Tuesday, the Riigikogu passed the first reading of the Forestry Development Plan for this decade (MAK2030), which provides a detailed analysis of the state of forestry in Estonia, establishes goals for forestry development and outlines how to attain them.
The new development plan prioritizes forest sustainability, ensuring forest ecosystem conservation, biodiversity preservation and adaptation to the effects of climate change. Moreover, the forestry sector must also be economically competitive and the policy must be inclusive and take into account social and cultural values, the forestry vision document states.
Minister of the Environment Madis Kallas (SDE) said in the introducing of to the document that in a changing climate, the issue of good forest health that maintains forests' ability to sequester carbon and withstand greater and more intense climate-related disturbances, is becoming increasingly important. As an example, he cited the impact inflicted by the spruce bark beetle in southern Estonia.
Kallas said that a a significantly larger area of forests must be treated to properly planned and timed maintenance harvesting to develop better climate-resilient stands and assure the most efficient use of forest land. He added that the concentration of clear-cut areas should be avoided while planning forest felling, suggesting that the maximum size of the cutting area be reduced from seven to five hectares. The annex of the development plan indicates that the annual volume of felling should range from nine to eleven million cubic meters.
Kallas further emphasized that more wood should be delivered to wood-working facilities rather than leaving Estonia. "We export almost two million cubic meters of raw coniferous and hardwood pulpwood annually, as there is no local business capable of processing and refining it in sufficient quantities," the minister explained.
The minister added that enabling high-tech processing of timber in order to limit the export of unprocessed timber, while avoiding severe environmental consequences and increased pressure on Estonia's forests, will be the greatest issue for the forthcoming time.
Kallas emphasized the importance of high-tech wood processing development in order to maximize the benefits of wood and ensure that only low-value wood is used for energy purposes.
The discussion also touched on the potential loss and creation of jobs in the timber industry. The minister of the environment said that the investments would ideally foster the creation of higher-skilled jobs in areas near to the raw resources. He said that one of the aims of this development plan is to create more regional jobs, citing the objective of processing more timber locally and exporting less of it.
The Estonian Forestry Act specifies that every 10 years, a forestry development plan must be drafted to steer the forestry sector by defining objectives and describing the means to attain them.
The current plan is the third successive forest development strategy and a continuation of the Estonian Forestry Development Plan 2011-2020. The Forestry Act requires the Riigikogu to adopt the Forestry Development Plan.
Tõnis Mölder (Center), Peeter Ernits (EKRE), Toomas Jürgenstein (SDE), Heiki Hepner (Isamaa) and Yoko Alender (Reform) spoke during negotiations.
The Center and EKRE proposed to reject the draft at first reading. 22 MPs backed the rejection, while 43 voted against the motion. Thus, the draft bill MAK2030 found sufficient support during the first reading.
Editor: Kristina Kersa