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Government approves 2,200 hectares Sõrve Nature Reserve near Tallinn

The boreal owl.
The boreal owl. Source: Erik Karits/Pixels

On Thursday, at a government meeting, a draft proposal submitted by the Ministry of Climate to establish the Sõrve Nature Reserve in Harku rural municipality as well as define its protection regime was approved.

Harku rural municipality proposed to establish the protected area to preserve the ecological features of the entire natural range.

"The entire municipality of Harku has been anticipating today's decision for many years – it is critical for us and our good neighbors as the area to be considered for protection is the last untouched natural environment close to Tallinn," Katrin Krause, the mayor of Harku rural municipality, said.

"The initial steps in this direction were taken nearly 20 years ago, and the municipality's several institutions together with the council have continually worked towards this aim, always with the great support of our local community," she said.

The conservation objective of the area is to protect, conserve, restore and showcase the integrity of the natural landscape, including its natural and semi-natural communities, biodiversity, and protected species.

The white-tailed eagle. Source: Karl Adami

The species whose habitats are protected are the white-tailed eagle in conservation category I, while the boreal owl, the white-backed woodpecker, the Eurasian three-toed woodpecker, the northern goshawk, the Arctic bramble, orchis mascula, the northern coralroot, the maidenhair spleenwort, the scrubby cinquefoil and others are in conservation category II.

Sõrve Nature Reserve is located in Harju County in the villages of Ilmandu, Liikva, Muraste, Rannamõisa, Sõrve, Vahi and Viti in Harku Rural Municipality and in the village of Vatsla in Saue Rural Municipality.

The territory of the proposed nature reserve is already partly protected as a permanent habitat for the Vatsla white-tailed eagle, the Sõrve white-tailed eagle, the Vatsla northern goshawk, the Tugamanni northern goshawk – a total of 102.5 hectares.

The planned area of the nature reserve is 2,257.5 hectares. There are five target protection zones – Sõrvemetsa, Muraste bog, Mustalepa, Sõrve and Tugamanni.

The protected area has one restricted zone, which covers 934.1 hectares, and there are 866.1 hectares of wilderness.

The boreal owl. Source: Erik Karits/Pixels

Buildings may be put up in the restricted zone with the permission of the protected area manager, with the exception of buildings on forest land and species-rich grassland.

In the special protection zone within the protected area, the maintenance of existing structures and the storage of existing groundwater drainage systems, for example, are permitted with the consent of the manager of the protected area.

The regulation will enter into force on the tenth day following its publication.

The proposal for the establishment of the Sõrve Nature Reserve was submitted by Harku Rural Municipality on June 25, 2006. Between 2009 and 2017, the Ministry of the Environment clarified the feasibility of the establishment of the Sõrve Nature Reserve. In 2017–2018, the Harku municipality commissioned studies on the Sõrve nature reserve in nine areas, with the participation of 12 experts.

The surveys found many values that were not yet recorded in the environmental register. The data was entered in the register and the Sõrve area is named as one of the best surveyed nature areas in Estonia.

The northern goshawk. Source: Merike Hiibus

On December 13, 2022, the minister of the environment submitted a draft government decree "Establishment of the Sõrve Nature Reserve and Protection Rules" to the government session.

The regulation was not implemented at the time because the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications intended to remove three applications for geological exploration permits totaling 177 hectares from the reserve site. This would result in a 1.5-kilometer-long and one-kilometer-wide region where the forest would be cleared and the soil removed.

Harku municipality has already rejected these applications for exploration permits twice by a unanimous decision of the council, with very good reasons.

The Ministry of Climate put the draft proposal for the establishment of the Sõrve Nature Reserve back on the agenda of the government meeting in November this year.

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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Kristina Kersa

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