A RECENT HISTORY OF ESTONIAN FORESTS AND THEIR REFLECTIONS

TO 2010 TO 2017 TO 2019
TO 2020 TO THE END

The pre-1900 history is mostly based on the 1974 book “Estonian forests” by Uno Valk and Jaan Eilart
  • Until XV century: Forests are collective property which everyone may use for their needs with little exceptions. Intensive deforestation.
  • XVI century: First saw mills become active, also producing for export. First hunting ban around Tallinn.
  • XVII century: Forest use intensifies. Large saw mills work at Narva. The work post of a ‘forstmeister’, and later, forest ranger, is founded, who have to enforce the forest regulations of the Swedish king. The first known forest guard was active in the isle of Ruhnu in 1698. Forest guards did not receive payment, but were abstained from the duty to till the lands of the lords.
  • 1647: Deforestation is prohibited unless in case of conversion to long term farmland (not slash-and-burn).
  • 1660s: Estonian peasants are prohibited to hunt elk, boar and deer.
  • 1664: Sale of wood from a commonly owned forest and deforesting it prohibited without a consensual agreement by everyone that has the use rights. For every oak, rowan, bird cherry and apple tree, two new ones must be planted.
  • 1710: Russian forest laws instated by Peter the Great become active in Estonian forests, limiting logging and sale of forest products.
  • 1722: ‘Waldmeisters’ are instated to assure the laws are followed.
  • 1731: Saw material export tolls are increased to limit exports
  • 1749: Saw material export prohibited (allowed again through Narva in 1761 and through Pärnu in 1764).
  • XVIII century: Intensive vodka burning begins, which becomes the main source of revenue for the manors. The vodka mills of Livonia use up 2,73 Mm3 of firewood yearly, causing extensive logging.
  • 1782: The so-called Campenhausen manual is published, on state forest management. The beginning of forest arrangement works in Estonia.
  • 1783: First planning works at Estonian forests (in Saaremaa).
  • 1784: The job post of a forester is introduced at state forests.
  • 1792: 46 saw mills work in Southern Estonia, as well as large potash and charcoal industries
  • 1795: Oldest known forest management plan (forests of Tõlliste manor)
  • 1796: Forest cover at the Estonian province is 28,5% and at the Livonian province, 50,5%.
  • 1814: First book concerning forestry is published in Estonia (Tartu) — A. Löwise “Anleitung zur Forstwirtschaft für Livland” (246 pages).
  • 1820s: Draining ditches are introduced to improve forest growth. More advanced draining plans are introduced in Livonia at 1830s and in Estonia at 1850s.
  • 1825: First forest ways are cut into state forests.
  • 1838: First steam-powered saw mill starts working at Narva-Jõesuu.
  • 1854: The Naturalist Society is founded in Tartu, which also does some research on forestry.
  • 1860-1870: First forest arrangement inventories at the state forests.
  • 1867: The Baltic Forest Society is founded in Riga, which is headquartered in Riga since 1890. Forestry research in Estonia becomes more organized.
  • XIX century, second half: Saws will come to accompany axes as the loggers’ tools. Paper mills become active in Tallinn, Kohila, Pärnu and Türi.
  • 1870s: Forest cultivation intensifies — during the century, 46000 ha were cultivated at private forests and 6000 ha at the ones belonging to the state.
  • 1870-1885: A boom of seed imports for forest cultivation, which ends with logging thousands of hectares of young forests due to the seeds being of poor quality for this region.
  • 1/17/1874: Carl Robert Jakobson, an important figure in the national awakening movement, writes to her bride Julie Thali: “…I’ve rarely seen a place as gorgeous as Kurgja. Fully surrounded by forest at both river shores. The location is incredible, forest all around, my own plot has beautiful forest on it as well…”
  • 1884: The book “A guide to forest rangers and those that want to become forest rangers” by A. Lütkins is published in Tartu — the first forestry book in Estonian.
  • 1887: Estonia is 19,8% forested, Livonia is 24,4% forested.
  • 1888: Private and community forests become an object of state supervision. Forest care committees are formed to control the actions of private owners. Estonian private forests made up 97,3% of all forests, town and church forests made up 1,7%.
  • 1/03/1894: Eesti Postimees (The Estonian Postman) reports that the Forest Protection Committee announces the names of the forests that should become protection forests — Vääna, Vitipöövla, Keila, Ohtu, Laulasma, Klooga-Vihterpalu and Nõva forests in Harjumaa county, Rikoldi manor forest in Lääne county and Vasknarva forest in Virumaa are among the more important ones.
The Waldhof spruce-based pulp mill in 1904, unknown author
  • 1898: The Waldhof spruce-based pulp mill starts working in Pärnu, causing various environmental problems (e. g. large concentrated clear cuts), but being at that time the most modern pulp mill in the Russian Empire.
  • 1915: During the First World War the equipment of the mill is evacuated to Perm, Russia and the building is blown up at 8/20/1915 while the German naval forces approach.
  • 11/13/1918: The Estonian National Forest Directorate is established.
  • 1920: Nationalizing the forests owned by Baltic German nobility raised the percentage of state forests to 88%.
  • 5/01/1921: The Estonian Ornithological Society is founded.
  • 1922-1938: Forest products make up about 30% of Estonia’s exports.
  • 1924: Forest scientist Paul Reim proposes the creation of a few larger forest preserves. Paul Reim, Looduskaitse ja metsandus – Eesti Mets 1924, nr 1 (lk 3–4), nr 2 (lk 12–14).
  • 9/26/1924: On the initiative of prof. A. Mathiesen, Järvselja primary forest preserve is established (originally 12,8 hectares, since year 2006 184,4 hectares). This was the first Estonian forest preserve. 
  • 5/21/1925: Esteemed Estonian writer Anton-Hansen Tammsaare writes at a travelogue “Where’s the right summer? From a trip through our summer resorts” published in “Vaba Maa” (“Free Country”): “But the spring sun could do nothing about the happenstance that I saw log and billet piles everywhere near the railroad, and mostly of the thinner sort, and ever devastated forests and clearings. Makes the heart heavy and somber.”
  • 1928: Forestry researcher Oskar Daniel brings up the problem of over-logging at a Forest Researchers Day, backed by claims of two other researchers. Eesti Metsanduse aastaraamat III. Akadeemiline Metsaselts, Tartu, 1928
  • 1934: The Republic of Estonia adapts its first Forest Act.
  • 1935-1938: A heating crisis, firewood prices doubling yearly
Kehra Cellulose and Paper Plant
  • 1938: A pinewood-based pulp mill is opened at Kehra, which is operating to this day. Spruce reserves practically exhausted.
  • E. Kohh writes at the Estonian Forest magazine that it is unsuitable to plant spruce and pine on agricultural lands. The soil is relatively airless there, making those trees vulnerable to root rot, based on both local and Central European experience. (pg 313-314, no 9)
    “There is no need to repeat the mistakes that were done in the past out of ignorance, and it is extremely bad, when in a few dozen years the toil and expense of yesteryear will turn out to be in vain and everything needs to be started again from the beginning.”
  • 23/06/1940: Soviet power nationalizes all Estonian forests and Soviet forest law becomes active over the forests. The Second World War was the most intensive period of logging, to be surpassed only during the restored independence. 
  • 1941-1956: Men, over 15 000 in total hide in the Estonian forests, either from mobilization into foreign armies or general repression, engaging in guerilla warfare.
  • 1946: Estonian poet, polymath and polyglot Uku Masing writes in “Memories of plants”:

“Father had a strange weakness concerning trees. He himself only logged aspens for matchwood and kept all the others. Sometimes it also came up how sad the felling of a sawn down tree is and the tales and customs came to my mind which count trees almost more human than humans. Might be that this is the basic attitude, might be that father was too young when he had started seeing the repulsiveness of forest destruction.”

  • 1950: Osvald Tooming publishes the Socialist Realist novel “Green Gold“, which juxtaposes maximum-logging forestry, a somewhat more reasonable forestry albeit with ambitious logging programs, and a “no logging” scenario. The subject of illegal hunting gets some spotlight as well.
  • 1951: A change in reforesting paradigm: planting replaces the previously dominant sowing.
  • 1962: Heino Teder becomes the General Governor of the Directorate of Forestry and Conservation of the Estonian SSR. His rule lasts until 1988, he ends the overlogging that took place during the previous era and creates several conservation areas, but places an overly large emphasis on forest drainage, which he himself later admits. Having forestry and conservation at the same ministry was later emulated by other countries and the Estonian forest management system was shown as exemplary in other Soviet republics.
  • 1966: The Estonian Conservation Society is founded as the first non-state civil organization allowed at the Estonian SSR, which allows cooperation of people from various ideological backgrounds and quickly achieves mass membership. http://www.elks.ee/
  • 1967: The largest storm in living memory fells about 3 million cubic meters of forest, damaging about 2,5% of the total forest reserve.
  • 6/01/1971: Lahemaa National Park is created — the first one and largest in Estonia, and also first in the entire Soviet Union. 
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  • 1979: Mats Traat publishes the novel “Trees Were, Trees Were Tender Brothers”, situated in the mid-19th century and centered on a young orphaned serf whose horse is caught under a falling tree in the first chapter while he is felling trees for the baron’s vodka mill. He blames the farmhand for it and they develop an enmity. The protagonist is also at fault, though, as the tree spirit spoke to him — his family still upheld the faith of the land god, although they had estranged from interpreting his will and reading his signs. The land god sets the protagonists house on fire and has him sent to Siberia over his various failings. A theatrical play and a film are also made after the book.
  • 1980: The first forest harvester reaches Estonia, then yet under Soviet rule
  • 1980s: Picking berries and shrooms is the main source of revenue for 3000-5000 people.
  • 1981: Cult band Ruja publishes the hit song “Come to forest“, on Ott Arder’s lyrics. The song also emphasizes the need to keep the forest safe from depletion or ruin.  
  • 1990s:

Restructuring of the public forestry organisation was undertaken in late-1991 and early-1992. The top management of the local public forestry administration saw a business opportunity arising from this change (for identical evidence from elsewhere in the region, e.g. see Roland, 2000). The plan was formulated according to which the State Forestry Department headquarters would unite all existing wood processing facilities and harvesting crews in the public sector into a single company. The Chair of the Forestry Department became the head of the new enterprise (and subsequently attracted widespread allegations of corruption and embezzlement.)

Shortly after the new plan was revealed, a revolt within the administration followed. To maintain harmony inside the public forest sector, the higher authorities ultimately dismissed the Chair, put all wood processing and timber harvesting facilities on open tender, and granted the newly appointed Chair of the Forestry Department exclusive rights to organise the management of public forests in the country.

This decision had two effects. One the one hand, although the Department had limited wood processing capacities, its administration of forest resource enabled it to retain the financial rewards from its management. On the other hand, no external control mechanism was established to monitor the Department’s activities. This absence of monitoring capacity would eventually have severe financial repercussions for Estonia’s public forest sector.

The newly privatised forest industries found themselves in a very different situation. Government policy favoured a complete privatisation of State-owned enterprises and public auctions for raw materials (including timber) and strongly supported foreign capital input. Furthermore, the economic shock of moving from a planned economy to a market economy led to severe cuts in subsidies for industrial production. The separation of the State and enterprises tore apart the network relations that had been established between the different Government offices during the Soviet era, leaving private forest industries not only without direct public support, but often without access to forest resources.

Forest Policy and Economics 4 (2002) 323–332
Public forest policy making in post-Communist Estonia
Aigar Kallas

  • 1990 summer: Sylvester is formed by Mati Polli, Kaido Jõeleht, Peeter Mänd, Urmas Nimmerfeldt and Uno Holmberg. This firm goes on to be the most successful forest and timber operation of Estonian early post-Soviet capitalism.
Logo of the Estonian Fund for Nature, depicting a flying squirrel
  • 1991: The Estonian Fund for Nature is founded.
  • 1991/12: An economist, journalist, Green Movement activist and later Royalist Party member, Kirill Teiter, muses at the satirical monthly “Pikker” (“Thunder”) on the possibilities of the new economic reality in a piece called: “How to get by”:

/…/

We have enough to sell.

First, let’s grab the axes and go to forest. Let’s count all the trees and divide them by million. Everybody gets some. We start at one end and end at the other. Wood over the sea, motor saws for exchange. Now, we can work even faster. An Uzbek friend of mine told of the Kyrgyz that when there’s a single tree on the horizon, the son of the steppes will go and take it down, so it wouldn’t hinder the view. Might have been slander, they have their own beefs there, but the method itself is good. We’d be done in three months. You go to Toompea early, look around, the Munamäe tower can be seen through the morning fog. The land is great and wide… No tree or bush! But the saws we’ll sell to Soviet Karelia, they have the same problems. Should make a decent amount of dough, the convertible one.

After that, axes go to the corner and shovels to the hand. Who digs oil shale, who phosphorite, who digs peat. A much as you throw, that much you gather. Rivers and streams will run dry, true, but then again we’d get several nice new lakes. And money as well, of course. And  the main thing: no more fumes nor poisoning.
/…/
But who still doubts the prudence of my proposition should take a good look around. Everything that we still have today, we’re going to lose anyhow. That includes forest, ground resources, buildings, Russians, eggheads, blondes, brunettes, children and the land. Only the economic efficiency would be smaller. If we sold it all at once now we could start living like human beings already tomorrow without quarreling or straining ourselves.

It is imperative that we don’t wait too long on it though. Otherwise your fellow man is going to sell yourself. You cannot stand waiting until another makes a profit on your expense and leaves you without trousers. The sales should be conducted under the control of wide public oversight, and the division profits according to everyone’s personal contribution and rightful stock. Then no one will have any complaints and we can leave as good friends.

Of all the possibilities now, that’s one of the smartest.

See you again in Queen Maud’s Land!

  • 1992: The first environment minister of independent Estonia, Toomas Frey, leader of the Estonian Green Movement, enacts a ban on roundwood exports. The ban is cancelled on the same year by the next government.
  • Leonhard Polli, a character known in Estonian environmental circles a the main local antagonist of the 1970s “swamp war”, starts the Homestead Forest Association, which is later renamed to Private Forest Association – a forest industry lobby organization.
  • 1994: A general cultural commentary by the intellectual Hasso Krull who later became involved in environmental matters — not strictly relating to forestry, but nevertheless enlightening on the general post-Soviet situation:

“The ideological monotony in Estonia is rather striking. One might think that the country is struggling with harsh political censorship. Yet freedom of speech is fully actual in Estonia for several years already.

The first possible explanation would be that the existing possibilities haven’t been learnt to use yet, that they are generally even not felt. Soviet-era fixations have not vanished, but still haunt us in a disguised manner. The opinion, that if we speak (think, do) everything just the opposite to how it was done “then”, this is our way towards truth, West and Europe. Socialism was an evil: thus everything has do be done differently. If socialism propagated equality, we propagate inequality, when socialism barred financial relations, we will let the market dictate everything, etc. Those cliches came to use 2-3 years ago, but they are resilient to change — which leads to that in the rush to denounce socialism we are slowly losing the ability to differentiate between good and evil.

There’s yet another possible explanation. Maybe the essence of democratic freedom of speech has not yet been felt yet itself, and it is simply thought that it is merely a tool to propagate a certain world view. As “communist world view” was once propagated.

Those two explanations don’t exclude one another. It is a sort of a common darkness. Largely a darkness of the past. But already one of the present, as well. Estonia is just not being seen.”

  • 1996: There’s a decision to do away with the institution of forest rangers, the whole 2000 of them are to lose their jobs. The man carrying the decision out is Andres Onemar, the main coordinator of the forestry development program. A 2003 World Bank report lists about a 50% tax revenue loss as a side-effect of the low number of forest officials. Lithuania initiated the process of liquidating the forest rangers only in 2017 or so, for comparison.
  • 8/26/1996: Troubles over the reconstruction of forestry policy. Andres Onemar suggests a max logging volume of 8 Mm3/y (incumbent logging volumes were half smaller). The forest masters are angry with cuts and centralization of the forest system, and also with the planned rapid increase in logging volumes.
    A retired forester, Aleksander Sinimäe, has claimed in an interview that one of the aims of the forest reform was replacing university educated forest masters with lower education ones, for the former would have resisted intensive forest management.
  • 0,5% of total Estonian forest area is under protection.
  • 6/11/1997: A frame document for Estonian forest policy is adopted, which has sustainability, incl. biological sustainability, as one of its foundations. The maximum sustainable logging volume is defined as 7,8 million cubic meters/year.
Hans-Voldemar Trass
  • 12/05/1997: The lichenologist Hans Trass writes at the cultural weekly “Sirp” (“The Sickle”) on the worrying developments in the field of forestry, citing a possible logging volume of 8 to 9 million cubic meters per year as clearly too much. Twenty years later, most specialists and environmental organizations see going *back* to such a logging volume from even greater volumes as a serious improvement. Trass himself suggests a yearly logging volume of 4,5 Mm3.

Probably Estonian forests were divided into too many small forest districts before the reforms, but their unification and a sharp decline in numbers was (is) too much. The negative consequences of this process are plain to see — forest masters, foresters, forest rangers (the few remaining ones) can no longer monitor what is going on in their forests or to organize forest supervision (there is barely any left) etc. The fate of forest masters and other forest district workers is worrisome. Many, even hundreds of Estonian forest masters have grown to be enthusiasts of forest and nature protection through times who have used both permitted and dangerously prohibited maneuvers to protect Estonian forests on the miserable occupation years. A lot of them will become “outlaws” now, to be replaced with callous official-souls. A punch towards forest masters, foresters and others is also a punch towards Estonian forests. The new forest-connected class – the private forest owner is morally still in a long process of forming. A private forest owner today and almost half a century ago are completely different people. Then – one that new every tree on the forest patch of their homestead, who weigh the decision ten times before reaching for the axe, now – often one that lives in a city, town or abroad, in whom the feeling of forest as a living organism has faded, who sees foremost a dollar or a kroon in the forest. It will take several decades until the private forest owner becomes the former master with his heart grown to the forest, in case those forests even exist anymore then. It’s not saying that there are no true and honest forest owners now, but they are too few. To prove that, one should just visit those private forests and see with anguish how often the saw makes its indifferent work of devastation motivated by short-term profit.

The historical background of forestry and forest management in Estonia makes it unique in many aspects. The traditions and education from the old German forestry (19th century) school and from Soviet forestry still exist at different levels in forestry and in the mentality of foresters. For example, an ideally managed forest for many foresters is a clean and well-managed park-forest based on silvicultural methods; dead wood and more natural ecosystems are still cleared by foresters as are logging areas with all organic matter being burnt after the timber is sold. Forests are divided into forest sections bounded by rides (sizes vary, normally less than 1 km2). These sections are divided into smaller ecologically homogeneous units with a special description in the Forestry management plan. Estonian Forest Survey Centre promotes the elaboration of management plans and the survey of units every 10 years. During the 1950s-1980s wetland areas were drained in many regions but in many cases the drainage system does not work effectively.

Presently, the Scandinavian style of forestry is influencing forest policy and management. Many new ideas concerning biodiversity and more sustainable management practices have been adopted with the help of governmental programs (Estonian Forestry Development Program) and private firms from Scandinavia.

Estonian forestry is greatly influenced by the country’s open market policy, which makes the local market dependent on world market developments. In many cases the large Scandinavian firms influence the market and prices with dumping and cartel contracts and local firms have difficulties in coping.

„Probably the largest mass murder in Estonian history“, commented the most renowned Estonian ant researcher, Ants-Johannes Martin
  • 5/18/1998: A cover story in “Luup” magazine (“The Magnifying Glass”) about a destruction at Akste “ant town”. The most renowned ant expert in Estonia, Ants-Johannes Martin estimates the death toll of the 1,1 ha clear cut to be 50 million red wood ants. Destruction of the habitat led to a food shortage, driving the ants to war against one another.

// Talijärv lives in the land of humans and the ants’ civil war stays far from him. Estonia’s highest forest official sees nothing unlawful in the Akste tragedy. A mature forest has to be cut. And it is economically unsound to mess with small pieces. If the management plan prescribes a clear cut, where’s the misdeed. By Talijärv’s estimate, the owner knows what he’s doing.  Might as well harvest potatoes on St. John’s day, it’s no one’s business that they’re small yet! //

  • 1999: Led by Andres Onemar again, the State Forest Management Centre is created. State forest management is being centralized. The forest inventory is no longer taken manually, but by a statistical method, the Statistical Forest Inventory. According to a 2003 World Bank report, it shows 30% more increment than the old method. Forestry rhetoric allows to use a larger increment value to justify greater logging volumes.
  • May 1999: ‘Forest war‘ is first declared in the media. Nineteen years later, the landscape ecologist Anneli Palo says it never really ended. Aarne Ots. Metsasõda? – Eesti Loodus 1999, nr 5, lk 191.
  • 1999-2000: Yearly logging rates reach 12 Mm3/y. At the same time, the General Director of the Forest Board tells the media that only 6 Mm3 is being logged – actually it was just the volume of clear cuts.
  • A coalition of scientific and environmental orgs first campaign for a seasonal logging ban to protect nesting wildlife. A few years later, a 2-month logging ban at state forests is enacted – about ¼ of the original objective.
  • The first Forestry Development Plan agrees to raising the percentage of strictly protected forest to 10%, which is enacted as well. The maximum logging volume is set to 12,6 Mm3, but does not reach it during the decade. A party to both the 2010 and 2020 development plans has said that the first one was still democratic.
  • Asko Lõhmus remarked in 2019 that “by the end of the 1990s, a very favourable starting position had developed for sustainable development in our forestry, in terms of the condition of forest ecosystems, cultural environment and forms of property as well. That platform should have been the basis of an innovative market strategy for the 21st century. For example, Michael Gallagher has described that way of thought as follows: “[…] we can sell ourselves as “the little nation that can” solve huge problems, not make them worse.”
  • 2000: Forest manager Lembit Maamets writes: “If there are no certain rules for managing over 30% of land area, then it is not a problem of use or control, but an environmental problem.
  • 2/29/2000: The two last remaining “forest brothers” are captured by the police. The Voitka brothers went to hide in the forest at 1986 to avoid serving at the Soviet army.
  • 3/16/2001: Trouble with the national logging statistics: new state agency shows millions of cubic meters have been logged without accounting for them, environmentalists agree.
  • 5/4/2001: The Reform Party Minister of Environment, Heiki Kranich, says that 38% of Estonia’s forests should be logged in a few following years. Rainer Kuuba, a forest specialist of the Estonian Fund for Nature replies that reasonable management would allow no more logging than 1,5% yearly or 30 000 hectares. 
  • 8/01/2001: The Environmental Inspectorate reports that several forest owners have been noted to exploit stormthrow to illegally log forests untouched by the storm.
  • 2002: A fine of 300 euros was charged from a person who repeatedly organised more than 30 ha illegal fellings in the Lahemaa National Park.
Helme Slave Stone, a sacrificial stone in Viljandimaa. Photo by Olev Merivee
  • A study finds that 82% of Estonian residents regard nature as sacred or imbued with spirit, 25% of them connect that spirituality with God. Weaver, Alicia A. (2002) Determinants of environmental attitudes. International Journal of Sociology, 32(1), 77-108.
  • 12/19/2002: 66% of Sylvester AS, one of the most successful timber firms of Estonia and all of its wood procuring enterprises are sold to Stora Enso Timber. The rest of the firm is bought up by the Swedes in 2005. The total value of the deal was 177 million euros, according to Äripäev.
  • 2003-2004: Some legislative attempts are made to obtain larger state control over forest use.
  • February 2003: A World Bank report is published which shows 50% of unpaid taxes on wood as the consequence of a low number of forest officials. THE IMPACT OF LARGE-SCALE FOREST INDUSTRY INVESTMENTS ON WORLD BANK / WWF ALLIANCE TARGETS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR INVESTMENT SAFEGUARDS, A REPORT BASED ON AN EXAMPLE IN THE BALTIC STATES, Gland, Switzerland and Washington DC, USA, February 2003.
  • 4/21/2003: The People’s Union (rural-conservative) Minister of Environment Villu Reiljan says that logging in Estonia has to be reduced by a third as the principles of sustainable forestry are not being followed in Estonia. He also cites the maximum logging level of 7,8 million cubic meters from the Estonian forest policy frame document.
  • 5/21/2003: The State Forest Management Centre fires its financial auditor for uncovering several infringements. https://arileht.delfi.ee/archive/rmk-laseb-kriitikud-lahti?id=5725826
  • 11/25/2003: Graanul Invest is formed, and about on the same time, Pellet Invest, which later merge. This is to become one of the largest pellet producers in the world.
  • 2004: The building of the aspenwood pulp mill Estonian Cell begins (production starts in 2006), which in combination with poor protection measures contributes hugely to the dwindling of Estonia’s flying squirrel populations.
  • Estonian ecologists publish a study stating that the amount of old-growth forest needed to sustain species dependent on it is 32%-42% (extant old growth forest about 2,3% at the time) Lõhmus, A., Kohv, K., Palo, A., Viilma, K. 2004. Loss of oldgrowth, and the minimum need for strictly protected forests in Estonia. Ecological Bulletins, 51: 401–411.
  • 1/19/2005: Over 1 million cubic meters of stormthrow reported at Estonian forests, which brings down wood prices.
  • June 2005: A study is published, estimating that in the period of 1999-2003, half of all wood extracted from Estonian private forests was likely to have been „related to one or more forms of illegal forestry“, either tax evasion, illegal logging or violating logging restrictions.  The structure and estimated extent of illegal forestry in Estonia 1998-2003, H. HAIN and R. AHAS, The International Forestry Review Vol. 7, No. 2 (June 2005), pp. 90-100
  • 12/15/2005: Aleksander Sinimäe, a retired forester, wins at the Estonian Supreme Court, winning a special public office holder pension to 2400 former forest rangers and higher forest officials. They were left out of the list at 1996.
  • 9/06/2007: The SFMC-s CEO Ülo Viilup, whose rule saw a relatively mild logging at the state forests, is removed from office. He says the supervisory council of the SFMC aims at doubling the logging volumes at state forests.
  • 9/21/2007: The National Audit Office publishes a worrying audit report, which finds that „though the State Forest Management Centre, being dependent on the forest sales revenue, takes its own stock, plans, logs and sells state forest, the continuation of that situation may threaten the survival and sustainable management of the state forest.“
  • 10/20/2007: Five conservationists led by the then head of Estonian Fund for Nature, Jüri-Ott Salm, block a logging operation on private land to protect a preserve to be created. The owner of the company was driving the harvester himself, the blockage did not stop him. When a journalist went to ask him whether this was not a life-threatening decision, the company owner broke his microphone. Police opened a misdemeanor proceeding on the happening on the clear cut felling. 
  • 2008: The 2008 Forest Act amendment does away with the category of ‘protection forest’, which was a category for non-nature conservation purposes, like noise blocking etc, leaving those forests open to logging. Those measures could be re-enacted via planning process, but most Estonians don’t know enough about those to be included.
  • Forest management plans are made non-compulsory.
  • 5/05/2008: Finnish and Swedish environmentalists send an open letter to Estonian government and parliament, in which they warn of the threats accompanying the Scandinavian forestry model, towards which Estonia is continuously striving: „We […] express our deep concern over the state of Estonian forests“, write representatives of five different environmental organizations.
  • 6/04/2008: The National Audit Office publishes another report, which finds that there are important deficiencies in the Natura 2000 network, specifically concerning the protection of forest species. „Worsening of the condition of habitats displays the low efficiency of state’s nature conservation“, the audit exclaims. „By the National Audit Office’s estimate, the main cause of the problems is the Ministry of the Environment’s deficient activity on coordinating the Natura process and overview already since its beginning on year 2000.“
  • 2009: Under the leadership of Andres Onemar, the Environmental Board is created, thus centralizing the environmental office of the government. Onemar starts to lead his creation as its General Director, remaining in office for 10 years.
  • The Auvere co-firing station gets a green light from the government, being the largest state investment ever. It is a poor investment, however, and opposed by both the state energy company’s board and council.
  • 2/2009: According to the Statistical Forest Inventory, there are 2,3% of natural forests in Estonia and 12,2% of forests which conform to the Habitats Directive habitats’ criteria.
    Estonian biologists have defined a natural forest thus:

