Environment minister: All sides need to be heeded in logging volume debate
Minister of the Environment Erki Savisaar (Center) finds that while the Estonian forestry and timber sector's proposal to increase logging in Estonia to offset disappearing Russian imports is worth considering, it would be sensible to weigh other alternatives, such as importing from other countries, first.
Savisaar told ERR that he has received letters from both sides – those that demand lower felling volumes and those urging more logging. The government seems less than united on the matter, with Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas prioritizing energy security over conservation, as he said on the "Otse uudistemajast" webcast.
"A lot of timber came from Russia and Belarus until recently, while companies are reluctant to import from there even though there is no timber embargo yet," Savisaar said.
Wood imports from Russia totaled roughly one million cubic meters of sawn timber. "It is worth discussing whether we should replace it with local raw material or import it from elsewhere, as there are other forested countries out there," the minister said.
"Estonia imported sawn timber from Russia and Belarus, no roundwood has come from there. Looking at sawn timber imports and exports, we see that they are balanced. Companies could find each other and reorganize material flows," the minister offered in terms of one possible solution.
He added that the missing one million cubic meters of timber is a massive amount and even if the foolhardy notion of it coming from Estonian forests could be entertained, the sawmills would not be able to handle it all.
Savisaar proposed thinking about alternatives to wood. "In sectors where we turn wood into high value-added products, perhaps we can replace timber with recycled plastic. We have factories in Estonia making beams and planks using recycled plastic. If we turn wood into boards, we can also use wood waste," Savisaar offered.
"If the claim is that we are short on wood chips or material for pellets, scrub is an excellent source. It would pay to bring out brushwood that could solve the heating material problem," he said.
The minister described the timber sector's recent statement as run of the mill lobbying none of which is new or unexpected. "The war has caused some new problems, but I would like to discuss different options before deciding on a course of action," the minister said.
The timber sector has also proposed canceling the nesting season logging break in pine woods. "I see no reason for state forests to just drop a tradition of 20 years and start actively logging during this period. Other forestry work is done during that period, so it is not like it's quiet in the woods," Savisaar said.
He pointed out that a roundtable meeting has been scheduled for this Friday where the sides will discuss felling volume, the nesting season break in private and state forests and other topical matters. "I see no serious reason to make changes overnight. Let us give passions time to cool," the minister said, emphasizing the need for discussion.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski