Forest management

Why is it important to determine a forest’s age?
Age is one of the main characteristics of a forest. It is an important property that gives us more information about our forests. Knowing the age and height of a forest allows us to calculate its growth rate. In managed forests, we plan the necessary forestry work according to its age. Regeneration cutting is allowed if the age of a managed forest exceeds the legal maturity age.

Why do we need to cut down forests?
Forests do not need people. However, people need forests for various reasons: for firewood, construction or furniture materials, paper, etc. Planting trees helps to fight the current climate crisis as they absorb excess carbon. Wood is also a great alternative to plastic, steel, concrete and many petroleum products.

To be able to use wood, we must cut down trees and carry out necessary reforestation works, such as sowing or planting new trees. By managing our forests, we ensure that we’ll be able to use wood to create a variety of products today and in the future.

The more limitations set on logging in Estonia or Europe, the greater the logging volume in other areas because the global demand for timber stays the same.

Why are harvesters used in forestry?
Modern forestry equipment is safe to use and reduces the effort of forestry works. Harvesters can transport large amounts of timber for a limited cost. Most people are probably not willing to pay significantly more for their firewood simply to employ 30 loggers for this job if a harvester can do it. Harvesters can also collect data and send it to information systems.

We also don’t ask people working in other fields to use outdated tools that are several decades old or replace our cars with horse-drawn carriages.

Why is clearcutting necessary?
According to the Estonian Forest Act, we must replace the forest we have cut down so a new forest with similar value can grow there in the future. The goal of sustainably managed forests is to ensure their high productivity and good condition and produce high-quality wood. The Forest Act follows the sustainable development principle, giving landowners an overview of harvest methods. To comply with the sustainable forestry principle, the owner must choose a method that suits them. The harvest method is chosen considering sustainable silviculture. In Estonia, clear-cutting is the most effective method for reforestation. It helps to create light conditions that are great for plant growth. Similar conditions can occur naturally during storms and forest fires.

From the perspective of our future generations, it would be an irresponsible decision to only cut down log trees and leave it to nature to reforest the area. It is very difficult for spruce and pine plants to survive without sufficient light and nutrients. RMK’s goal is to ensure there will be healthy and strong forests in Estonia in the future, which is why the specific harvest method is of secondary importance.

Why do some species prefer clear-cut areas?
Even though clearcutting is often seen as a method that destroys all species and the forest itself, it actually creates habitats for many plant and animal species. It also helps to create the necessary conditions that have historically occurred during storms and forest fires. The area receives more sunlight and the soil becomes more humid and fertile.

The communities developing in clear-cut areas depend on the forest’s habitat style and soil fertility. For example, you can find lingonberries instead of blackberries in pine forests as well as common heather and rosebay willowherb. In the spring, you can find false morels. In clear-cut spruce forests, you can find wild strawberries in the first years. Piles of wood left in the cleared forests are good growing spots for raspberries.

Plants growing on clearings are the perfect habitat for butterflies. In addition to berries, herbs and medicinal plants, clearings also provide people with honey. The clean environment of clean-cut areas attracts beekeepers, who often bring their hives here to produce pesticide-free, organic honey. Moose, deer and elks visit younger forests to search for food. They are also popular nesting places for birds. People can visit younger forests to pick berries or mushrooms.

Why are there so few trees left after logging?
Seed trees and old crop trees are necessary for reforestation, preserving biodiversity and alleviating the environmental effects of clearcutting. Preserving seed trees and old crop trees helps to reduce the swamping of clear-cut areas and extreme temperature fluctuations after clearcutting. It also helps to preserve biological diversity and promotes the faster recovery of forest ecosystems.

Seed trees are left to grow in clear-cut areas for reforestation until younger trees in the area become viable. Seed trees are usually pines, silver birches and ashes.

Old crop trees are the oldest, thickest trees of the forest that are left during clearcutting and left to grow for decades. Crop trees can be either alive or dried-up. They will not be cut down during later cuttings. Seed trees can also function as old crop trees if they are preserved after reforestation. All tree species can be crop trees.

Why are young trees cut down?
Trees are cut down for a number of reasons. The main reason is to create better growth conditions (more sunlight and fertile soil) for future forests. During reforestation, trees that are younger than the rest in the forest are usually cut down as well. After older trees are cut down, the younger, smaller trees that were used to growing in the shade would suddenly get too much sunlight and die naturally. Land owners can use these trees as wood. In some places, there are viable younger trees growing under mature trees. In that case, it is possible to preserve them during reforestation.

Why are there so many tracks in clear-cut areas?
Heavy forestry equipment inevitably creates tracks in clear-cut areas. Usually, they do not damage the soil. It is forbidden to make deep tracks in the forest. To prevent this, the person organising the forestry work must find a suitable time for it. It is advised to avoid using forestry equipment in rainy weather. Avoid making tracks by banking them up with branches and building winter roads during cold periods. If tracks are still forming, they must be levelled out as soon as possible.

Why are so many trees left to grow after logging?
Several types of harvest methods are carried out to encourage forest growth so that trees that will be used for wood have better growth conditions.

In this case, the best quality trees are preserved as they are viable enough to become mature. They are given more room to grow through improvement cutting, as other trees that prevent their growth are removed. The remaining high-quality trees will then have more sunlight and nutrients.

Why aren’t all forests permanently managed?
But maybe they are? What does ‘permanent forestry’ mean? This management method or term does not exist in forestry. ‘Permanent forestry’ should have a more broad definition. We define ‘permanent forest’ as an enclosed, compact wooded area where trees are always growing.

When we work in a forest, we work on the whole forest rather than a specific corner of it. The irregular structure of a large, enclosed forest area must be skilfully designed (read: managed). To make sure forests permanently exist in the area, there must be enough young, middle-aged and mature trees as well as areas that are left untouched during cuttings. Cutting and other silviculture works must be carried out in the area so that young and middle-aged trees can grow there. The enclosed area is constantly covered with trees of different ages or being prepared for the growth of new trees.

In the long term, it does not matter which harvest method or forest management system we use – the outcome will still be the same. Clearcutting is necessary if we want to use harvested wood and grow new trees. From the perspective of our future generations, it would be irresponsible of us to only cut down log trees and leave the area’s reforestation to nature.

It is important to consider that spruce and pine trees cannot grow without sufficient sunlight and nutrients. Trees must have enough space to mature. Clearcuts placed skilfully into large, compact naturally enclosed forest areas always constitute permanent forest management, no matter the harvest method used.

RMK’s main goal is to ensure there will be healthy and strong forests in Estonia in the future. Harvest methods are secondary.

Why do we cut down so many trees?
Our forests are in constant change: people may see a forest as everlasting, but it will eventually grow greater, thicker and more mature. The circle of life will continue forever. Mature forests are replaced with young ones, which in turn start to grow older. In addition to clear-cut areas, Estonia has also got young or middle-aged forests that will continue to grow older every year. We live in a forest zone. Forest can be seen in all places humans have abandoned. Forest area can only decrease if people make drastic changes in the way the land is used.

If all of us understand it is more sensible to use wood rather than non-renewable resources and agree that our goal is to give future generations an equal opportunity to use wood just like we do, then we also understand that banning forest use is not a solution that would bring us closer to this goal.

Forestry works are carried out in places that need maintenance and can be accessed with forestry equipment. We are finding compromises between our forests’ needs and our possibilities.

For example, regeneration cutting is carried out on only 1% of state forest land. Reforestation is carried out in all clearcut areas. RMK plants over 20 million trees a year to create new forests for our next generations.