Nature reserve planned to protect biodiverse region west of Tallinn

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Map of planned nature reserve. Source: ERR

The Environmental Board (Keskkonnaamet) is processing plans for a national nature reserve at the last fully natural landscape in the vicinity of Tallinn.

The area requires protection due to potential pressure from property developers, mining or forestry, and is planned for Sõrve, in Harku and Saue parishes, west and southwest of Tallinn (see plan below).

If established, the national nature reserve would remain under protection. Over 100 protected or endangered species have been found in the 2,280 ha (c. 5,634 acre) area, including 24 protected bird species, while the terrain itself is diverse – with natural forest, meadows and bogs in the north of the area, pine trees in the sandy soil of the southern part and floodplain meadows adjacent to the Vääna River to the southwest.

Harku Parish had been wanting to establish a reserve as early as 15 years ago, due not only to the pressure of new housing over-spill from Tallinn, but also the potential of forestry clear cutting or even quarrying for minerals.

The area has human residents too – 880 hectares consists of gardens, farmland and forestry zones, Kerttu Elm of the Environmental Board said.

Margus Raha, analyst of mineral resources at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications says however that the protected are should be reduced to around 2,000 ha otherwise three mineral deposits, including one consisting of high-grade limestone, would not be able to be exploited.

Limestone quarry output is only good for the next 10 years in Harju County, or in areas closest to Tallinn less than half that time-scale, without new zones being established, he said.

Meanwhile Val Rajasaar, local resident and Harku councilor, said that the area was one of few of its kind near Tallinn, adding that most local, full-time residents are in favor of the zone, given that they already see some restrictions on land use which this would not add to.

"One third of the Estonian population lives in Tallinn and Harju County. So far, only the general plan of the municipality and the mapping layer of the green network are in place for its protection," Rajasaar said.

Proposals for amendments and objections to the draft can be submitted on May 10. 

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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