Minister of the Environment Madis Kallas (SDE) said on the "Esimene stuudio" talk show that his proposal to curb logging volumes is based on the findings of scientists who maintain that Estonian forestry and biodiversity are not fine.
"Looking at the ministry's core values, the main things the environment ministry is tasked with, they are protecting the natural environment and making sure we leave the coming generations the best possible living environment. In this light, I must pay more attention to ecologists, naturalists, different experts who have studied our biodiversity. Their conclusion is clear: the situation is bad and we need to do something right now," the environment minister said.
"The situation has been gradually deteriorating, and not just in forestry. We are talking about protected animal and bird species, biodiversity, the situation of our landscapes. It has become a constant process by now, and I believe that this comes as a surprise to no one," Kallas suggested.
Host Johannes Tralla asked Kallas whether the poor state of Estonian forests has been hushed up or whether he sports a different approach compared to his predecessors all of whom have maintained that Estonian woods are well kept.
"Perhaps I do take a different approach, but I rather listen to scientists who say that Estonian forestry, diversity and our animals, birds and plants are not fine, as confirmed by dozens of surveys. Scientists also disagree. There are those who say that forests need to be logged in recent volume and perhaps even more intensively without it endangering our forest reserves and wildlife. But my sympathy and support belongs to those who say we need to make changes," Kallas replied.
He said that perhaps earlier ministers have emphasized forests from an economic perspective, while he believes there are other ministries for that. Tralla asked whether Estonia's forestry policy has favored the industry too much.
"That is indeed the situation today. But it is government policy. The timber sector has done nothing they have not been allowed to do."
The environment minister said that roughly 50 percent of timber felled is used for heating in Estonia or exported for the same purpose. He suggested attaching higher value added to timber in Estonia, adding that even if wood makes for a good heating agent, it should be used in Estonian furnaces to keep local homes warm.
Kallas said that timber export restrictions could be considered. "It is something that can be considered should it prove necessary, at least in terms of how to ensure Estonian district heating providers' wood stores first and only then look to export. This needs to be in accordance with all relevant rules of course. We are looking at those nuances now, as the coalition agreement is clear in preferring district heating and those who add value to timber. The question is how to do it in the EU without erring against laws or regulations."
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) told ERR on Tuesday that she is not in favor of proposals to curb felling. Madis Kallas said on "Esimene stuudio" that the PM is nevertheless willing to discuss the matter.
Editor: Marcus Turovski