Minister of the Environment Erki Savisaar (Center) confirmed the areas of state forests designated for regeneration felling, which will decrease by 4 percent this year instead of the 13 percent originally planned.
In accordance with the Forest Act, the environment minister determines the optimal regeneration area of the state forest for the next five years on an annual basis.
Former Minister of the Environment Tõnis Mölder had previously approved a 13 percent reduction in the area of state forests designated for regeneration felling for the years 2022-2026.
This year, Savisaar approved the reduction of the total area of regeneration felling by 390 hectares, or just 4 percent.
"Given the total change in the situation regarding security and the economy, we have to look seriously at domestic stocks. Heat producers and companies in the wood industry are suffering from a shortage of raw materials," said Savisaar.
"We cannot risk cold rooms and high unemployment in a single sector, so it is necessary to amend the decision to further reduce the area. At the same time, this change will not compensate for the entire shortfall in timber imports from Russia and Belarus," said Savisaar.
According to the minister, the sector must continue to look for alternative sources of supplies and district heaters should take the lead in concluding longer-term timber contracts.
The proposed restoration of the 2,300-hectare area previously designated for renewal felling will bring around 575,000 cubic meters of wood to the market. Approximately 350,000 cubic meters of this will be used in the sawmill industry, 100,000 cubic meters in the paper industry and 125,000 cubic meters in local boiler houses, producing 275,000 megawatt-hours of heat.
The volume of spruce regeneration will increase by 1,300 hectares this year due to the spread of spruce bark beetles. This year, according to a census of spruce stands, almost 6,000 hectares of spruce have been affected by spruce bark beetles in the state forest.
Prior to this, the highest level of damage caused by spruce bark beetles in a single year occurred in 2020, when 3,500 hectares of damaged trees were detected.
The decision made for this year will reduce the area of spruce trees to be felled in the future. "Following the elimination of the damage hotspots, the RMK (Estonian State Forest Management Center) will adhere to the suspension of felling activities. Eradication of the damage will continue no earlier than on July 1," Savisaar confirmed.
Henrik Välja, CEO of the Estonian Forest and Timber Industries Association (EMPL), told news agency "Aktuaalne kaamera," that the decision would help the timber industry cope with the cessation of supplies from Russia and Belarus, which previously accounted for 30 percent of the annual volume."
This article was updated to include comments from the timber industry
Editor: Michael Cole