Climate minister allows RMK more clear-cuts to control bark beetle damage

Spruce bark beetle in the forests of South Estonia.
Spruce bark beetle in the forests of South Estonia. Source: Leevi Lillemäe/ERR

As recent warm and dry years have aided in the spread of the spruce bark beetle in Estonian forests, Climate Minister Kristen Michal (Reform) has authorized RMK to cut up to 1,400 hectares more of the beetle-damaged trees.

"Extraordinary tree felling was also approved in the past, in case of severe damage," Climate Minister Kristen Michal (Reform) said.

"Monitoring of the forests reveals that the majority of damaged stands are mature or maturing. Increasing the regeneration area of spruce stands will significantly reduce the spread of beetle damage to forests that are presently unaffected. The emergency felling carried out this year to mitigate infestation damages will reduce the area of future spruce stands felling," Michal added.

According to the minister, the choice of climate policy is also important in the consideration. "Damaged timber can only be burned in the stove as inexpensive biomass, while if trees can be obtained with minor damage, they can be used for more expensive, long-lasting carbon-containing products [that do not release CO2 to the atmosphere]."

The Environment Agency (Keskkonnaagentuur) has approved the optimal regeneration area for state forest administrators from 2023 to 2027.

Enn Pärt, a senior specialist in the Environment Agency's forestry division, explained that clear-cutting is a unique circumstance, in which standard rules do not apply, such as in storm damage clearance.

Clear-cutting area due to spruce bark beetle damage control. Source: Leevi Lillemäe/ERR

When the previous minister of the environment, Madis Kallas (SDE), reduced the permitted volume of felling in the state forest in February of this year, he also said that RMK could perform the additional felling required to eliminate the worm damage.

"We are discussing whether [the additional spruce felling volume] would be 500 hectors or 1000 hectors, relating to the bark beetle damage," Kallas said previously.

Pärt said that in the current circumstance, the trees can be cut down over a significantly larger area than planned. "On condition that mature spruce trees in good health are left partially uncut," he added.

"Felling made now will reduce the volume for other felling in the future, because clearing made to prevent damage will be taken into account when determining the next optimal area for regeneration felling," he said.

RMK estimated that regeneration felling in state forests will decline in the future decades, as will spruce felling.

In recent years, a longer growing season and droughts in Estonia contributed to the spread of spruce bark beetle. Emergency tree felling can limit damage. As a result, essential work is planned to be carried out in the state forest even during the bird nesting, "peace," season. Timber and fallen wood harvesting for prevention of spruce bark beetle infestation and the elimination of beetle nests is based on forest protection expert judgments issued by the Environment Agency.


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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Kristina Kersa

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