Collecting firewood from state forests incurs a fee

An Estonian forest.
An Estonian forest. Source: RMK

While the ongoing energy crisis has led to a surge in the use of firewood for burning at home, it is well to remember that taking fallen branches, brushwood, twigs, kindling and anything else from state forestry commission (RMK) forest can only be done after obtaining a permit.

The permit also incurs a fee from the RMK. Naturally taking firewood from a private forest owner would be forbidden without an agreement to do so.

At the same time, this applies to forest which is clearly maintained by the state.

Ulvar Kaubi, head of the timber marketing department at the RMK, said: "If we look at what the law says, it is also stated that if there are no clear traces of the forest and no expenditures have been made in a place by the forest owner – in this case the state – then branches can be taken free of charge."

The difference lies in obviously maintained forest.

"However, if the goal is to start clearing up, as it were, with a saw or an axe, to cut branches, and to stock them up for heating, then this is already a job that can be done where RMK has already carried out some activities in the area before. It is not permissible to enter growing forest to cut using an axe or a saw," he went on, referring even to fallen branches etc.

This refers to gathering wood for specifically burning – taking fallen branches etc. for whatever other use an individual might have in mind is free, provided that this is done sparingly and does not change the appearance of the forest, Kaubi added.

Hardi Tullus, professor of forestry and forest ecology at the Estonian University of Life Sciences (Maaülikool) says that removing branches which have naturally fallen does no harm to the forest.

He said: "This is such a marginal component of the biomass that a forest produces, which also falls of its own accord due to competition between trees in the forest, that the particular impact on biodiversity or carbon sequestration in a forest should not be affected. It is particularly good when people find branches etc. with some intrinsic value."

For this, RMK uses a price list based on hectares. One hectare costs €80, and a user can take as much as they want from that area. 

The scheme has seen uptake as well, Kaubi added; whereas last year there had been no wait line for firewood gathered in this way, now there is a wait list through to the end of August, while interest is up 50 percent on year.

Of other means of obtaining firewood, Kaubi noted ordering cut logs or other firewood from sellers, or, if you have both permission and the requisite skills, to cut wood yourself.

The high energy prices in other heavily forested countries have similarly seen renewed interest in burning firewood, although in some countries, for instance in Poland, taking firewood from state forests is free-of-charge.

The RMK's site is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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