Haapsalu local government tussles with RMK over tree-felling

Forest in Estonia (photo is illustrative).
Forest in Estonia (photo is illustrative). Source: Laura Raudnagel/ERR

The state forestry commission (RMK) and local government in the Western Estonian city of Haapsalu disagree on longer-range forest management and more specifically tree-felling.

The city of Haapsalu wants to ban clear-cutting, ie. the wholesale felling of trees, in its Paralepa and Valgevälja community forests, to the South of the town. As a result, it is at loggerheads, no pun intended, with the RMK.

The city wants to instigate a 10-year general plan to forbid the practice, over and above the clear-cutting already carried out. But RMK, which owns the forest in question, says there is no alternative.

The forest in question is close to human settlement and is a place where people go for recreational purposes, such as walking and dog-walking, exercise and, at this time of year, berry picking.

Helen Rammu (EKRE), deputy mayor of Haapsalu, says such clear-cutting destroys recreational forests, but the RMK says there is no alternative to clear-cutting in this case.

Andres Sepp, chief forest officer at the RMK, said that the use of clear-cutting in the general plan does not mean that no trees will be left untouched - it is important that the felling be done in such a way that it does not create an eyesore, he said.

"We deal with this felling and renewal, only to the extent that new trees can grow, so that they can get enough light and nutrients," Sepp said.

"From my perspective, what you may term this type of felling is irrelevant, but since this type of cutting is regulated by law, clear cutting provides greater possibilities - we can landscape the forest and the felling area exactly as we agree to," he went on.

Rammu said the local Haapsalu community is not wholly opposed to forest renewal per se, adding that the RMK could choose another, less drastic felling method, in lieu of clear-cutting.

However, "These methods are generally not used, because they are not economically viable," she added.

The state Environmental Board (Keskonnaamet) also bears responsibility, she said, since it issues logging permits to RMK and allows them to come closer and closer to settlements from economic forests.

Jaanus Nilp, leading specialist at the board's forestry department, responded by saying things are being done in accordance with the rules.

"As of today, the Environmental Board bases its actions on specific restrictions when granting logging permits. We cannot simply do things and take things as we wish, where we allow one thing here, but not there," Nilp said.

Deputy Mayor Rammu said she believes that since so much forest has already been cut down at once, we should wait for these recreational forests.

Rammu and Sepp also disagreed over renewal plans for forests earmarked as recreational purposes.


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Editor: Mirjam Koch, Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

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