(T)he forests that conform to that definition have a high conservational value. A natural forest has to conform to the following criteria:

– the stand is of diverse species and ages; the age of main tree species differs by at least 2 age classes (20 years for deciduous species, 40 years for the coniferous ones) or in case of a relatively even-aged stand the median age of the coniferous trees in the I front must exceed 100 fears, for deciduous species, 80 years;
– young trees are growing at minor clearings or a separate front 
– deadwood and dead trees standing make up at least 5% of the volume of the growing trees; heavily rotten trees either make up 1/3 of all deadwood or intermediately rotten trees make up at least 50% of all deadwood;
 – logging marks are un-identifyable or it has been logging of single trees which hasn’t impacted the species make-up of the stand

As an exception, a natural forest can also be 

a) a single species bog, mesotrophic mire, blueberry, lichen and heather forest site type stands, but the uneven-agedness and deadwood requirements must be conformed to
b) burned or stormthrown forest areas if the disturbance occurred in a primary or natural forest and the post-disturbance sanitary logging has not taken place
c) burned or stormthrown destroyed younger forests, starting at raddle-age (half of the legal maturity age – ed)

2010
  • 2010-2012: Wood is being burned at Eastern Estonian power stations on state subsidies, resulting in a statewide price hike of 7 euros/m3. It is ended mostly due to pressure from pulp and pellet industries.
  • 3/05/2010: Investigators suspect the State Forest Management Centre of the largest cartel arrangement in Estonia’s history
  • 3/06/2010: The Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment justifies the deals with firms suspected of cartel agreement 
  • 9/14/2010: The National Audit Office publishes another audit, which says it straight: „By the National Audit Office’s estimate the SFMC does not manage state forests sustainably, which jeopardizes the future generations’ possibilities of using the state forest.“The then environment minister rejects the audit organs’ suggestions: „Fulfilling the National Audit Office’s suggestions would presume changing the long-term development trajectories confirmed by the Parliament, therefore the Ministry of the Environment does not see it possible to enact them“, Tamkivi finds.
  • 2/19/2010: Mati Polli, CEO of OÜ Tristafan and one of Estonia’s largest forest industrialists is appointed as the SFMC’s Chairman of the Board.
  • On 2011, when the new forestry development plan is about to be adopted – one which prescribes an even more intensive forest management – the National Audit Office suggests the Parliament to reject it. Journalists, environmental NGO-s and active citizens protest the plan, but state ignores the protests. The media points to the fact that Andres Talijärv, who led the development plan process, is closely tied to forest and timber business interests.
  • January 2011: A member of the Estonian Red List panel, Uudo Timm, reports at the forestry journal “Estonian Forest” that most of Estonian endangered species are forest-related, due to the decrease of age and diversity of the forest layer.
  • 2/15/2011: The Parliament approves the Estonian Forestry Development Plan until 2020
  • The Parliament didn’t care about the National Audit Office’s warnings, Andrus Karnau, Postimees
  • 7/27/2011: One can log a stranger’s forest with almost no penalties (when caught in the act, the wood wasn’t taken yet, so no theft, as the forest was mature, the Environmental Inspectorate doesn’t deal with that, as there is no environmental damage). This loophole has since been fixed.
  • 8/15/2011: Firewood prices are making records
  • 10/18/2011: The National Audit Office assessed the Forestry Development Plan as unsustainable, delfi.ee
Leiger, Piibe | Lugemissoovituse blog
Cover of Mikita’s “Linguistic forest
  • 2013: The writer Valdur Mikita publishes a best-selling book “Linguistic forest” on Estonians’connection to forest and the resulting way of being.
Liis Kuresoo
  • 3/06/2013: The forestry and conservation expert of the Estonian Fund for Nature, Liis Kuresoo, writes on the opinion page of Postimees of her „illusory involvement“ experience and the forest industrialists’ dominance in crafting forest legislation.
  • 06/13/2013: Reform Party Minister of Environment, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, promotes Andres Talijärv to the post of General Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment.
  • 11/20/2013: The Parliament approves a Forest Act amendment. The changes in legislation largely derive from the measures prescribed by the EFDP2020 and aim at boosting logging volumes and relaxing logging restrictions.
  • 12/22/2014: The SFMC plans to log 49 000 cubic meters of wood on conservation areas in 2015, which is going to be sold for 200 000 euros, 0,6% of the state forest manager’s projected profit.
  • In 2015 a new amendment goes into works, which aims at further easing of logging restrictions, also lowering the rotation age of stands (originally *all* stands, later just spruce stands. It is worth mentioning that spruce is the most valuable, and most overlogged tree of Estonian forests.
  • 4/10/2015: Äripäev reports that one of Estonia’s top forest land owners, Tornator Eesti OÜ, is working with an individual, Olar Järvloo, that has made about 800 land deals a year (about 60 sq km), buying low and selling high, working with several forestry firms. The case ties in with the data leak issue and a tax fraud one.
  • 4/30/2015: Village in trouble with the smoke from the Baltics’ most modern pellet factory. Back in 2014, the Osula Graanul pellet mill was erected in Osula, Southern Estonia, without an Environmental Assessment nor a spatial plan, which were instead committed post factum.
  • 6/16/2015: Linda-Mari Väli publishes an article on the state of Estonia’s forests and forestry policy, which Asko Lõhmus later refers to as the starting point of the ensuing forestry polemic.
  • 3/23/2016: The environmental NGOs summon a large round table to discuss the upcoming Forest Act amendment. To the surprise of the participants, a few larger forest owner/entrepeneurs also appear, mostly worried about the spruce tree felling age lowering and the general reduction in coniferous stands.
  • On the same date, OÜ Lignator Mets sends its position on the FA amendment to the MoE. The foresters find that forest management should be sustainable and rather in a more conservative line. The logging resulting from the amendment is largely done on the expense of the future and will finally lead to the contraction on Estonia’s forest and timber industries.
A still from The Days That Confused
  • 4/08/2016: Triin Ruumet’s “The Days that Confused” premieres, an action-drama set in the late 90s and depicting the dealings of the forest mafia.
  • 5/4/2016: The Estonian Fund for Nature presents their position on the FA amendment, directing the Minister’s and General Secretary’s attention to important deficiencies in the amendment. The EFN finds that the amendment process does not help at all in fulfilling the national climate objectives and that all such references, of which there was manifold, should be removed. The EFN is also categorically opposed to lowering the rotation age of spruce stands and also points out the sorry state of Estonia’s key habitats. It is found that as the new amendment impacts very many people, much more of them should be represented in the process.
  • 6/01/2016: The Ministry announces in a public press release that an agreement has been reached concerning the FA amendment between them and the environmental NGOs promising that “with the lowering of the felling age of fertile spruce forests there will be clear steps towards covering the deficiencies in the strict defense of nemoral and mesoeutrophic forests.”
  • 9/30/2016: The head of the MoE’s forest department, Riina Martverk, notifies the environmental NGOs that the amendment project has been sent to the coordination round together with the explanatory note and secondary legislation drafts. To the unpleasant surprise of the involved parties, it is learned that the Ministry has unexpectedly backed down from the deal with the ENGOs and no measures to make up for the deficiencies in the strict protection of nemoral and mesoeutrophic forests have been planned.
  • 10/13/2016: A lead researcher of the University of Tartu and a member of the state’s Forestry Council, Asko Lõhmus, sends a protest letter to the Ministry’s Head of the Forest Dept., exclaiming: „I inform that I do not agree with the proposition to lower spruce felling age nor its explanation“, further clarifying that per the agreement made in Spring the lowering of the spruce felling age should have just a sanitary explanation, and it had a presumption that at the relevant forest types the preserve network will be improved, because this is precisely where a large conservation deficiency exists.“ Lõhmus reminds that the Minister of the Environment has publicly expressed that decision, yet no real measures have been presented by the Ministry at that time.
  • 11/8/2016: The University of Tartu Conservation Biology Working Group publishes a study, which finds that intensive management has led to decline of rare tree shrooms.
  • The MoE lets the ENGOs know on the same date that the FA amendment draft has reached the Ministry of Justice for coordination. The ENGOs find that the deal made with them has been violated in an undemocratic manner and that measures compensating for the easing of logging restrictions are not a part of the legislation draft.
Logging old forests will lead to a loss of many species in Estonia!
  • 11/30/2016: The environmental NGOs start a public campaign „Help protect Estonian forest!“, which lets citizens know of the deepening forestry problems and the deal violation by the Ministry. The MoE responds with a press release of its own, which claims it was the ENGOs instead which backed down from the deal made with them.
  • 12/01/2016: 101 influential cultural figures and scientists send an open letter to the Parliament and ministries, demanding ENGOs inclusion into forest policy and a state-level inquiry into the Ministry of the Environment’s activities. A question is asked – is the present forestry policy not a malicious and clumsy misuse of the most precious natural resource of Estonia’s state and its people.
  • Due to public pressure, the MoE invites the interest groups to discuss the FA amendment again, but the Ministry’s press communication still finds the ENGOs as the culprit of backing away from the deal.
  • 12/02/2016: A petition campaign is launched against the FA amendment. More that 1000 signatures are collected in 24 hours. The campaign coordinators receive support letters from the Estonian Agricultural Academy, Luua Forestry School, Estonian expatriate community and elsewhere. It suddenly becomes apparent that people for all kinds of walks of life share the forest defenders’ worries.
  • 12/14/2016: Three scientists publish an article detailing ways in which the Ministry of Environment is covering up the unsustainable logging in Estonia.
No photo description available.
“Why you whining! The forest is right here, lots of it, can’t you see?” Urmas Nemvalts’ caricature of Andres Talijärv in the position of the General Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, 12/16/2016
  • 12/16/2016: Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Ministry of Environment. Citizens demand a more sustainable forestry policy, over 7000 signatures have been collected in support of the forest. Civil association Estonian Forest Aid is formed. At the same time, new talks are being held inside the Ministry building over the Forest Act amendment.
  • Nils Niitra publishes an overview of Estonian forest politics at Postimees, titled “Logging lobby eating into forests” (English link).

