• Honduras

Legal framework for forest management and timber trade of Honduras

Forest governance

Forestry and environment institutions

The Instituto Nacional de Conservación y Desarrollo Forestal, Áreas Protegidas y Vida Silvestre (ICF), in English ‘National Institute of Forest Conservation and Development, Protected Areas and Fauna’, is the national forest authority in charge of supervising forest management, industrial extraction, transport and processing of forest products, although other state entities may also participate in forest control activities.

The Sistema Nacional de Áreas Protegidas y Vida Silvestre de Honduras (SINAPH), in English ‘National System of Protected Areas and Forest Wildlife of Honduras’, is an instance described in the Forest Law, that is responsible for developing, regulating and supervising scientific and applied research carried out in protected areas or on their biodiversity, taking into account the management categories and respecting the traditional and cultural practices of local communities.

The Agenda Forestal Hondureña (AFH), in English 'Honduran Forestry Agenda', is an independent, non-governmental (by its statutes, and being governed by a Board of Directors and an Executive Coordinator), of public interest and right, apolitical and non-for-profit association. Its membership within the National Forestry Advisory Council (COCONAFOR) reinforces its role as a driver of participatory processes in the development of the country’s forest resources, while aiming at reducing environmental vulnerability and combating poverty, which includes:

  • The facilitation of processes for the development of the forestry sector
  • Forming alliances between national and international institutions and organizations
  • Participation in the implementation of the National Forestry Program (Biodiversity and Protected Areas, Climate Change, Forest Certification and community participation) and in national and international processes such as the AVA-FLEGT, REDD +, and Climate Change.

Forest governance

Forest governance in Honduras emerged when the Administración Forestal del Estado (AFE), in English ‘State Forestry Administration’, was created in 1974 under the Ministry of Natural Resources. Since its creation, the AFE has been legally identified with different names (General Forest Directorate, COHDEFOR and now ICF), and with different initiatives to manage the sustainable use and conservation of forest resources.

Currently, in compliance with the Forestry law of 1972, the 'National Strategy for the Control of Illegal Logging and Illegal Transport of Forest Products' (‘Estrategia Nacional para el Control de la Tala y Transporte Ilegales de los Productos Forestales’ – ENCTI - in Spanish) was defined, in which two Forest Advisory Councils were developed and organized at different levels of hierarchy, as instances of citizen participation, consultation and support for the ICF.

With a view to further strengthening forest sector governance, the EU is promoting, together with the national authorities, the negotiation of the EU-Honduras Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) under the EU Action Plan for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT).  FLEGT is the EU initiative established in 2003 to improve governance and reduce illegal logging by promoting the legal and sustainable management of forest resources. (See NATIONAL ACTION ON TIMBER LEGALITY)

Other initiatives have included the ‘Forestry sector modernization project of Honduras’ (Proyecto ‘Modernización del Sector del Forestal de Honduras’, in Spanish). (MOSEF Project, 2013-2017)

Forest code, and relevant regulations

  • Forest Law, Protected Areas and Wildlife (‘Ley Forestal, Áreas Protegidas y Vida Silvestre’ in Spanish) and its implementing Decree No. 156-2007;
  • General Environmental Law (Ley General del Ambiente) and its Decree No. 104-93;

Law on incentives for afforestation, reforestation and forest protection (Ley de Incentivos a la Forestación, Reforestación y a la Protección del Bosque) and its Decree No. 163-93

Legal rights to harvest

In order to harvest, the area requires a 5-Year General Management Plan (‘Plan General de Manejo’, in Spanish) that includes an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and is approved by the ICF. From this are derived the Annual Operation Plans, which are those that empower the forest administrator to extract wood and other forest products indicated in the Management Plan or Master Plan.

