At the foot of Suur Munamägi, the highest point in Estonia, more than 20 dead trees have been felled. The trees, which stood along the path leading to the observation tower had become potentially hazardous due to the damage caused by a bark beetle infestation.
Many of the trees felled along the path leading to the Suur Munamägi observation tower were over 100 years old and there are plenty more dead trees at the foot of the hill. However, as it is a protected, no forest management is usually allowed.
"These are non-standard conditions. Ensuring safety is definitely a priority here. However, choosing the direction in which to fell the trees is also quite complicated and challenging, when compared to other situations," said tree surgeon Vladimir Kuznetsov.
Nevertheless, a visit to Suur Munamägi still raises the question of why the trunks and branches of the felled trees have been left lying in the forest, rather than taken away from the area.
"As the snow is very deep and thick, the conditions for the work were somewhat more challenging (than usual). We might come back in the spring and see how we can improve the visual appearance. However, it is essential to leave these large trunks in the forest because they are important for maintaining the natural habitat and for protecting biodiversity," explained Priit Voolaid, nature conservation specialist at the Estonian State Forest Management Center (RMK).
Many visitors are also interested to know what happens to the trees, which have been damaged by the bark beetle infestation.
"People are still concerned and are thinking about it actively," said Lenna Jürisaar, economic specialist at Rõuge Municipality's tourism department.
However, there is no need to fear that the slopes of Suur Munamägi will be left bare. If the forest does not regenerate by itself, it is possible, that the planting of new trees in the protected forest may be considered.
"Of course, we hope the natural environment will regenerate itself and are working towards that," said Rainer Vakra, head of the Estonian Environmental Board (Keskkonnaamet).
"We know that spruces will grow in the shade of the deciduous trees, which are currently there. However, of course, in order to preserve the landscape, the Environmental Board will review larger areas of woodland, and also give permission for the planting of young spruces," he added.
Editor: Michael Cole