Why have changes to the forest act been aimed at greater logging volumes for years?

“Why should we keep landowners from managing their forests without good reason,” the chancellor asked in turn. “I’m not sure inventing new restrictions for private owners is the most sensible course of action. Looking at the Finns, they’ve removed restrictions altogether. They have no rotation age limits, and they’re doing just fine.”

  • 12/20/2016: The results of the Statistical Forest Inventory are introduced at the Ministry of Environment. The Environmental Agency has made changes to the methodology of calculating forest increment, which is thus unprecedentedly high this year – 15 Mm3 instead of the former 12 Mm3. One of the state’s dogmas has been ‘forestry is sustainable if the logging volume does not surpass the increment value’, so naturally critics suspect the change has been enacted to justify rising logging volumes.
  • 12/21/2016: The forest industrialist Mati Polli is released from the position of SFMC’s Chairman of the Board on his own request, to “avoid a seeming conflict of interest”, by his own words.
  • 12/22/2016: The then Minister of Defense, Margus Tsahkna (Fatherland) supports his fellow party member, the Minister of Environment, against a ‘well-organized and hostile force, which he would not call green, as it is hostile towards our own property’, meaning the opponents of the forestry policy.

2017
Footpath at a spruce forest. Lilli-Krõõt Repnau.
  • 1/09/2017: An article at Postimees uncovers the logging of about a hundred elms, under protection in Estonia, by the SFMC at Saaremaa. A criminal investigation has been launched.
  • 1/10/2017: A plan is uncovered – an investor’s group long time active in Estonian forestry plans to bring a 1 billion euro investment in Estonia. Behind the investment plan is Est-For Invest OÜ, whose spokespeople are renowned Estonian forest entrepeneurs, Margus Kohava and Aadu Polli – the latter is the son of Mati Polli, who is also among the investors. A giant pulp mill is being planned, with the yearly wood intake of about 3 million cubic meters.
  • 1/12/2017:University of Tartu scientists publish a study which shows that the State Forest Management Centre has logged almost 40% of mesoeutrophic forests during the last decades.
    At the same day, the Minister of Entrepeneurship and IT, Urve Palo, gives an extremely positive welcome to the plans to build the giant pulp mill. „Without doubt, the entire government must direct attention to this kind of project. I have no doubts that the current government is ready for it“, says Palo expressing the position of the entire government.
  • 1/15/2017: Postimees writes that the forest mediation firms have created a super-database, in whose creation the data leaks from the Ministry of Environment’s sub-offices might have a part.
  • 1/16/2017: The Forestry Council gathered at the MoE finally reaches agreement concerning the FA amendment. The Minister of Environment, Marko Pomerants, notified the public that the aim set in EFDP2020 to cover the deficiencies of strict defense for nemoral and mesoeutrophic forests has to be fulfilled as soon as possible and the plan of action to do so exists. On the changes concerning shelterwood cutting and selective cutting it was found  that in managed forests those are necessary to promote using cutting styles alternative to clear cuts, but at the restriction zones, the extant norms should largely remain in place. Lowering the felling age of spruce was also decided to reach the government with the amendment project.
  • 1/17/2017: A public hearing of the Parliament’s Environmental Committee takes place, whose central subject is Estonian forest and questions pertaining to its protection. Environmental NGOs suggest a redefining of the Forestry Council’s make-up and principles of work.
  • On the same day, the environmental NGOs exclaim that the forest protection action plan approve by the Forestry Council has to be enacted as well. The SFMC has given those areas a preliminary protection, so the following process has to be mainly directed at specifying its protection plan and embed it with the mechanisms of the Nature Conservation Act.

Three-toed woodpecker. Photo by Karl Adami
  • 1/18/2017: The Estonian Ornithological Society notifies the public of the fact that 60 000 pairs of birds are lost from Estonian forests annually. The ornithologists announce that the intensified forest management and the planned changes to the Forest Act have a considerable negative effect to Estonian forest avifauna. A proposition is made to open the forestry development plan and review it and to establish a state-wide spring-summer logging ban.
  • 1/19/2017: The General Secretary of the MoE, Andres Talijärv is appointed as the new Chairman of the SFMC-s Board.
  • 1/25/2017: Over 30 tourism firms and organizations present an open address to the Minister of Environment and the Parliament’s Environmental Committee, which announces that the current Estonian forestry policy and forest management practice does not account for the tourism sector’s needs sufficiently. “The ever growing logging contradicts the international image projected by Estonia as the land of untouched nature and protected forests. Theoretically, 26% of forests are under protection, but in practice there is daily logging at our national parks. That sort of contradiction has a negative effect on Estonian forest enterprises and indirectly also to entire Estonian economy and reputation”, reads the address.
  • 1/27/2017: The investors of the giant pulp mill announce they have picked a place for the planned mill – near Tartu and next to river Emajõgi, for there’s sufficient available freshwater resources, it is accessible to work force and has a functioning transport network.
  • 1/30/2017: The industrialists planning the pulp mill apply for a permit to start a nationally designated special plan. „Est-For Invest, the developer of a billion euro wood refining plant issued an application to the Ministry of Finance yesterday on the eve of January 30th to build the mill at the Suur-Emajõe basin, the government has 90 days to make the decision.“
  • 1/31/2017. A somewhat historical event at Kuusalu municipality, Kolga – the first inclusion meeting of the SFMC. The state forest manager, which has planned a massive amount of clear cuts around Kolga, in close vicinity of the Lahemaa National Park steps a bit closer to the citizens in the wins of society’s heightened attention and tries actually including them into forest management planning. The meeting is constructive – the logging planned to following months is cancelled and the parties agree to form a group from the representatives of the SFMC, the municipality and the representatives of the locals to look for a compromise that satisfies everyone. (The SFMC later fails to fulfill the agreement due to poor internal communication, however.)
  • 2/08/2017. The media covers the SFMC-s logging at the Karula National Park’s conservation zone, the Environmental Inspectorate has initiated an investigation. „On the border of Valga and Võru counties, near Antsla, at the Karula National Park, a conservation zone was logged on a 4 meter strip, in total 0,3 hectares, to reconstruct an existing road. The schemes of the project did not coincide with the explanatory note, however, and the EI has started an investigation.“
  • 2/21/2017: Information is published on the media that the universities will start counseling scientific research for the planned pulp mill. „To carry through scientific research for the billion-euro wood refining plant, a deal between the rectors of the University of Tartu, Estonian University of Life Sciences and the Tallinn Technical University has created a high-quality and independent Est-For Academic Council“.
  • 2/22/2017: The OECD publishes an environmental performance report showing Estonia as the second most intensively logged country in the OECD (pg 5)
In 2017 and 2018, the officially reported logging volume was 12,5 Mm3 — more than a fifth larger than in 2014 (9,8 Mm3)
  • 2/23/2017: The new FA amendment is decided on the government level: spruce felling age will be lowered but to compensate for the environmental damage of this change, new preserves for nemoral and mesoeutrophic forests will be created. The change allows for an additional 1 million cubic meters of spruce to be logged on the very year it becomes active, but that information is left to the public to calculate.
  • 3/03/2017: The EFA makes a new public address to protect the Keretü preserve. As the Environmental Board, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Defense expressed the position that the Environmental Impact Assessment of the polygon expansion can only help the planned preserve’s development, then the civil movement pleads for the EIA to put the needs of the Keretü preserve first. The civil movement finds that the preserve should follow its original, 2013 expert assessment borders, avoid converting the forests surrounding it and ensure the protection of the endangered species of the area in every possible way.
  • On the same date, the Minister of Environment, Marko Pomerants initiated the process of forming 5 new preserves for nemoral and mesoeutrophic forests on a total of 27 000 hectares on state lands.
  • 3/07/2017: The Minister of Defence, Margus Tsahkna addresses the public, saying that the Nursipalu polygon expansion will be built no matter what. This would however be unlawful, as the expansion’s Environmental Impact Assessment is yet incomplete, but that is the document which should decide whether the expansion is possible from a conservation point of view.
  • 4/03/2017: The Estonian Forest Aid issues a public address to the representatives of the state asking for a thorough study by independent experts to find out whether the giant pulp mill can even be built without risks of unsustainable pressure to the Estonian forest resource.
The Lead Research Fellow of Conservation Biology, Asko Lõhmus, giving a speech at the Estonian Parliament. English subtitles.
  • 4/13/2017 The Free Party summons a Nationally Important Question hearing titled „Where is the balance in forest?“, which was illuminated by the top scientists Asko Lõhmus (University of Tartu) and Toomas Frey (Estonian University for Life Sciences), who highlighted the industry interests’ dominance in forestry policy and the decline of Estonia’s forests, old and otherwise.
  • 4/14/2017: Head of the Estonian Fund for Nature, Tarmo Tüür, tells the media that the aim of EFDP2020 of logging 15 million cubic meters yearly should be stopped at once and that logging volumes that surpass 9 million cubic meters violate the Paris accord.  
  • 4/19/2017: The Estonian Parliament approved with 77 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Planning Act and the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System Act (411 SE), initiated by the Economic Affairs Committee, which enables the authorities that organise planning work to enter into a contract to cover the costs of the commissioning of the preparation of a spatial plan and impact assessment, including the strategic environmental assessment, with the party interested in the preparation of the spatial plan. The Auditor General had critizised the amendment on 4/06/2017 due to its risks of corruption.
  • 4/22/2017 Laying off Kaido Kama from the National Audit Office for publicly critizising the state’s forestry policy creates an atmosphere of danger to the freedom of speech.
  • Uudo Timm, the leading specialist of wildlife at the Environmental Agency gives an interview to Põhjarannik (Northern Shore):

Q: So the amount of our “true” forest has diminished?

Uudo Timm: “Actually, in 25 years that much forest has been logged, that would have been logged during 60 years if the forest ecosystems had been kept in balance. There are only scraps left of our mature forests. If we go on like this, we’ll be in that situation in about 20 years, when mature forest as we see it in current terms is gone. Then we have an in-between period for 25-40 years during which we can either shut down the wood industry altogether or import the raw material for it or to re-profile it into making basketcraft.

I see that our forest has been logged over its ecological capacity of regeneration and that will take us to a catastrophe. If we just consider the wood, it’s no biggie − let’s wait that 25 years and we have wood again. But when we talk about the forest biota, then where will those species live during that time that need the mature forest? For them, it means three to five generations before they have a habitat again.”

