The Regulation of Forest Lands in Mexico

December 16, 2011
The Regulation of Forest Lands in Mexico

In Mexico, it is important to verify whether real property used for construction and development is considered to be “Forest Land” and, if so, developers must to change the zoning of such forest land before the Mexican Department of the Environment and Natural Resources. The General Sustainable Forest Development Law (Ley General de Desarrollo Forestal Sustentable) defines forest land broadly as that which is covered by “forest vegetation,” which means, “The combination of plants and fungi that grow and develop in their natural state forming forests, jungles, arid and semi-arid zones and other ecosystems giving rise to the development and balanced cohabitation of other natural resources and processes.” Given the lack of a national forest inventory, Mexican federal environmental authorities have considered that all land that is growing or has grown natural vegetation is forest land, even when dealing with land developments within urban zones. On November 30, 2011, the National Commission of Forests published the Decree by which Forest Zoning will be integrated and organized, the same which establishes the characteristics and criteria to determine: (i) conservation zones, restricted or prohibited uses; (ii) production zones; and (iii) restoration zones. Similarly, the Decree contains the methodology, criteria and procedures for the determination of Forest Zones, establishing that urban zones and human settlements among others, are considered “non-forest land”. The Agreement contains various deficiencies but opens the door to a more serious analysis of the classification of land at a national level and the expectation for better coordination at the three levels of government when revising and approving state and municipal plans for urban development.

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