Minister of the Environment Madis Kallas (SDE) has proposed, that the government maintains the current felling volumes of the State Forest Management Center (RMK), citing damage caused by worms and the energy crisis as reasons to do so.
Kallas told ERR, that Estonia's district heating companies are facing huge challenges and that wood chip prices are high. At the same time, he stressed that, in the long term, felling volumes, including those of state forests, should decrease.
"However, for the time being, we have reintroduced oil shale. For the time being, we may have to make some decisions to increase the volume of forest felling. These are all related to the fact that we are not living in a normal time at the moment," Kallas said.
The government is set to discuss the RMK's felling volumes next Thursday, September 22. Controversy arose last November when outgoing Minister of the Environment, Tõnis Möder, made a last-minute decision to reduce felling volumes before vacating his post.
While in 2021, different types of wood could be gathered from a total of 11,276 state forest hectares, that number was reduced by 12.4 percent to 9,880 hectares for this year. However, Erki Savisaar, who replaced Mölder in the role, decreased the level of reduction to 4 percent, meaning the RMK could cut down 10,886 hectares of forest in 2022.
The new government coalition subsequently agreed that, in future, such decisions should not be taken by the environment minister alone, with Kallas stating that he has prepared a memo, which contains three possible solutions to the current situation. However, there is one amongst the three that, for Kallas, is the preferred option. "We would prefer to see that volumes could remain at today's levels," Kallas said.
He said that both the fallout from the waste crisis, and the ongoing energy crisis would both play important roles in the decision. "We would like to reduce the felling of pine trees and grow other (varieties) for (wood) chips and biomass if necessary. The overall total would remain at today's volume," Kallas said.
According to the minister, the felling capacity of the RMK will be reassessed according to the current situation. "We are also prepared to change it on an annual basis," Kallas added.
Editor: Michael Cole