Environmental NGOs are concerned about the future of Estonian forests, saying that legal amendments currently being reviewed by Parliament would continue a trend of increasingly intensive logging, including clear-cutting, while environmental restrictions are loosened.
The NGOs, headed by the Fund for Nature and the Environmental Law Center, have released an analysis on the development of forestry policy in Estonia over the last 15 years, concluding that economic and environmental values are out of balance.
"The Fund for Nature's concern is endangered species in old forests, whose fate continues to deteriorate," the head of the organization, Silvia Lotman, said in a press release.
"The Forest Act amendments currently debated by Parliament would further reduce current restrictions that protect forest habitat. At the same time, the new bill does not include any of the proposals made by environmental advocacy organizations that would help more efficiently protect endangered forest species."
"Over the years, restrictions have changed significantly a number of times with regard to logging volumes," said Siim Vahtrus, a lawyer for the Environmental Law Center. "For instance, logging volumes increased dramatically in the 1990s and began exceeding forests' growth. In response, stricter requirements were implemented in the mid-2000s, but once the situation improved, forest management measures were significantly loosened in 2008."
The NGOs point out that an explanatory memorandum of the new draft law would allow larger clearcut areas, claiming they could have a positive impact on biodiversity as long as spatial planning is carried out. "However, the draft does not provide any effective mechanisms for such spatial planning," the NGOs said.
They added that it is strange that the bill does not take into account the most recent data on logging volumes, showing that logging has rapidly increased since 2010.