RMK has proposed to extend protection to deciduous and ancient forests 08.09

RMK has proposed to the Ministry of Environment to extend protection to 26,500 additional hectares of deciduous, ancient and swamp forest on state woodlands, and also to strengthen the protection regime on 8,700 hectares of protected territories.

In January last year, in order to ensure strengthened protection of deciduous, ancient and swamp forest, RMK (Estonian State Forest) suspended the management process on the territories of potential protected areas. In March, RMK was assigned a task by the Ministry of Environment to develop the borders and the protection arrangement of deciduous forest on future protected territories on state lands in co-operation with specialist researchers of the field by 1 September. RMK conducted comprehensive works and determined the territories for all three forest types.

RMK’s proposal ensures strengthened protection to all the types of forest in Estonia in a volume providing long-term prerequisites for the preservation of those types of old forest. Other types of forest are already under sufficiently strict protection.

Aigar Kallas, Chairman of the Management Board of RMK remarked that RMK’s proposal is an implementation of the agreement reached in spring discussions concerning the Forest Act. “We undertook to take an additional 27,000 hectares of deciduous and ancient forest under protection, in order to guarantee future growth space for those forests. In co-operation with researchers, we sought the best territories from an ecological point of view in order to fulfil the agreement.”

Presently, there are 34,070 hectares of land where strengthened state protection is necessary. RMK proposed a total of 35,183 hectares of forest of the aforementioned type to the Ministry of the Environment. Our plan says that 26,428 hectares of forest currently still used for forest management purposes can be taken under protection and a stricter protection regime can be established on 8,755 hectares of deciduous and ancient forest.

RMK proposes to establish 72 additional protected belts in all of Estonia. We chose the territories based on the prerequisite of being on emerging forest land having the highest share of deciduous, ancient and swamp forest. Those territories are sufficiently wide, have compact locations, or are bordering with existing protected areas, and they also already hold old forest.

As the new protected territories are being established in managed forests, they inevitably include forest of various ages: there are felled areas, young forests, forests of medium age, and old forests. More than half (54%) of the chosen territories are 50 or more years of age, while felled areas and especially young forests (up to 10 years old) make up 14%. Felled areas and young forests are included for the purpose of ensuring the growth of new old-type forests in those territories. It means that those lands will be the ecological spaces for old forests in 80-90 years.

Which lands and what borders shall be taken under protection, will become clear in the course of further review in the Ministry of the Environment, and in any case, all the proposed lands will be taken out of management before establishing the new protected territories.

It is estimated that the Ministry of the Environment will start establishing the protected zones during the month of September. Thereafter, the Ministry of the Environment will prepare a draft Act to take the territories under protection and an explanatory memorandum to the draft Act, and will arrange the publication of the draft Act and the attraction of stakeholder discussion. The exact time of taking the territories under protection will depend on the results of the publication.

Currently, 25% of Estonian forests are under protection; 13% of those are forests under limited amendment and 12% are forests under strengthened protection. Among the forests managed by RMK, 38% are currently under protection and 19% of those are under strengthened protection.

RMK (Estonian State Forest) manages approximately 30% of the entire territory of Estonia. 45 percent of Estonian forest grows on those lands. RMK is a state enterprise holding, protecting and managing state forests and the varied natural habitats there. RMK grows forest, protects natural resources, earns state revenue from forest management, ensures opportunities for nature walks, and generates natural research knowledge.