The hunters’ federation has strongly objected to sections of the draft Trees and Woodlands Protection Regulations, saying it is “astonishingly clear they are the result of armchair thinking with little basis in reality”.

This environmental miracle did not happen overnight

The regulations, in particular the parts relating to invasive or alien species, had to be revised and amended to take into account that the majority of present plantations contributed in no small measure to the beauty of the landscape, the federation insisted.

It said compensatory measures should be in place for any trees that had to be replaced and at no cost to the landowners and insisted that no discrimination between different entities took place.

Over the past 30 years, anyone going for rambling walks in the countryside could not have failed to notice that the islands presented a less arid landscape and much more greenery in spite of all the adverse conditions, such as lack of water resources. “This environment ‘miracle’ did not happen overnight,” the hunters said. “It took much time and patience and was mainly brought about by the hunters and trappers of Malta and Gozo who did their utmost to transform their mini-acres from semi-desert into miniature oases.”

They did so by investing their time, labour, energy and money in planting thousands of trees and nursing them to full growth, it said, adding that, as a result of such efforts, the countryside looked “a great deal better” than it did a generation ago.

It pointed out the density (as many as 200 woodlands) of mixed acacia/eucalyptus tree plantations planted and cared for by hunters and trappers at the southern end of Malta. “It cannot be denied that, without any fanfare, the hunters and trappers have contributed the lion’s share to the greening of the Maltese islands over many years,” the federation said.

The new Trees and Woodlands Regulations are “all set to deal a major blow to this great achievement by paving the way for the possibility that all such trees be destroyed and removed at the sole discretion of the competent authority”, it said, describing the situation as “a monster... rearing its head”.

That would be a “great folly and would constitute a massive setback for the very environment they purport to protect”, it said.

The federation, many of whose members are directly involved in the planting and growth of trees, should be represented on the board of the competent authority, it insisted.

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