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Fines of up to 50,000 euros: Christmas decorations from the forest – when severe penalties threaten

2023-12-06T04:37:13.745Z

Highlights: Fines of up to 50,000 euros: Christmas decorations from the forest – when severe penalties threaten. All plants in the forest belong to the forest owner and he alone decides what happens to it. The hand bouquet scheme allows everyone to make use of nature to a limited extent, for example by picking some flowers or twigs. But there are clear limits to this, otherwise you run the risk of committing theft. The amount of fines varies by state and can range from 25,000 to 800 euros. It is also prohibited to take trees with root balls, as this can harm the forest.



Status: 06.12.2023, 05:21 a.m.

By: Ulrike Hagen

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Twigs and cones tempt you to take home as a free decoration during a walk in the forest. But not everything is allowed, Christmas decorations from nature can be expensive.

Kassel – During a winter walk through the forest, they almost fall at your feet: lush fir branches for the Advent wreath, pretty cones and filigree mosses. Tempting for the festive DIY Christmas decoration that costs nothing to go with it. What at first glance looks like a good opportunity, however, can be really expensive – just like taking moss with you for an autumn wreath.

Taking Christmas decorations out of the forest: forest owner actually has to give permission

What very few people know is that all plants in the forest belong to the forest owner. He alone decides what happens to it. "In principle, only the forest owner is allowed to dispose of the things in his forest – it is his property," explains Silvia Teich from the Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V. (NABU) to IPPEN. MEDIA. "However, small amounts are usually tolerated," she adds.

If, on the other hand, more material is needed, for example as decorations for larger Christmas parties or nativity plays, the forest owner must be asked for permission.

Want to collect free Christmas decorations during a walk in the woods? This can be quite expensive. © Uli Deck/dpa

In addition, the legal background is set out in the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG). Paragraph 39 of the BNatASchG prohibits 'the removal or use of wild plants without reasonable reason'.

Taking fir branches out of the forest: In one case, there is no threat of a fine

However, there is one exception, the so-called hand bouquet rule (cf. § 39 para. 3 BNatSchG). This states: "By way of derogation from paragraph 1 number 2, everyone may carefully remove and appropriate wild flowers, grasses, ferns, mosses, lichens, fruits, mushrooms, tea and medicinal herbs as well as branches of wild plants from nature in small quantities for personal use in places that are not subject to a ban on entry."

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Hand bouquet rule: When is it theft?

The hand bouquet scheme allows everyone to make use of nature to a limited extent, for example by picking some flowers or twigs in the forest. However, there are clear limits to this, otherwise you run the risk of committing theft. Every forest has an owner, usually even private property owners, who own both firewood and plants along the way, as the data from the most recent, third Federal Forest Inventory (BWI3) show.

Of the approximately 11.4 million hectares of forest in Germany, the ownership structure is distributed as follows: 48 percent private forest, 29 percent state forest (state), 19 percent corporate forest and 4 percent state forest (federal government).

Source: Bundeswaldinventur.de

NABU spokeswoman Silvia Teich explains: "This means, for example, very small amounts of moss for handicrafts at home or at Christmas for the decoration of the nativity scene." And warns: "But be careful: The hand bouquet regulation does not apply in nature reserves and not to specially protected species. Here, it's always a case of: Hands off!"

Christmas decorations from the forest: When severe penalties threaten

So, it is important to note that collecting pine cones and twigs is not allowed in designated nature reserves. This could severely disturb the flora and fauna there. It is also prohibited to take young plants and trees with root balls, as this can harm the forest.

Exceeding this regulation is punishable by fines, some of which are high. The amount of fines varies by state and can range from 25 euros to 50,000 euros or even higher. Anyone who "unlawfully damages or removes plants" can expect fines of between 300 and 800 euros according to the catalogue of fines in Hesse.

If you cut down your Christmas tree in the forest, you risk a fine of 100,000 euros

"Sawing branches from trees or even removing entire trees from the forest is prohibited in all forests – regardless of whether they are protected or not," says Silvia Teich. If you simply cut down your Christmas tree in the forest and get caught, you risk a fine of up to 100,000 euros, depending on the region in Germany.

The maximum fine is in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, in Bavaria up to 5000 euros are due, in Lower Saxony up to 12,500 euros. The amount of the penalty depends on the size and type of tree. Collecting firewood, on the other hand, has its own set of rules.

Source: merkur

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