A state decision to reduce the area of regeneration felling by four percent in a year instead of the 13 percent initially planned goes against what was agreed between the Reform Party and the Center Party when they signed a coalition deal, and will not solve the issues intended – while at the same time harming Estonia's environment unnecessarily, a wildlife protection lobbyist says.
Siim Kuresoo, head of the Estonian Fund for Nature's (ELF) forest program, told ERR that: "This is a very unfortunate decision," noting that it was also the result of lobbying by those with interests in the timber sector.
"We know very well that Estonia's large-scale tree felling has had a very significant environmental impact, one which has already turned our forests from carbon sinks into carbon emitters," he went on.
Kuresoo continued, adding that the loss of wild bird-life as a result is the opposite to what is stated in the Reform-Center coalition agreement, and that the bulk of public support is in favor of a reduction of felling volumes: 63 percent compared with 3 percent in favor of actively raising felling volume areas.
"It is really surprising that such a decision came from the government, which promised in the coalition agreement that the country's felling volumes would fall. It is very sad to see that the pledge is not being kept and the very predominant position of the Estonian people is being opposed by the demanding, noisy timber industry lobby's views being expressed very sharply."
While the security situation is undoubtedly difficult – one of the factors environment minister Erki Savisaar (Center) gave in his rationale for the smaller reduction in felling than initially planned for – Kuressoo said that it does not automatically follow that environmental requirements should be forgotten about or that larger volumes of natural resources should be exploited.
"If we, as a society, play into a situation where our only way to improve our security situation is to harm nature, we are actually taking the freedom we stand for in this difficult security situation, and that is very unfortunate," he added.
Kuresoo also rejected claims that a surge in the incidence of spruce bark beetles necessitates increased felling.
Erki Savisaar said Tuesday that the area of state forest designated for felling for regeneration will be reduced by 4 percent, rather than the 13 percent put in place by his predecessor, Tõnis Mölder, for the years 2022-2026.
Almost 6,000 hectares of spruce have been affected by spruce bark beetles in the state forest, it is reported.
State forest land is operated by the state forestry commission, the RMK, owns around half of the forests in Estonia.
Editor: Andrew Whyte