Hungary: Regulations on logging relaxed, including in protected forests

The government sees firewood as the solution for the energy crisis

Aerial photo of a small lake and a lush green forest
Beeld: ©Máté Melega

Last Thursday, the Hungarian government has announced that regulations on logging in the country’s forests have been relaxed, including protected native woods. The regulation change is meant to help provide firewood due to high energy prices caused by the war in Ukraine.

Earlier in July, the Hungarian government declared an energy emergency and partly scrapped one of Prime Minister Orbán’s most iconic policies, the heavy subsidy on household utilities.

While the government has relaxed regulations on forestry, making clearcutting feasible and logging in protected forests possible, a ban on the export of firewood was also issued. PM Orbán announced on public radio that state forestries have been instructed to create plans for increasing firewood production and the Minister of Technology and Industry, László Palkovics, has been instructed to „start a stove and furnace program,” which would „help replace gas heating wherever possible” with firewood heating.

Professionals, stakeholders and conervationists remain skeptical. WWF Hungary finds the new regulation concerning, reports the news portal The organization also commented that freshly cut wood does not make for good fuel. László Gálhidy, head of WWF Hungary’s Forest Program, has commented that „the magnitude of this [measure] has only been seen in the 20th century, during crises much more critical than this one, and Hungary’s forests have still not fully healed from the impact of such measures in the past.”

The news portal writes that 21% of the territory of Hungary, around two million hectares of land, is covered in forests, 40% of which is part of the EU’s Natura 2000 network and that the role of forests in battling climate change is becoming more and more prominent, which, until now, was also supported by the government’s national forest plantation program.

Both Mr. Gálhidy, as well as forestry ecologist Réka Aszalós of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, have voiced the oppinion that the 40% of forests which are protected will now bear the heavy burden of firewood logging.

Opposition parties also heavily criticized the new regulation and WWF Hungary has launched an online petition to repeal the regulation amendment.