The single largest forest owner in Estonia is the central government, while the biggest private owner is Foreko OÜ belonging to Raul Kirjanen, Andres Rätsepp and Anders Anderson.
The MaaKorraldaja database of the Maad.ee portal reveals that the Estonian state owns 1.11 million hectares (2.74 million acres) of forest between the State Forest Management Center (RMK), Land Board, Center for Defense Investments, Defense League, Eesti Energia, Enefit Power and Riigi Kinnisvara AS (RKAS).
RMK owns the vast majority of public forests at 1.03 million hectares. The Land Board governs 50,109 hectares and RKIK 23,898 hectares of woodland.
Estonia's second largest forest owner Foreko OÜ is made up of Roger Puit AS with 32,425 hectares, Valga Puu OÜ with 19,550 hectares, Kairo Mets OÜ sitting on 7,880 hectares and Voore Mets OÜ on 388 hectares. The group, previously named Graanul Mets, owns a total of 60,243 hectares of forest and is in turn owned by businessmen Raul Kirjanen, Andres Rätsepp and Anders Anderson.
Coming in third is Tornator Eesti OÜ that owns 58,113 hectares. The company's real beneficiary as listed in the business register is Finnish national Mikko Koivusalu.
Vestman Grupp manages 20,462 hectares of forest land divided between Metsamaahalduse AS and Põlluvara AS, with the former owning 19,877 hectares. The group is owned by Aivar and Merit Berzin.
The fifth largest chunk of forest is owned by Toomas Aab and Urmas Rahnel who own the companies Metsagrupp OÜ, Oks Trading OÜ, Halkrika OÜ and Karistaale OÜ. The firms own 18,792 hectares of forest between them.
Ingka Investments Estonia OÜ (18,369 hectares) is part of the Ingka Group, a Dutch company that also handles IKEA franchises.
Södra Metsad OÜ owns 15,341 hectares of forest land and is a subsidiary of Swedish group Södra.
Next comes businessman Andres Kaasik who owns a total of 13,999 hectares through his firms Baltwood AS and Tarmets AS.
A&P Mets AS owns 13,025 hectares through various subsidiaries. The company belongs to Ants Aidla and Jüri Külvik.
Finnish forest owners round out the top ten. Ari Aarno, Juhani Anttonen, Olli Petri Johannes Haltia and Peter Valdemar Immonen and their companies Palumetsa, Estonian Sustainable Forestry and Karusambla own 12,028 hectares.
Natural persons largely passive owners
The Environment Agency's thorough analysis only goes back to 2019. Private owners had 1.11 million hectares of forest land back then of which 58.2 percent was owned by natural persons and 41.8 percent companies.
Jaanus Aun, head of the Estonian Private Forest Union, told ERR that companies tend to be more active forest managers than individuals. "There are plenty of those among the latter who just let forests grow as they would. Modest holdings mean that no action is taken," he explained.
Aun pointed out that close to a third of Estonian forests are protected.
"That is the official side of it. There are also plenty of forest owners who own forests to protect natural values. That is the value in the versatility offered by private ownership. We have active forest growers, hobby owners, those safeguarding mushroom forests and hikers. Very different combinations, whereas prioritizing one use case does not rule out the others."
Editor: Marcus Turovski