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Climate minister unveils new forestry five-year plan

A white-backed woodpecker, a species not found in much of Western Europe, in a forest in Estonia.
A white-backed woodpecker, a species not found in much of Western Europe, in a forest in Estonia. Source: Kaupo Kikkas/RMK

Minister of Climate Kristen Michal (Reform) has confirmed the area of ​​renewal felling in the state-owned (RMK) forest at 47,727 hectares, for the period 2024-2028. The plan was due to be unveiled today, December 1, in any case.

This is a 3.3 percent fall on the area allocated in the preceding rolling four-year period – these periods are revised each year.

However, Michal said, since this approach does not engender much stability and certainty for sectors such as business and conservation, far longer-range plans will be put in place in due course.

For the years 2023-2027, the volume of renewal felling stands at 49,348 hectares, which also includes the area designated for the elimination of yarrow damage. Also in this case, the felling volume is smaller than the desired area of ​​RMK

By individual year, the area of ​​RMK renewal felling will remain the same for 2024 in the 2024-2028 plan as it was in the 2023-2027 period.

The net area of renewed felling of pine forests is to fall by 50 hectares per year, 2025-2028 inclusive, ie. totaling 200 hectares.

The area of ​​the Järvselja study and experimental forest in Tartu County will decrease by 20.5 hectares compared to the volume set for 2023–2027. Thus, in the period 2024–2028, the area of ​​renewal felling will decrease by a total of 220.5 hectares.

In the years 2024-2028, the area of ​​renewal felling to be conducted by the RMK will stand at 12,550 hectares for pine, 10,000 hectares for spruce, 15,000 hectares for birch, 3,500 hectares for aspen and 4,650 hectares for all other tree species.

So far as the next year alone goes, the permitted volume of renewal felling on RMK forest stands at 2,550 hectares for pine, 2,000 hectares in respect of spruce, 3,000 hectares on birch trees, 700 hectares for aspen plus 930 hectares covers all other tree species. In total, next year RMK's renewal felling volume will stand at 9180 hectares.

The RMK has the right exceed the optimal area, ie. the areas listed above, by up to five percent per annum.

The current practice is for felling volumes on state land to be confirmed annually, for the following five years. A longer-term plan is set to be laid down after a public debate and consultation, in the course of the development of the climate law, a wide-ranging law for which Michal's ministry was in part founded to address.

The plan is also to initiate changes to legislation to allow future felling volumes to be determined over a longer period, while also taking into account the carbon sequestration capacity of the forest and creating opportunities for each unit of wood to be valued as high as possible, the Ministry of Climate announced.

The Environmental Agency (Keskonnaagentuur) has coordinated the optimal cutting area for state forest managers.

In accordance with the Forest Act, the Minister of Climate determines by December 1 of each year the area of ​​optimal renewal felling to be deployed by the RMK for the next five years, ie. for 2023-2027 in this case.

Due to political wrangling at the time, this year's volume and five year plan was confirmed later than December 1, in fact in late February, by then environment minister Madis Kallas (SDE).

Much of the former environment ministry formed the nucleus of the new climate ministry after the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition entered office.

Of this year's plan, Kristen Michal talked about a somewhat longer perspective than five years, saying: "In line with our intentions, the felling volumes will fall smoothly over time, and the RMK will inform the sector of its plans a hundred years in advance."

"A smooth decline provides certainty for nature conservation and long-term predictability for the industrial sector, bringing the opportunity to invest in higher value-added production. These annual, sudden changes in felling volumes created uncertainty in society and also prevent the RMK from implementing long-term plans for sustainable forest management, increasing biodiversity and fulfilling other goals expected by society," Michal went on.

Around 50 percent of Estonia's dry terrain is forested (cf. 13 percent of the UK, or 11 percent in the case of the Netherlands), totaling around 2 million hectares, of which around 45 percent is RMK-owned, meaning the authority manages around a quarter of the overall Estonian land area (actually somewhat more since the RMK also manages and/or owns non-forested land).


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

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