The Ministry of the Environment plans to set up four protected wildlife habitats in the vicinity of the planned Rail Baltica route, principally in the interests of wild bird nesting areas, where tree felling will be limited or completely banned.
The four areas, all in Pärnu County, have a combined area of just under 1,040 hectares, were proposed by the Environmental Board (Keskkonnaamet) and the state forestry commission, the RMK, according to a ministry press release.
The environment ministry says it continues to explore ways to ensure that Rail Baltica construction brings minimal negative impact. Environment minister Rene Kokk (EKRE) has opined that the new railway must not be built at the expense of the environment.
The bulk of this area, 900 hectares, at the forest sites at Venemurru, Rabaküla, Nepste and Saki will see forestry cutting totally prohibited, along with a 138.5-hectare restricted zone where cutting will be limited.
The ministry says that the move is not a typical process in creating a wildlife habitat in areas where birds, particularly game birds, nest and breed currently, but is rather aimed at setting up areas where they will be able to do so in future in place of those areas affected by the rail building.
"It certainly cannot be said that this proposal will definitively mitigate all the risks associated with the removal of wild game," said Marku Lamp, Undersecretary of the Ministry of the Environment.
"This is a process that is constantly adding new information as research is ongoing and no environmental impact assessment of the Rail Baltic construction project is yet available." he went on. Further discussion on wildlife conservation in the area is also to continue via a dedicated wildlife working group made up of specialist scientists and conservationists, the ministry says.
In order to protect the entire Estonian forest stock, the plan is also being updated, which means an analysis of current conservation activities. Currently, about 60,000 hectares of wildlife habitats are protected as permanent habitats.
Editor: Andrew Whyte