How the hedge was trimmed at Viimsi parts:
“What nesting time? It’s working time. When the work day is over, nest as you will. At the moment, don’t disturb.”
Urmas Nemvalts, Postimees
  • 7/07/2017: Locals protest over a nest-destroying hedge trimming at Viimsi, prompting the Estonian Forest Aid to raise the issue of a seasonal logging ban to put practice in line with various legislation prohibiting the wanton destruction of nests.
  • 9/01/2017: Asko Lõhmus publishes the first yearly review of the forest debate:
    “When a smart decision-maker looks back at past mistakes, they will fix them while keeping intact the viability of the long-formed culture network while guaranteeing the health and well-being of nature and people.” /…/ „I will remind the reader – the new minister of environment hopefully already knows this – that the back-room of forestry contains a half of Estonia’s land area. There are much smaller states than that in Europe that the native peoples have fought bloody wars for even in recent past.“
  • 9/06/2017: The company “Eesti Metsameister” is accused of nefarious practices at the Estonian Television’s investigative reporting show. A leader of the company has been convicted twice before, for drug trafficing and beating together with his brother that owns a similar firm.
  • 9/19/2017: The Estonian Forest Aid goes to court to annul the nationally designated special plan for the pulp mill. “The environmental association said that the documents are unlawful as they err both against the conditions of the state’s special plan and the lawfulness of the planned environmental impact assessment process.”
    (English link!)
  • 10/11/2017: The then Minister of the Environment sends out an angry press release after The Estonian Forest Aid appealed their lawsuit that was rejected at the Administrative Court at the Circuit Court, saying that they “sow trouble and hatred” and that their accusations are “absurd”.
  • 10/25/2017: On a sustainable forestry conference in the Estonian Parliament, Asko Lõhmus uncovers the findings of his ‘control study’:  It came out that in the *ecological* sense there’s about 43,9% of forest cover in Estonia (the state says it’s 53,09%, because the state also counts clear cut fellings as forest. They also measured that the average size of a clear cut felling is 6-7 hectares — a study from the University of Life Sciences had said, that it’s 1,5 hectares. In addition, about half of the logged areas violated the Forest Act and it’s subsidiary acts in some ways. The strictly protected areas were found untouched. https://novaator.err.ee/638586/looduskaitsebioloog-lukkab-umber-riikliku-metsastatistika-vaited
  • 12/08/2017: The ‘deal of three rectors’, which would have mandated that the Tallinn University, the University of Tartu and the Tallinn Technological University to have a joint position in the matters of ‘large projects’, with specific spokespersons, and other scientists could not use their university’s name to go with their opinion is seen as an attack on free speech by the scientists 
  • On the same date, the Deputy Director of Estonian Internal Security Service warned of “resource heavy investments whose local resource could run out“, and also brought out dangers of corruption at the same speech. The Est-For developers, although not directly mentioned, took it personally and hastily replied “We are not a security risk“.
  • 12/12/2017: A misleading report ordered by Est-For is published, saying that the mill would “reduce Estonia’s carbon footprint”, by counting woody biomass energy, which the mill would use, as carbon neutral. The local environmental orgs and independent researchers responded swiftly and adequately to debunk it.
  • 12/26/2017: An interview with the pulp mill’s frontmen, Aadu Polli and Margus Kohava is published at Eesti Ekspress:

Q: What are the silliest statements you have to face?

/…/ On a public discussion it was asked, what if there’s a Cernobyl-like accident or when someone sends a rocket. People have very peculiar fears. We don’t take war into account in our business plans.

/…/

Q: Have you ever had dreams of your opponents?

Kohava: I don’t dream at all.


Polli: I always see them! I usually see them right before the interviews, very intensively. Helps me ready my thoughts.

Q: Whom did you dream of tonight?

I saw the Ugala county brigade headed by… I don’t want to name any names. But men were standing in a row, headed by a renowned Estonian conservationist, but the name of that row was not the Ugala county brigade but the Uganda county brigade, for some reason.

  • 2018: A wood balance document is published by Estonian Timber and Private Forest Centre Foundation, citing a 9% increase in logging volume compared to 2015. 6,4 Mm3 of wood was consumed within Estonia, of that 88% in energy industry. 9,2 Mm3 of wood and wood products were exported, about 3 Mm3 worth of wood and products were imported.
  • 1/11/2018: Near the Kooraste lake camping sites, an SFMC inclusion meeting is held, locals are not given much say, no complaints are recorded and an official says that the SFMC has the task of managing the forest “100%”. The Ministry’s Head of the Forest Department has,on the other hand, claimed that there is no law or decree that would obligate the SFMC to log any given plot.  
  • 1/12/2018: The daily newspaper Postimees has recognised lead research fellow in conservation biology of the University of Tartu Asko Lõhmus with the title “Person of the Year 2017”. “Lõhmus has led the forest ecology and logging discussion in a balanced and well-argued manner, and thereby significantly contributed to the nature conservation debate in Estonia,” Postimees editor-in-chief Lauri Hussar explained the choice of the staff. (English link!)
  • 1/24/2018: The Conservation Committee of the Estonian Academy of Sciences publishes a memorandum on the need to change forestry policy towards sustainability. The Ministry denounces the criticism two days later as ‘unscientific’.
  • 1/25/2018: Estonian Forest Aid wins the ‘public’s favourite’ award at the Ministry’s Environmental Deed contest, but unprecedentedly, the 5000-euro award is given to another.
  • 1/29/2018: The European Forest Institute’s address supporting ‘more logging to mitigate climate‘ is mirrored in Estonian media.
  • 1/31/2018: A state TV investigative journalism show uncovers a deal to be made between Est-For and the SFMC, which is suspected to be in conflict of interest.
  • 2/09/2018: Rainer Kuuba, a forest owner, landscape ecologist and a diplomate forest manager, publishes an article explaining that the current upper limit on the development plan until 2020, 15 Mm3, would amount to depleting the legally loggable forest resource in 30 years. It also highlights various other problems with the recent changes in the Statistical Forest Inventory and the way forestry is currently being planned. He also proposes a logging volume of 4 million cubic meters for the next decade to compensate for the current decade’s over-logging. 
A scene from the 100th Estonian statehood anniversary presidential festivities play by NO99
  • 2/24/2018: On the 100th anniversary of the Estonian statehood, the dramatic mixed-media play at the President’s party featured a harvester taking down a forest while a young girl is there worshiping the forest with a song, angering many forest businessmen.
  • 02/28/2018, Firewood has gone 50% more expensive with the last year, Madis Must, Maaleht
  • 3/01/2018: The Ministry accepts the Estonian Forest Aid as a party at all the sub-work groups for the next decade’s forestry development plan. Asko Lõhmus later mentions it as one of the Ministry’s brightest decisions that year.
  • 3/07/2018: The Tartu Appeal Working group achieves a council meeting at the city council about the pulp mill. 820 signatures are handed over to the city govt; its opposition has been achieved, partly also due to the mill plans polling at 75% rejecting it at both Tartu city and county. (English link!)
  • Renowned liberal columnist Ahto Lobjakas ties the wolves’ coming closer to human settlements at Noarootsi to intensive logging activity and boar hunting, also stresses the need to leave more room for nature.
  • 3/09/2018: Head of the Estonian Fund for Nature, Tarmo Tüür, highlights the lack of protection for old forests on state lands, though the FSC certificate requires its preservation.
  • 3/12/2018: Minister of Environment Siim Kiisler says that the new development has to become a ‘social contract’. Siim Kiisler, Metsanduse arengukavast peab saama ühiskondlik kokkulepe. – Postimees 12. III 2018.
  • 5 species of tree fungi found extinct by the University of Tartu Conservation Biology Working Group, and another 11 in critical danger. At the same time, there is proof of the strictly protected areas actually working as intended and helping some endangered species thrive.
  • 3/15/2018: The head of the SFMC, Aigar Kallas, says to media that “the Estonian people have been battling the forest for 5000 years but are yet to see victory.”  
Ahto Kaasik at Väike-Taevaskoja. Photo by Kiur Kaasik
  • 3/20/2018: The Estonian Forest Aid and the House of Groves Foundation publish Ahto Kaasik’s overview of nearly 80 sacred sites destroyed by economic activities in the recent years — the more characteristic cases.
  • 4/16/2018: The National Audit Office specialist Kaido Kama that got fired over being critical towards the state’s forestry policy is hired at Postimees to work as an environment section editor
  • 4/17/2018: Fern’s Hanna Aho accuses Estonia as one of the main culprits in undermining the EU-s climate policy regarding forest sector
  • At the same date, the government rejects Tartu’s request of ending the nationally designated special plan for the pulp mill
  • 5/2018: The Environmental Paper Network releases a discussion document on the Est-For pulp mill plans, highlighting various risks associated with the project.
  • 5/09/2018: The Estonian intellectual Hasso Krull gives a speech at the opening of the Prima Vista festival in Tartu as its patron, highlighting the nature crises as the ills of extractive capitalism and the need to work against them, in an obvious connection to the Est-For pulp mill. The essay goes on to later receive the Enn Soosaar ethical essay award.

“Yet the future is unknown. There is something else – whether that ’something else’ is good or ill, who knows. Of course this all applies to Estonia as well. But what is Estonia? A hundred-year-old republic? Don’t make me laugh. Estonia is not (foremost) a state. Estonia is not (foremost) even a nation. There is no specific ’Estonian future’. Maybe Estonia is some sort of an ecological community? That sounds better already. Maybe Estonia is some sort of a heritage instead? This sort of definition seems promising, but I understand that it is not enough, it would be too all-encompassing. Maybe it should be phrased likewise: Estonia is a culturally determined ecosystem. Only through that culturally determined ecosystem Estonia could be (also) a state, and even the nation could (post factum) have a purpose. For that cultural ecosystem was why the nation was once created, or to put it clearly: the culturally determined ecosystem did not exist to become a nation once, but the nation was created to protect and defend that cultural ecosystem. It seems to be completely forgotten today. The Estonian state is necessary as if only for Estonia to be ’independent’. But ’independent’ from what? Surely not from economic pressures, political necessities or environmental problems. You cannot be ’independent’ from global warming, mass extinction and climate wars. The purpose of Estonian state and nation cannot be ’independence’, neither now nor even less in the future. If Estonia really does have a future of its own, this future may only spring from that for which’ defence and protection the state and nation were once created. In other words, Estonia’s future is the same culturally determined ecosystem, which existed far before anyone even knew the name of Estonia.” 

Emajõe chain at Tartu 5/19/2018
  • 5/21/2018: Massive protests to protect River Emajõgi against the pulp mill development (the largest mass gathering after restoring Estonia’s independence). The Tartu Appeal Working Group supports the protests with another appeal, pointing out various errors in handling the pulp mill process. 
  • 5/25/2018: The premiere of the operetta “Forest Forte”, which muses on the forest debate (by Estonian Dramatic Theatre and Nargenfestival) 
  • 6/20/2018: The industrialists have said they want to build the mill away from Tartu, near Tabivere, a rather smaller place. A huge protest springs up there as well
  • 6/21/2018: The government opts to initiate the termination of the pulp mill spatial plan
  • 7/09/2018: Andres Talijärv leaves the Ministry and goes on to work for the Private Forest Association as its executive director. The post of the MoE’s General Secretary is given to Meelis Münt, a former Deputy Secretary of Climate and a proponent of burning wood for energy.
  • 8/2018: A study ordered by the Ministry on environmental awareness shows that 77% of the questioned populace support reducing the logging volumes, and half of the questioned people also believe that a tree should only be logged as an emergency — if it threatens to damage property of be dangerous to humans — a surprisingly radical attitude (pg 112.)
“Make clear cuts history” campaign video about a logging in a semi-protected area, on an island in the Natura 2000 Pärnu river. English subtitles.
  • 9/05/2018: The Estonian Forest Aid begins an anti-clearcut campaign, inspired by the similar Finnish campaign. An important part of that campaign is also *a statewide 4-month seasonal logging ban* and *finding and protecting all the remaining natural sacred sites*, both of which find their way into the electoral programs of 3 largest Estonian political parties, if in somewhat toned-down way (3 month logging ban instead of 4, etc). Might be noteworthy as well that at Estonia’s People’s Initiative portal, which mandates the Parliament to discuss an issue if it gets 1000 or more signatures, it is the most successful initiative to this day, and many people have turned to us saying they were unable to sign it digitally 
  • 9/13/2018: The Minister of Regional Affairs reports that the project for termination the nationally designated special plan has been prepared.
  • 9/14/2018: Asko Lõhmus publishes his overview of the second year of the forest debate, pointing towards the need of a just and creative leader to rise among the politicians officials and industrialists to mend the problem saying that two years is enough to see that the “old guard” will not stop justifying their current policy. 
  • 9/15/2018: Mart Erik, one-time largest forest entrepeneur in Estonia, before that the Head of the Heavy Industry Section of the Planning Committee of the Estonian SSR and currently one of the more outspoken proponents of the pulp mill, calls Raul Rosenvald, one of the few active forestry scientists from the sustainable side at the University for Life Sciences, a ‘dissident’ on social media.
  • 10/10/2018: The pulp mill developers ask for extra time before termination, trying to find municipalities that would want the mill. Actually, they try to make use of a loop hole in the legislation which would let them build near Tartu anyhow, if they could perform their assessments and those would point at the Tartu region as the best spot.
  • 10/18/2018: The special solutions coordinator of Estonian Forest Aid, Indrek Vainu, enacts a one-man ’protest’ in the cabinet of the then Minister of Regional Affairs, Janek Mäggi, describing in detail the plot of the businessmen and implying direct responsibility on the part of the Minister. The meeting left the minister shocked and offended.
  • 11/08/2018: Pulp mill plan finally terminated 
2019
  • 1/03/2019: The Estonian Chamber of Environmental Associations awards the yearly Environmental Deed (2018) award to the daily paper Postimees and the culture weekly Sirp for opening environmental sections, while the Ministry of Environment’s forest departement and the Deputy Secretary Marku Lamp get the Environmental Axe for years’ long obstruction of protecting the forest key habitats
  • 1/24/2019: The State Forest Management Centre decides to locate all the key habitats on its lands and refrain from logging on even the potential ones until they’ve been inspected as a result of FSC pressure — one of the few good news those years other than the termination of the pulp mill plan. 
Photo by Arne Ader
  • 2/2019: Outrage over the SFMC-s destruction at a red wood ant town, “the Kingdom of Red Wood Ants in Kiidjärve”.

