Tarmo Tamm: Behind the forest lies the RMK

Tarmo Tamm.
Tarmo Tamm. Source: Raul Mee

Stating out loud that state forestry commission the RMK forgoes clear-cutting timber techniques in its work on protected areas in favor of other forest management practices is likely a wise thing to do, writes Eesti 200 MP and Riigikogu Environment Committee chair Tarmo Tamm.

Forestry has in recent years attracted a lot of attention, for the reason that over half the land area of Estonia is forest-covered, the bulk of which belongs to us all and is taken care of by the RMK.

The forest and those that dwell in the forest thus fall under our constant gaze, and naturally we wish them well in the future; most of us have somehow taken them to heart as our own.

We hear about climate change each day, but it is nonetheless quite hard for the average person to personally grasp and relate to the problem of CO2.

That self-same concern pertains to the RMK, which may seem unfamiliar to someone remote from the forest. However, non-comprehension does not confer the right to state that RMK is not a well-run, professional organization.

However, what is a viable topic for discussion is what the wider goal of the RMK should be. In general, the RMK is known to be an organization dealing in forest management, while at the same time it is most likely the organization that contributes the most to nature conservation in Estonia. 

The RMK conducted 259 nature conservation works in 2022, totaling €4.8 million; this year 330 different jobs worth €6.7 million are planned for.

In terms of area, the largest volume clearly relates to the restoration of marshland. 

The last meeting we had with Mikk Marran, RMK board chair, we also examined the violation of timber regulations which had taken place on Hiiumaa, where what was done related to rejuvenation of marshes and, clearly, human error was at play.

The sole conclusion to be drawn from this case is that the RMK must also explain more to its subcontractors about what is important and how to act, on a case-by-case basis.

It likely also wouldn't do any harm if, in addition to harvesters, all machinery utilized in forested areas be required to have a constant GPS connection, to enable the customer, or the RMK, to have a clear overview of what is going on.

It could still be stated that things sometimes happen, but even when talking about an isolated case over a lengthy period of time, this unfortunate case must be drawn on in order to make the organization even better, more efficient and more clearer. This is what we agreed with Mikk Marran.  

The saying "never let a crisis go to waste" certainly applies in this case, too. Nature conservationists have criticized clear-cutting in protected areas. In some places, it is certainly the case that clear-cutting does no harm to the progress on these nature reserves' goals, but it would likely be wise to say it out loud: The RMK completely forgoes clear-cutting in protected areas, and uses other forestry management techniques. 

That situation would bring confidence to people that the forest is well protected, and they could thus sleep easy.

The RMK has many tasks, while public expectation also runs the gamut. Let us take, for example, the hectares damaged by spruce bark beetles. Do we allow their felling and risk the displeasure of a part of society, or treat the dried-up spruce trees as part of biodiversity, in so doing maintaining the status quo?

In addition to economic damage, dead and dry spruce also presents both a major fire risk and the risk of further infection of more trees. By way of an example, the major fires in Australia a few years ago were partly the result of going against the demands of the Greens that controlled underbrush burning not go ahead. 

Nature resolved the problem in its own way; so can we. A separate issue in the fight against CO2 is where to plant new trees that could sequester carbon, if that new forest is not given the space to grow.

The clear and present problem is the data reveals the size of our forest reserves, and the resulting volume of felling. We need to make that state data reliable, and the RMK as the largest forest owner has a leading role to play here too. The largest market participant must show leadership, drive innovation and meet societal expectations.

It is certainly important, to listen carefully to what experts in their field have to say, in addition to listening interest groups, . The situation is highly complex, and needs highly considered solutions to match. I am sure that the RMK will be able to handle both existing and new challenges alike.


Editor's note: The headline of the piece is a play on words "ei ole puude taga metsa" or variants on that ("There are no trees behind the forest," or more commonly in English, "You can't see the wood for the trees"). Tamm is also the Estonian word for an oak tree, in addition to being a common second name.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Kaupo Meiel

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