On Thursday, the Estonian Private Forest Union (EPFU) made a proposal to change the Forest Act to allow for compensation to the forest owner in case of restrictions made to forest management.
The Ministry of Finance is planning on changing legislation of the Planning Act that would entail further changes to other laws, including the Forest Act. Forest owners are concerned with a particular adjustment that would allow for local government to restrict clearcutting without permission from the forest owner. To combat this change in legislation, EPFU have made a proposal that would make it mandatory for decision-makers to compensate forest owners for their loss of income.
"Now that the Ministry of Finance has made the decision to remove the need for an arrangement from the act, we have proposed to add that compensation is required if cutting is restricted. Decisions can be made without regulated agreement only if forest owners are compensated or the plot is developed for public purposes. The logic of legislation says that if there are restrictions on one side, someone else's interests are hurt and therefore should be compensated," said Andres Talijärv, head of EPFU.
Külli Siim, adviser of the planning department of Ministry of Finance said no such change in legislation is currently planned.
"We have just started changing a provision in the Forest Act to bring it into accordance with the Planning Act. In the frame of our current draft we will definitely not be putting EPFU's proposal into practice. It is a public law restriction and those are also in use in other sectors – heritage protection, enivronmental protection, it is a broader subject. If using the property is restricted, applying for compensation is available, but there is no specific provision saying that if restrictions are set, compensation is mandatory," said Siim.
She referred that it is necessary to assess each restriction separately, in terms of compensation. However, forest owners do not see that their interests are protected if mandatory compensation is not brought into legislation.
"Many owners will be dissatisfied and disappointed. We will probably see some owners stop managing their woods. There's no reason to manage it, when you know there will be no income in the future and this might lead to a scenario where unmanaged forests will not fulfill their set objectives. Any kind of forest management that is not cutting, is at the owner's cost," noted Talijärv.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste