A particularly controversial new law on forests was approved by the Spanish Government’s first cabinet meeting for 2015. Environmental groups, including WWF Spain and SEO/Birdlife, heavily criticised the new law. According to their analysis, it contains provisions that allow for the downgrading of public woodlands by new urban development schemes. A most threatening provision, article 50, allows for land use change and the exception of burnt forest lands from protection status, upon “imperative reasons of overriding public interest”. According to WWF Spain, this term opens the door to housing developments in forests and offers incentives for arson. Under previous legislation, land-use changes in burnt woodlands and forests were prohibited for 30 years, in order for ecosystem restoration to be unhindered.
It is interesting to note that in December 2014, just a few days ahead of the dissolution of the Hellenic Parliament for snap national elections, massive public outcry managed to avert the voting of a similar anti-forest bill, which would change the protection status of illegally converted burnt forests.