditions originally sought or if the use or exploitation harms the ecosystems of the lands.

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