“The thing that happened at Kiidjärve…
I haven’t seen for years, no, actually, I’ve never seen such a disgusting, cold-blooded and inhuman deed. This must not stand. I was thinking if we should organize and make a decent public proclamation encompassing many nature organisations and a thorough overview. One in which all the Estonian nature protection organisations condemn it together and demand responsibility. What happened there was not greedy forest management any more, but crime. It must not be forgotten, gone past, left behind…
I simply cannot believe that the SFMC killed so many nest mounds at the most symbolic place.
I’m lost for words.

I sent an address to the municipality mayor of Põlva:
“How do you comment the SFMC-s activities on the educational track of Kiidjärve Redwood Ant Kingdom? There’s been a discovery of clear cut around the nest mounds. One tree has been left for each nest, as a mockery. How can such a shocking thing even be possible? Are the municipalities completely helpless against the crimes of the SFMC?
This sort of shocking criminality cannot remain without a response from the municipality.

The redwood ants that will awaken at spring are in a dread situation. They don’t have an environment there any more, nor resources.”  

R. P.

“This is not a shelterwood compartment cut, but a clear cut with a lot of seed trees!“ two foresters acclaimed today with certainty.
The tractors drove last tree corpses out from the field. The damaged anthills cowered sadly in the middle of the clearing below the spruces of which only one was left to each nest, just as a mockery.
„There’s going to be a great war in spring here – the people of those nests will not live“, the foresters put tersely.
So we lost the last redwood ant trail in Põlvamaa ungnarled by human hands.

On the felling one sees the real world, on the murals of Kiidjärve nature house one can see the ideal – how it could be, how it should be. Go see them. Both. That’s still some education.


L. T.

Martin Luiga. Photo by Renee Altrov.
  • Also, an interview with the Estonian Forest Aid’s international communications coordinator, Martin Luiga, is published in Müürileht’s activism-themed number.
  • 3/01/2019: An interview with the Estonian FSC board member Lembit Maamets is published, in which he claims that Estonian forest investments are mostly land price speculations, expresses the need for an Annual Allowable Cut or a sustainable logging limit and says that the price of forest land has risen by 50% in the period of 2016-2018.
  • 3/04/2019: Estonian Forest Aid is left out of the steering committee for the next decade’s forestry development plan. The Estonian Fund of Nature expresses its chagrin over the fact, calling it the largest civil movement to ever gather in defense of Estonian forests. Only 3 out of 29 steering committee members protect the ecological interests. Surprisingly, Graanul Invest’s CEO is on the steering committee *in person*.  The new Chancellor of the MoE has been accused in furthering biomass interests in general. Graanul Invest is the worlds second-largest pellet producer and over half of Estonia’s wood is burned as biomass.
  • 101 problems were gathered at the problem gathering phase of the new development plan, and the problem of “logging volumes are on a level that is harmful to biodiversity and might be harmful to other ecosystem services’ got voted the most important problem by the participants. The Ministry has later tried to downplay that result.
  • 3/03/2019: Estonian parliamentary elections. Both the Green Party and the tad more socially conservative, expert-heavy Biodiversity Party suffer a bitter defeat, as does the Free Party, which has also highlighted forest issues. The climate-denying radical right triples its vote share to 17,8% and later goes on to take the seat of the Minister of the Environment. Most large parties, included the radical right, campaigned as environmentally conscious/pro-forest.
  • 3/04/2019: A coalition of European and American NGO-s sue the EU-s Renewable Energy Directive amendment over it being harmful and based on faulty science; featuring a plaintiff from Estonia, the intellectual Hasso Krull, who focuses on the harm done to the natural sacred sites by bioenergy interests — Graanul Invest has specifically taken action to disrupt the FSC certificate from protecting the sacred sites by requesting the state to remove the sacred sites’ map layer from state maps due to the sacred sites not being properly accounted for. 
  • 3/08/2019: The Supreme Court judge Eerik Kergandberg publishes an opinion piece in which he expresses pride over the pulp mill fight says that the forest debate has been the only public debate of recent times worth of his real interest, points out the national security aspect of forestry and proposes that collective court complaints about the environment should be allowed in Estonia (currently they aren’t unlike in many place in the world, including Lithuania).
  • 3/15/2019: Linda-Mari Väli publishes her debut novel’s .pdf (Noone never nowhere, 2011) on Estonian Forest Aid’s public forum in support of the climate youths — the novel also dealt with young people from a previous era worried about the complex environmental crisis.
  • 3/25/2019: The Estonian Fund for Nature publishes a wood burning fact sheet, which points that in 2017 4 million cubic meters of wood goes to wood pellets alone — about a third of the entire volume. With locally burned wood, bioenergy use makes up more than half of the wood harvested in Estonia.
  • 4/02/2019: The Estonian Forest Aid with the animal rights org Loomus and the animal protection org Loomakaitse Selts present a letter to the minister to enact a seasonal logging ban to protect birds and beasts. Other organisations join them shortly. A disproportionate backlash from the industry forces. (English campaign page)
  • 4/24/2019: Private Forest Association and Private Forest Centre — the latter being a state institution — award Margus Kohava of Est-For fame and Peeter Krimm, a private forest owner and a diplomate forest manager from Pärnumaa known for his opinion pieces which pay little regard to facts and little respect to his opponents with letters of gratitude on their Private Forest Day. 
  • 4/25/2019: It is revealed that the year 2018 was record-breaking in terms of logging — 12,5 million cubic meters was logged despite so many protests and the general public mood to reduce logging 
  • End of May 2019: A journalist contacted Estonian Forest Aid for info on Graanul Invest and Kirjanen. Next day, Kirjanen’s lawyers contacted every major media house saying they’ll be sued when they publish a story with the EFA as the source. The interest of the journalist has since waned, and it seems like it is a rather common way of conducting business in Estonia.
  • Early June 2019: Aburi tree grove is defiled, provoking protest. Ahto Kaasik’s video on the matter gains 60 000 views in a few days. 
  • 6/2019: Fern publishes a report “EU Forests of Hope“, describing positive instances of forest management in the EU. From Estonia, the forester Algor Streng introduces continuous cover forestry at the island’s church forest.
  • 6/07/2019: The Estonian Forest Aid was accepted by the fresh minister Rene Kokk to be a part of the steering committee. The committee is still tilted strongly in favour of the “economic” interests though. 
  • 6/11/2019: The Estonia’s Chancellor of Justice (constitutional overview office) answered the Estonian Forest Aid’s question on the legality of spring-summer logging in the context of Estonia’s Nature Conservation Act, which prohibits wanton killing and disturbing wildlife during their time of nesting and breeding. The CoJ CONFIRMED the movement’s interpretation and said that a part of the responsibility for following the law lies with the state. This actually has EU-wide implications, as those prohibitions originate from the EU-s Birds Directive 
  • 6/14/2019: The government has approved mass burning of wood in Eastern Estonian power stations to deal with the jobs crisis in energy sector (or so they say) caused by the mishandled transition to a low carbon economy. (English link.)
Left to right: Tõnu Ehrpais (Timber Estonia), Raul Kirjanen (Renewable Energy Chamber, Graanul Invest), Andres Talijärv (Private Forest Association, formerly Ministry of Environment, before that, Timber Estonia, and before that, the Forest Board), Rene Kokk (incumbent Minister of Environment, National Conservatives), Marku Lamp (Ministry of Environment)
  • 6/17/2019: On the first meeting of  the  steering committee of our next decade’s forestry development plan, Raul Kirjanen gesticulated obscenely today during the first meeting of the, making the “middle finger” gesture twice towards the Estonian Forest Aid’s General Program Coordinator Linda-Mari Väli while she was taking photographs of the event with the ministry’s permission.
  • 6/20/2019: The head of Estonian Fund for Nature, Tarmo Tüür, puts 6 public questions to the Ministry of the Environment concerning the uncertanties and perceived unfairness of the development plan process. 
  • 6/28/2019: Over 50 nature photographers send a letter to the Minister of Environment suggesting a more sustainable forestry policy.
  • 7/01/2019: A ‘communications project for the forest sector‘ begins, meaning 70 000 euros of state money intended for environmental projects are spent on justifying over-intensive forestry.
  • 7/24/2019: DJ Shromik, Seaduskuulekus, Ro-Ro, Eiche and Ruudi publish a critical forest-themed collaborative rap video on Youtube, which had previously been a part of a talent contest. However, it is soon to be taken down, as a TV studio which was used in parts of the video did not agree to its trademarks being used in that context, pushing the video back into production stage.
  • 8/16/2019: A prominent zoologist, Aleksei Turovski, says that intensive logging is to be blamed for the increasing number of vehicle-to-animal collisions
  • 8/19/2019: The Estonian Forest and Timber Industries Association supports the government’s plan of substituting large amounts of oil shale with wood, interpreting the 12-15 million cubic meters designated with the development plan until 2020 as an ‘aim’ instead of an ‘upper limit’, and seeing the wood-burning plan as helping to achieve this aim (12,5 million cubic meters was logged in 2017, and in 2018, probably more) They also say that once they have been granted that possibility, it shouldn’t be taken away from them to ensure stability. They are also aware of the probable LULUCF penalties, but hope that the profits from the industry will be greater.
  • On the same day, Raul Kirjanen of Graanul Invest also supports a 15 million Mm3 yearly logging volume.
Eestlaste metsamure Taani televisioonis

EESTI METS TAANI MEEDIAS: EMA koordinaator Linda-Mari Väli selgitas Eestit külastanud Taani ajakirjanikele, et suur osa nende väidetavast "taastuvenergiast" tähendab tegelikult Eestist ja mujalt maailmast pärit pelletigraanulite põletamist, mis omakorda toob kaasa lageraietest lõhutud maastikud, rüüstatud pühapaigad ja hävitatud looduse rohepesuskeemi ohvriks langenud riikides. Teleklipis astub üles ka ökoloog ja metsateadlane Asko Lõhmus. Muu hulgas avaldas metsakaitseaktivist Taani ajakirjanikele, kuidas põhjamaiste energiakatelde oluline varustaja, Euroopa suurima pelletiimpeeriumi Graanul Invest juht Raul Kirjanen EMA koordinaatorile metsanduse arengukava juhtrühmas keskmist sõrme näitas.Eesti Metsa Abiks töötab koos meie välismaiste partnerorganisatsioonidega edasi selle nimel, et Eesti ja kogu maailma metsadele üha suuremat mõju avaldav puidulise biomassi rohepesuskeem paljastada, peatamaks selle toetamine ja edulugu EU maksumaksjate rahakoti toel.

Posted by Eesti Metsa Abiks on Kolmapäev, 18. September 2019
Danish/English with Danish subtitles
  • 8/25/2019: This week, a Danish TV2 team did some in-depth research into the sustainability of Estonian forestry — relevant to them, as the main source of their renewable energy comes from biomass, including Estonian biomass.
  • 8/28/2019: The Environmental Board wanted to create a new preserve for the western capercaillae. The SFMC wanted to log there instead. The SFMC won.
  • 8/30/2019: Asko Lõhmus publishes an overview of the third year of the forest debate finding it largely to be a standstill and blaming the ugliness and lack of morality of the Estonian society for the lack of progress. He however sees some seeds of hope in various developments and ends on a “we’ll look and see” note.
  • ENGO-s criticize the government’s wood burning plan for its inefficency and lack of assessing its environmental impacts, included its carbon emissions.
  • The Estonian Ornithological Society sends an open letter to the Minister of Environment regarding Deputy Chancellor Marku Lamp’s activities in changing the borders of Kõveri-Ilvese preserve, in which he is said to have violated his powers. Logging by the SFMC is also expected to be stopped by the minister. The Kõveri-Ilvese western capercaillie preserve is one of the compensatory mechanisms of the controversial Rail Baltic railway.
  • The Private Forest Associations finally issues a warning on frauds being after elderly people’s forest.
  • 9/09/2019: Forestry machinery fires caused almost 126 000 euros worth of insurance damages in July 2019.
  • 9/10/2019: A record amount of trees were planted in Estonia last year, 33,3 million of them, Estonian Public Broadcasting reports.
  • 9/12/2019: The Government Office unexpectedly says that the climate petition of the ENGOs can’t be given to the prime minister on the following day’s climate conference and that the persons that try to to that anyhow might be removed, in unprecedented harshness.
  • 9/13/2019: The Forest and Timber Industries Ass. and Private Forest Ass. cynically support the ENGOs climate petition (neutrality in 2035) to promote their unscientific view of climate-beneficial intensive forestry.
  • The Estonian Fund for Nature welcomes the industrialists’ support, saying climate neutrality would also require lowering logging volumes
  • The CotB of the Private Forest Ass. replies that climate neutrality will not be achieved with empty sloganeering and that carbon matters should be left to ‘carbon specialists’. 
  • The Estonian Environmental Board supports the Estonian Forest Aid in admitting the necessity for a spring-summer logging ban to protect nesting birds. They however need legislative changes to apply it more effectively, current legislation would need 30 people working on the issue to enforce it — and the EB is already overwhelmed. 
  • Äripäev reports of hard times (upcoming bankrupcies) for the wood sector (specifically wooden house subsector) due to cooling down of the economy and widespread fraud.
  • 10/11/2019:The aspenwood pulp mill Estonian Cell is given the “Business of the Year” award. The mill pays an effective tax rate of less than 7% and employs a total of 89 people. 
  • 10/15/2019: Fenna Swart (Comite Schöne Lucht) and Martin Luiga (EFA) publish a biomass-critical opinion piece at the Dutch daily “Het Parool”.
  • On the same date, the Estonia-based computer role-playing game “Disco Elysium” is published, which goes on to win several awards. While the game’s main focuses are a social critique of neoliberalism and mental health problems, it also contains a powerful address about the crisis of biodiversity (SPOILER ALERT):

YOU – What exactly *are* you?