The Forest Law distinguishes different types of management plans as part of the General Management Plan, in different situations:

  • Management plans for national forests (planes de manejo en bosques nacionales);
  • Management plans for private forests (planes de manejo en bosques privados);
  • Management plans for municipal forests (planes de manejo en bosque municipal / ejidal);
  • Management plans for protected areas (planes de manejo para áreas protegidas declaradas);
  • Management plans for micro basins (planes de manejo en microcuencas declaradas);
  • Special management plans for agroforestry groups (planes de manejo especiales para grupos agroforestales - PESA) related to Community forest management contracts;
  • Plans for (pest/ insect/ disease/ fire) risk control or salvage (planes de control y salvamento) for infected or damaged trees still of commercial value (otherwise a ‘licencia no comercial’ will allow the owner to use a small volume of wood for non-commercial use); and
  • Sanitation plans (planes de saneamiento) for the removal of remnants and abandonned trees/ logs after logging, for cleaning and also risk control, usually as firewood.

The exact requirements of these plans also vary depending on the size of the territory (small, medium, or large) under a Forest management contract (Contrato de Manejo Forestal). All plans should be formulated by certified forestry professionals and then submitted for approval to the ICF and the municipality where the forest area is located. The involvement and participation in forest management activities of the people who live in, and around the forests has recently become important.

All Forest Management Plans (Planes de manejo) describe the activities that will be carried out during a specific period of time, in order to harvest the wood present in a forest or group of forested areas. The FMP must at least comply with the following aspects (See U-ESNACIFOR, 2015): In general, pine forests are managed with the technical criteria of the management of regulated or uniform forests in their development, despite the fact that in most cases their extraction is selective, since the new forest stands are the product of dissemination of seeds of selected trees (“Father Trees”), although artificial plantation is always considered.  Hardwood species almost entirely originate in natural forests. Due to the large number of species and different biological ages existing per unit area in this type of forest, the content of a management plan in a broadleaf forest is totally different from that in a coniferous forest. 

According to the current Forest Law, forestland conversion to other uses and changes to the vegetation are not allowed without permission of the ICF.

A Certificate of natural regeneration (Certificado de Regeneración natural) is issued to the owners of natural forest areas in recognition by the State of forest management plans that have achieved natural regeneration in those areas, thanks to treatments that have contributed to the recovery of degraded areas, and defines the rights and obligations derived from it. A Plantation certificate (Certificado de plantación) is issued in recognition by the State of plantations established by the owners of forest areas, for either production (CPLANTA) or protection (CPROTE), and defines the rights and obligations derived from it.

The Annual operation plan - AOP (‘Plan Operativo anual’) contains the guidelines for forest management activities to be applied in a particular area in the period of one year. The technical prescription of all forest management activities, plus the volumetric information and trees to be extracted, should be reflected in the AOP, which will become the execution tool for field activities. The AOP facilitates the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the actions proposed in the EIA (See U-ESNACIFOR, Manual de Manejo Forestal Integral, 2015).

Once the technical prescription document is available, with its orientation and parameters to be followed, preparation of the AOP will be carried out, within the framework of the forest management plan for the site. In this sense, the management plan’s information such as: volume, areas to intervene, location maps, compartments and strata should be used.

The Felling Plan is part of the AOP, and the information required by the ICF to manage the Felling Plan, is as follows:

A. Documentation required in national forests

  • Contract document of the auction, or full management agreement, with all its programs (maps, volumes, clauses, etc.) duly approved
  • Tax payment receipts
  • Payment receipts to the ICF
  • Bank guarantee that the buyer of the contract has placed
  • Proof that the contractor is registered with ICF

B. Documentation required in private and “ejidal” (municipal) land forests

  • Complete AOP (maps, volumes, clauses, etc.) duly approved
  • Tax payment receipts
  • Payment receipts for administrative services
  • Proof that the contractor is registered with ICF
    (See ICF, Guía de administración de planes de aprovechamiento en bosques de pino 2012)

Taxes and fees

There are various payable taxes and fees in forest management, particularly:

  • “Canon de tronconaje” (Tax on extracted wood) to ICF, paid per cubic meter wood
  • AOP Preparation Cost (Annual Operating Plan), paid per cubic meter wood
  • AOP Administration Cost, paid per cubic meter wood
  • Accounting Services, which is an annual single payment
  • Audit report, which is an annual single payment
  • Forest Certification, paid per cubic meter wood. This is mandatory and must be done by certified forestry professionals.

