Lisbon, July 12 (Lusa) – Portugal’s minister of agriculture said on Wednesday that the government is considering the possibility of compulsory renting of forested land so that “a careless [landowner] cannot undermine the collective effort of everyone else”, in a move that is being presented as having potential to tackle the underlying causes of forest fires.
But he rejected accusations that officials were seeking “scapegoats” to blame for recent fires.
“No one is looking for scapegoats,” the minister, Luís Capoulas Santos, said in reply to criticisms from Portugal’s Confederation of Farmers (CAP) that landowners are being used as precisely that in finding someone to blame for the fires.
After a four-hour meeting with employer organisations and trade unions in Lisbon, the minister of agriculture said that there was “no proposal for compulsory rentals at this moment” but that there had been an “exchange of opinions” between the government, the governing Socialist Party and the Left Block – one of the parties that provides it with its support in parliament – on how to ensure that when various landowners get together to collaborate on clearing brush from forested land but when “one or two landowners” refuse to join in and do not observe the rules in force on forest management, in those circumstances it may be right to compulsorily rent the land.
“It’s not a matter of an attack on property, it’s just a matter of, in these concrete cases, putting the common good above the individual interest when it is damaging the collective interest,” said Capoulas Santos.
On reform of the country’s forests, the minister expressed “total openness to negotiate and find consensus solutions” so as to ensure that “this is a reform to late more than a generation”.
According to Capoulas Santos, the government is “deeply committed” to reforming Portugal’s forests.
SYSM/ARO // ARO.