INSULINDIAN PHASMID – I am an unknown species of the order Phantasmodea – endemic to the Insulindian isola. For the last three hundred and fifty years I have hidden in plain sight, masquerading as the reeds. Moulding, cloning myself, unfolding at night to play with trash bins and buoys.

I went unnoticed by the first settlers and the land surveyors of the suzerain. Also by the soldiers of the revolution and the officials of the occupation. Even the Semenese islanders who came here first, but did not stay, have not seen me.

I have stayed hidden through four forms of government  and two scientific revolutions. Until I was accidentally discovered by a detective of the Citizen’s Militia in Revachol, District of Martinaise, March, ’51.

YOU – That’s insane.

INSULINDIAN PHASMID – No. *You* are. The moral of our encounter is: I am a relatively median lifeform – while it is you who are total, extreme madness. A volatile simian nervous system, ominously new to the planet.

The pale, too, came with you. No one remembers it before you. The cnidarians do not, the radially symmetrics do not. There is an almost unanimous agreement between the birds and the plants that you are going to destroy us all.

SFMC inclusion meeting at Pihu forest. English subtitles.
  • 10/24/2019: A SFMC inclusion meeting in Ohtu about the management of Pihu forest in which the locals successfully negotiate an extra year during which to evaluate the forest’s natural values and try to conduct an alternative management plan.
  • 10/29/2019: Linda-Mari Väli (EFA) publishes a scathing overview of the “highpoints of career” of the incumbent Deputy Secretary of Wildlife, Marku Lamp.
  • 11/17/2019: The Minister of the Environment signs the regeneration areas for state forests for the following 5 years, which are projected to be largely about the same volume than on the previous five years. Thus this decision has bypassed the EFDP 2030 process, even if citizenry should have *more* right to influence management at state forests rather than less. Meanwhile, the “Make Clear Cuts History” petition has been passed to the EFDP 2030 process. 
  • 11/20/2019: 8 Estonian ENGOs demand the removal of Marku Lamp from the office of Dep Sec of Wildlife regarding a lengthy list of decisions which have undermined Estonian nature conservation through past decades.
  • 11/28/2019: Raul Kirjanen, the CEO of Graanul Invest publicly suggests punishing Estonian ENGO’s over their ‘destructive tactics concerning forestry’ by slashing their state funding. 

Q: It also seems that the connection between forestry and timber industry and other walks of life are not understood.For example their role as taxpayers. You also told the story on the conference about the two teachers who wanted to prohibit taking timber out using their roads – logging is like a total taboo, although it has always been done. 

Kirjanen: It’s a pity. If you look at who are pushing negative messages on the topic of forestry into the public consciousness, then the taxpayer mostly finances them. Starting with non-profits and ending with university lecturers. 

That’s the beginning of a clear conflict — to justify their funding they need to make noise, whether on purpose or no. Just last Wednesday the environmental organizations directly attacked a high state official — this time the deputy secretary of the MoE. Look at the yearly fiscal overviews of the signatories, taxpayer provides for them all.

I think the state should not conduct its environmental policy through non-profits, but through the Ministry of Environment. It is neither right nor reasonable to provide state budget funding to organizations that have taken up clearly destructive tactics concerning forestry issues and do everything to damage Estonian reputation as a forest country on the international level. We have very strong experts in the state system to make decisions over environmental matters.

Lobaria pulmonaria. Photo by Asko Lõhmus
  • 12/4/2019: A long-running study by the Uni. of Tartu ecology and land sciences faculty is finally published. It finds that a third of Estonia’s forest lichens tolerate intensive forest economy, another third could live with more nature-like modes of management and a final third will have to rely of our nature preservation network.
  • 12/10/2019: Timber prices are falling (English link) “We have seen price falls of up to 60 percent in the various international export markets, compared with nine months ago. Within the Estonian market, wood product prices have fallen a bit less than this – we’re talking about 20-25 percent – but this shouldn’t be taken as an indicator that we are somehow isolated from the rest of the world, leaving us to remain on some sort of higher level.”  – Martin Arula, Toftan
  • 12/11/2019: A development plan steering committee meeting reaches a ‘dead end’ due to the Ministry rejecting an impact assessment ordered by itself for the scenarios that had been compiled during the process and rejecting the requests from the committee to get acquainted with the document. Estonian Fund for Nature’s CotB, Tarmo Tüür, wrote the following overview at the Fund’s forest blog next day:

    The forestry development plan process has gotten stuck #MAK2030


    Yesterday on the steering committee meeting of FDP2030 the members of the committee agreed almost unanimously that the planned four full days of discussion is, in its current form, pointless. The longest gathering was meant to make a final choice from the development scenario that were compiled. regretfully, the process of drafting the scenarios has dragged and brought a questionable result on the table. An even more important reason for canceling the discussions is the fact that the development scenarios are still missing an impact assessment.
      
    I will list four stumbling stumps which have made the process drag and behind from its schedule. They all point to a single root problem – the Ministry of Environment has summoned a 34 member strong steering committee and designated as its purpose “to lead the drafting of the development plan”, but in practice it treats it more like a talking shop. In weighty matters, it keeps the decision-making jealously in the hands of 1 or 2 officials and even without asking the opinion or advice of the members of the steering committee. 

    1) Compiling the scenarios started to stray already at the start of the process in May and June. The plan was compiled by the Ministry itself, the steering committee or even the seven scientists that were included (and should have the best insight on the matters concerned) were not consulted over how the scenarios should be drafted, what kind of expertise should be included, what kind of methodology should they be based on. The steering committee was summoned post factum to learn the information, an even then it was meager and arose questions. (More on the matter at Estonian Public Broadcasting!)
    2) The steering committee was also not included into discussing the working versions of the scenarios, nor to contribute into them. Although Marku Lamp promised to do just that both during the meeting of the steering committee and publicly on the EPB:”It was agreed, for example, that we will include the steering committee in August to go over the initial development scenarios.” In reality the working versions of the scenarios were sent to the steering committee on September 30th just a few hours before they were presented to the press. The members of the steering committee were left with the right to send written propositions during 2 weeks, of which some were also added to the final version — mostly concerning isolated aspects or textual corrections. The comments concerning the scenarios as a whole stayed on the paper. Thus it is not surprising that the steering committee had to observe that the completed scenarios do not form logical wholes, they contain contradictions and lack specific numerical indicators aside from the logging volumes (on defining the logging volumes of different scenarios, more can be read here!)
    3) In order to make a choice between the scenarios, an impact assessment had to be conducted. As in compiling the scenarios, so in assessing their impacts, the terms of reference were not coordinated with the steering committee. The contract to assess the impacts was agreed with Stockholm Environment Institute’s Tallinn Center, who gathered a team of 8 experts from different universities and consultation firms. It was unexpectedly revealed that the finished impact assessment for the scenarios does not, by the Ministry of the Environment’s assessment, conform with the purpose of the assignment and it will not be accepted. On the meeting of the steering committee, astonishment was expressed over how the terms of reference could be understood in such a different manner. 
    4) As the impact assessment of the scenarios that was conducted is the only third party oversight and analysis in existence over the scenarios, several members of the steering committee requested the Ministry to present that work to the committee so they can acquaint themselves with it, and invite a representative of its working group to participate in a steering committee meeting. I myself also stressed that it would be essential, to present the members of the steering committee all existing information and create transparency and trust which are vital to the FDP process. Regrettably, Marku Lamp and Kristel Järve refused to present the impact assessment, citing an ongoing contract dispute as the reason.

    This is how it happened, that though the steering committee had to gather in December to pick the best of the elaborated and assessed future scenarios, we were summoned instead to a “discussion of the key issues, after which no more than two scenarios will remain on the table, which are more likely to be parts of different scenarios than wholes of them”. But as the scenarios are contradictory, there is no impact assessment (and the existing one was not presented to us) the steering committee decided that in that form the four day discussion is purposeless. Next week the Ministry of Environment is expected to make a proposition to decide how to go on with the process.
  • On the same day, Martin Luiga (EFA’s international cooperation operative) and Nicole Gérard (Fern’s correspondent) publish an English language overview of recent developments concerning Estonian forestry policy, including the request for the removal of Marku Lamp from the Deputy Secretary’s office, Ohtu inclusion meeting and also some general background information.
  • 12/12/2019: The grand old man of Estonian animation, Priit Pärn publishes a new comic “Gothamites are globalizing“, a sequel to the 1977 classic “Gothamites”, which casts a satiric light on the current overlogging situation, among other issues. 
  • 12/20/2019: The Estonian Fund for Nature provides an analysis of the sustainability of Graanul Invest’s sourcing practices:

As an overall comment, we condemn the approach where biomass sustainability is justified on the basis of Sustainable Forest Management criteria alone. Those do not reflect or mitigate the adverse climate impacts of wood-based energy as highlighted by many scientists (as in an Open Letter by 800 scientists http://www.pfpi.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/UPDATE-800-signatures_Scientist-Letteron-EU-Forest-Biomass.pdf). The biomass harvest and exports from a country that is losing its carbon sink and is on the course of decline in forest carbon stock is not sustainable in climate perspective, even if criteria is met on forest unit level. Nor is it sustainable from the perspective of protecting biodiversity of forests: Estonian forest bird numbers are in decline and most forest habitat types are in unfavorable state despite the huge area covered by different existing certification schemes. These observations apply to certification based on Chain of Custody risk assessment and that based on a series of detailed management practices descriptions on a forest unit level alike. Both turn a blind eye on wider problems this new industry brings to forest management in general. Biomass demand brings unnecessary economic stimulus for intensification in forestry and creates pressure on forest ecosystems that national legislation, PEFC, SPB and FSC are unable to address.

PEFC and SPB measures are unsatisfactory in all ecological sustainability aspects, while FSC has been shown to not safeguard important carbon aspects of forest management and has performed poorly in some biodiversity issues. The observations below thus focus not just on site-specific forest management but also take a broader perspective. In case of Graanul Invest, what also worries us, is their approach to certificates, that allows to invest the funds earned from sales of certified biomass into rapid expansion (owning more than 50 000 ha of forest in 2019) of unsustainable forestry operations. None of Graanul Invest subsidiary forest management companies have committed to FSC forest management standards, publicly available meaningful environmental policy, or any other ecological commitments. No commitment to preserve natural values has been witnessed in their actual forest management practices: controversial clearings of valuable forest habitats happen regularly and illegal logging in Natura2000 area has taken place. Opportunities for “certificate optimization” within a company of this sort discredit sustainability certificates.

  • 12/26/2019: The scientists from the University of Life Sciences ‘discover’ 90 000 hectares of new forest by using satellite data, which is immediately used as an argument for larger logging volumes
  • 12/28/2019: The beloved veteran conservationist Fred Jüssi confirms in a Postimees interview: things have never been as bad as they are now. 
2020
  • 1/09/2020: The head of Enterprise Estonia Foundation, Peeter Raudsepp, says that logging is impacting the Estonian tourism sector negatively and balance is needed, as one sector of the economy may not ignore the needs of others. 
  • 1/12/2020: The national news cover disagreements between the locals and the state forest manager at Kose and Kurgja. English link!
  • 1/15/2020: Kääpa king-stone holy site, registered and in active use, was found violated by the SFMC, over 100-year-old trees were logged in the vicinity of the stone. 
  • The film “Fred Jüssi. The Beauty of Being” premieres, portraying a beloved veteran conservationist. One of the forests at Kurgja in which the filming took place was already logged by the time of the premiere.