In addition to these costs, each municipality is entitled to apply Municipality charges at an autonomously fixed rate.

Timber harvesting activities

Pre-felling requirements

The General management plan is followed by the preparation and approval of the Annual operation plan (AOP - see above). The AOP needs to be approved by the ICF, based on on-site local verification by ICF inspectors, prior to tree felling and based on the AOP, that the marked trees were authorized for felling.

The logging company is requested to identify each piece of wood with a unique code. For every felled tree, the volume and number of pieces must be recorded in a Tree report (Informe Técnico, or Planilla), which is completed on-site and reviewed by local ICF inspectors, and forms the basis of the checks whenever the timber is transported from one place to another. The original Tree Report remains with the logging company, while a copy is given to the local ICF office. The ICF needs to define and approve the transport routes of the harvested timber, identifying the transfer stations and the collection centres.

Post-felling requirements, post-felling inspection

Forest activity report (Bitácora, in Spanish)
For the registration, control and monitoring of forestry activities, the qualified forest technician in charge of the administration will carry a logbook in which he/she must keep record of the execution of the approved Felling plan until harvesting is completed. The activities that must be registered are: pre-op meeting, request for waybills, delivery of waybills, request for unit changes, observations and recommendations of the field inspections, notifications to the owner, notifications to the contractor, request of new “bacadillas” (piles of round wood in the forest), inspection of total settlement and any other aspect that the technician considers relevant.  Any notification made by the forest technician in the logbook must be signed by the person who was notified.  (See ICF Manual ‘Guidelines and norms for better forest management’; Lineamientos y normas para un mejor manejo forestal 2011, in Spanish)

Supervision of operations

As a minimum, the ICF supervisor of the Felling plan will make periodic visits, or as the procedure of the AOP requires. Inspections focus on the areas and activities of the Felling plan that have the greater potential environmental impacts, such as:

  • Respect of the boundaries;
  • Protection of water streams;
  • Tree felling;
  • Damage to the remaining forest.

(See ICF Manual ‘Guidelines and norms for better forest management’)

Third parties’ rights

Within the criteria for sustainable forest management of which Honduras is a signatory, Indicator no.1 mentions the "Existence of a legal, political, institutional, technical, economic and social framework that guarantees and promotes the sustainable management and conservation of forests” where reference is made to the respect of cultural values for the use of forest resources in territories under the control of local populations with emphasis on indigenous populations. More information on progress in the implementation and application of this Indicator, however, is not, or not officially available. (See FAO report ‘Criteria and indicators for Sustainable Forest Management in Central America‘)

Trade and transport

The regional ICF office approves and issues a Transport Document or Waybill (Guía de movilización), which is the main document that accompanies the timber from the harvesting site to the next destination (industrial manufacturer / buyer’s site)Before a truck loaded with logs may leave the harvesting site, an ICF inspector measures all the logs to be extracted on the Waybill. The original approved Waybill is given to the driver of the truck and 4 copies to the forest manager/owner and to the qualified forestry experts (‘Técnicos Forestales Calificados’ – TFC in Spanish). The truck driver must present the original Waybill at fixed checkpoints, where the national police stamps it. Finally, the completed, approved and stamped Waybill is given to the buyer. The buyer must then report to the ICF on a monthly basis all inputs of raw material, matching the Waybills (Waybill number, volume, species, type of product, AOP number, date). The regional ICF office uploads all data from the Waybills to the online information system called ‘SIRMA’ and checks the archives.

Every commercial sale of wood from forest harvesting companies must be accompanied by a commercial invoice (‘Factura comercial’, in Spanish) that matches the reported outputs at the collection site. At the sales stores and processing industry sites, a Register of purchases and sales (‘Registro de Compras y Ventas’, in Spanish) is kept, linking the information on the Waybill with that of the buyer of the timber and the commercial invoice issued.