Former minister: Victory for industry and RMK lobby, loss for the people

Former Environment Minister Tõnis Mölder (Center).
Former Environment Minister Tõnis Mölder (Center). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

I must admit that Minister of the Environment Erki Savisaar's recent decision to dial back Estonia's felling volume reduction came as a clear disappointment for me. I cannot find a single reason or excuse for increasing felling volumes in the current situation, former Environment Minister Tõnis Mölder writes.

Ours is a democratic country where the minister is within his right to make such decisions according to the law, which is why I'm not accusing anyone of anything personally. It is a political choice of whether to safeguard the natural environment or cater to the industry.

The decision to increase state forest felling volumes will hit hardest in mushroom and berry woods close to people's homes or so-called KAH (heightened public interest) areas where society's pain threshold is lowest, emotions and problems greatest. Forests need to be managed, while in some places, it can only be done by involving and listening to the local community.

Claims according to which timber imports from Russia have fallen simply aren't true. Journalists working with state agencies have repeatedly shown that no slump in eastern timber imports can be seen this year compared to the last (for example, in April). The industry just wants more.

On bark beetle damage. I read in Maaleht how [state forest manager] RMK is fighting the bark beetle mainly through sanitary and improvement cutting, with regeneration cutting considered a last resort measure. Just a few days later, we hear from the minister that clearcutting is the best way to fight the beetle.

Let us at the very least agree on the messages we send to society. What is more, management of woods that have suffered bark beetle damage does not require changes to the area of regeneration cutting as it can easily be done without an increase in total felling volume.

The goal of timber companies is to get more material through RMK fixed contracts that sport below market prices that they can later sell for a notable profit. Were there really a timber shortage in Estonia, we would be introducing an export ban and inspecting log loads at ports. I have heard of no such debate taking place on the government level.

The long story short is that Russia's war in Ukraine is used as an excuse to turn Estonian forests into cash. Good luck to any government that fails to observe its own coalition agreement!


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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