“My forest path is inside me. However far back I look, as long as I remember that path, it has always began with myself and it has taken myself forward every day.”

  • Ornithologists confirm EFA’s accusation: the SFMC did log a northern goshawk’s habitat— a 2nd protection category species, thus also violating their FSC certificate. 
  • 1/17/2020: Siim Kuresoo explains at the Estonian Fund for Nature’s blog how the SFMC’s Head Forest Master Andres Sepp lied to Kose residents, incorrectly claiming that selective cutting would be unlawful in forests there, with clear cuts being the only option.
“The SFMC is destroying our forests”
  • 1/20/2020: Environmental activist Mihkel Tiganik starts daily protests in front of the SFMC with a sign “The SFMC is destroying our forests!” 
  • 1/22/2020: The islet municipality of Vormsi sent an address to the Ministry of Environment and the Islet Committee, requiring a restriction of clear cut areas to a maximum of 2 hectares
  • 1/23/2020: Estonian Forest Aid’s communications and cooperation coordinator Linda-Mari Väli publishes an essay at a local Viljandi county newspaper, Sakala, drawing attention to the fact that the rate of Estonia’s forest loss is two times faster than at Brazilian rainforests.  
  • The SFMC-s yearly FSC audit notes insufficient inclusion of locals as a major and reoccurring flaw in the state forest manager’s practices.
  • 1/24/2020: The impact assessment conducted by SEI Tallinn (see 12/11/2019) is finally revealed by the Ministry of Environment. As suspected, the document approaches the development plan in a way that would foreclose the industry’s preferred development paths. The Ministry cited on the basis of the work’s rejection that it had framed the assignment in terms of climate and preserving biodiversity, without taking into account the stated aims of the development plan, including the general aims. . The general aims of the development plan were stated as: “Forest use is as multi-functional as possible, it conforms to the society’s needs and expectations, helps to mitigate climate changes and adapt to them and ensures a socially balanced life and economic environment and a good conservation status of the forest ecosystems. Modern education system and forest science, also easily understandable and publicly accessible information about forestry increase public awareness and influence attitudes towards sustainable forestry and ensure the maximal valorization of wood and the smart use of all forest-related benefits.” The foremost reason for the rejection of the assessment seems to be that it states a larger logging volume than 8 Mm3 is undesirable as it might negatively affect Habitats Directive forest species.
  • 1/26/2020: At the National Conservative radio show hosted by the Ministers of Finance and the Interior, the Minister of Environment makes an appearance. The show mostly does PR for the development plan, but the Minister of Finance says at one point that ‘Estonia is the fourth country in the world regarding protected forests. In my opinion we have a crisis of protecting the forest too much‘.
  • 1/31/2020: Eesti Päevaleht publishes a detailed account of the process of the development plan, in which the pro-sustainability stakeholders describe it as the most unpleasant forest-related government process in 20 years and Tõnu Ehrpais, a representative of Timber Estonia, accuses the national television and radio in being “red-green”. It seems that the industry and the MoE have a distinct outcome in mind, of which they are unwilling to deviate from.
  • 2/03/2020: Accompanying the European Commission conference on climate and forests hosted by Fern and BirdLife Europe, a photo exhibition “European Forests, European lives” by Luka Tomac is presented at the Commission, also featuring a series on the souls’ time festivities at the Paluküla grove mound, Estonia.
  • 2/06/2020: Raul Rosenvald, a sustainable forestry researcher at the University of Tartu, explains that a clear cut in a median Estonian stand will accelerate climate change for at least 60 years.
  • 2/12/2020: It is reported the SFMC has built over 300 kilometers of new forest roads at the state forests last year.
Stop the clear cuts!
  • 2/17/2020: Mihkel Tiganik gives his daily watch in front of the SFMC building, which actually houses several forest organizations, over to Leo Eelmäe.
  • 2/19/2020: The Estonian Fund for Nature makes an application to take the Kurgja area under protection, which had previously been highlighted by the Estonian Forest Aid and had been a planned conservation area before. 
  • The Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, perpetuates the ‘intensive management helps carbon balance’ myth on a Facebook performance, adding that ‘our ancestors knew that already’. It is worth mentioning that his father, Rein Ratas, used to be the General Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment from 1992 to 1999. 
  • The Cambridge University and the Estonian Environmental Agency publish a new report on climate and Estonian forests, which finds that the average logging volume of Estonian forests should be 10-12 Mm3 – in contrast with the rejected SEI Tallinn impact assessment, which set the upper limit as 8. 
  • 2/20/2020: A Nationally Important Question hearing on climate and forests takes place at the Parliament, in which the Associate Professor of Forest Pathology at the Estonian University of Life Sciences, Rein Drenkhan, gave a presentation claiming that regeneration cuts have a positive climate impact and that young and mid-aged trees sequester most carbon. 
    The Head of the Chair of Natural Resources at the University of Tartu, Asko Lõhmus commented on the presentation on the Nature Time list in which he suggests his colleague’s exclamation ‘be recorded as a document in the history of Estonian forest demagogy’ and that he is deeply ashamed for Drenkhan. The comment was picked up by Maaleht, a country-life oriented daily. 
  • 2/21/2020: Hasso Krull publishes an essay called “Land, people and state“, looking up the the country’s 102nd anniversary of statehood:

“Ground water should be our primary care and the true focus of our energy policy. The second care should be our landscape, which carries both natural and cultural value. Natural capital is also cultural capital in Estonia. Estonian landscape is part of a heritage, a part of tradition. When it’s destroyed, the state of Estonia will not have much meaning any more. We can spend significant sums on defense, but what’s the use, if there will be nothing left to defend soon enough?

The land, people and the state have long been separated. With the recent rise in nationalism, we have a chance to restore those bonds. If we fail to do so, many important things will be lost which the next generations won’t be able to regain. Those generations might not be able to understand, what it is, that makes Estonia valuable. But to keep this from happening, serious changes have to be made in our thinking and laws as well. Pretty words won’t help here, and neither will raving at the deep state. Ground water must be kept clean. Clear cuts must stop. Estonia cannot allow itself destructive large facilities which will devastate the landscape irreversibly. 

Those should be the three pillars of contemporary nationalism, which would also bring the fact to our conscious that land is vitally important. Land is not just a decoration for the nation state, it has existential value. If we think that land belongs to the people, we are astray. People belong to the land. Land is older than us, older than the Estonian state, older than all states, older than humanity. A true conservatism is only that which protects the land. A true liberalism is only that which sets land free.”

  • Lauri Laanisto, a senior researcher at the University of Life Sciences, writes at his blog, under the title of “Actual substance“:

“I make many silly jokes here about the forest holding. But yet, sometimes it is truly and deeply sad to work at this house. I happened to listen to the parliamentary session /…/ of a nationally important question discussion — Forest in the conditions of changing climate. One of the rapporteurs was from our house. I will just bring our a question following the presentation and the answer to it as an illustrious example on the understanding of the workings of nature at our holding.

The question was asked by Helmen Kütt
(Social Democrats – ed), and its point was about forest being more than logs that are yet unlogged — that a lot of other living beings make their home there and that mass logging of old forests decreases biodiversity, doesn’t it? Which was answered by that kind of talk: “Not all forest is logged, by all means, the bird can fly into the forest next to it which is still standing”. Yes, exactly! This is how nature works. The bird will fly to another forest and that’s it! Am I completely out of my mind, or does the respondent simply not grasp on any level that communities and interactions exist, incl. competition, for example, etc. WTF?

And in the end, some talk on how the land owner should be compensated for not being able to destroy biodiversity without limitations (the issue of compensating the limitations that are stressful for the land owner was mentioned repeatedly). Those kinds of limitations do exist on all land types and concern various economic activities. Too large houses may not be built, sometimes even the milieuic value must be observed. A chemical plant or a night club may not be erected anywhere. I, for example, may not put a heat pump into my yard, because the corner of the yard is in the water catchment zone. In addition there’s a graveyard next to the plot, which adds a number of limitations on noise etc. Should I be constantly asking for compensation from the town of Tartu now? A most interesting sort of “idea” that is, which has taken ground lately. That if one can’t go on a rampage any more like they used to, compensation over harassment is in order.

That is the Full Picture, which is grasped only at the deepest corners of the holding behind the Hiccuping Forest, with the spike belt on, wearing the gaiters with meat pie shaped braids and addled on the mectonium fumes provided by Vetinaris…”

  • 2/22/2020: The Lääneranna municipality in Pärnumaa sold 281 cubic meters of logging rights near a graveyard, gaining 8100 euros from the deal. The deacon of Karuse community and a member of the municipality council opposition finds it unfitting to log next to a final resting place.  No inclusion meeting was conducted. The forest notice was approved by both the Heritage Board and the Environmental Board. Public has also been angered by logging next to the road to graveyard. 
  • Logging next to graveyards has happened before in recent times and has lead to increased windbreaks in affected graveyards.
  • 2/25/2020: An interview with Asko Lõhmus is published in Maaleht:

Q: If people start to value nature more, does that mean the end for the use of natural resources and polluting nature? People still need some roof over their heads, something to eat, something to warm themselves with?

Lõhmus: The scientists of environmental economics generally agree that market mechanisms are incapable of ensuring staying within the limits of nature. Among other things, a factor that forces businesses to innovate is the scarcity of resources. The smarter ones survive. A smart economy understands that there isn’t enough natural environment for that volume of consumption nor the growth of it, therefore on the one hand, the use of natural resources should be limited, and on the other, innovative enterprises should be helped. There is an environmental tax reform which remains to be done in the entire world, in which case the environmental impacts would reflect in the prices of products in a just manner. The European Union’s new green deal specifically points to the need to avoid large industries which have fortified their positions and consume the resource which could be used in a much smarter manner. One could think that if we are able to use a resource more effectively, then its consumption might well decrease. According to a pattern known as the Jevons paradox this would not happen. If the industry would use the forest resource more efficiently, it wouldn’t be enough to bring the consumption down. Those two things need to be done by different levers.
/…/

Q: The environment in which a forest manager gets their profit once or twice per century can be used by birds and beasts and other people for the remaining period. The person demanding public benefits from the forest usually acts on concrete and asphalt where there is no biodiversity. Is it altogether justified to put all environmental responsibility on the forest manager?

Lõhmus: Probably it is possible to do many things at the state forest which is managed as public property, which wouldn’t be justified in a private forest. The private owners are also very different. A person that manages a forest that belongs with a traditional homestead has a whole different set of rights and responsibilities from a large company that manages the forests exclusively with an aim of industrial wood production.

It is important to understand that our today’s understanding of the world as an environment with limited resources and the army of people consuming those will also significantly alter our concept of responsibility. The existing legislation has fallen behind that scientific understanding and the question is how to set it in order to decrease the vulnerability of the system. The need for reorientation is very great, comparable with the former revolutions in culture and governing, starting with the end of slavery and ending with the French revolution. Those kinds of changes have either taken a very long time to happen or they’ve been a by-product of immensely bloody conflicts. For example, the First World War was horrible, but on the other hand, the modern system of democratic states in Europe came to being as a result of it.

Could the environmental turn, which is, in my opinion, unavoidable, be less conflictive and less bloody?

In the global sense it is clear that humanity consumes a very large portion of Earth’s resources, thereby leaving less to other living beings. From a scientist’s viewpoint this is a simplification, although it’s necessary for the society to understand the dilemmas before us.

Still, we don’t really have simple overall solutions for even the forest polemic of little Estonia.  

  • 2/27/2020: The Estonian Fund for Nature’s forest expert, Liis Kuresoo, writes at the Estonian Public Broadcasting’s opinion portal that the SFMC plans to log *all* the mature state forests outside protected areas, including the former ‘protection forests’ or forests close to settlements. She goes on to say that the FSC certificate mandates that the locals be included in the plans — as of now, the locals have had a minimal effect in influencing the SFMC-s default. She ends by calling everyone that cares about their neighbourhood forests to join the 21st March protest on the Freedom Square.
  • The government confirmed the changes in the Electricity Market Act for a 5-fold increase in the use of biomass for energy (from 100 GWh to 600 GWh) (English link). It is said they will use “waste wood”. It is unclear where this additional 2,5 cbm of waste wood would start coming from.
Campaign video against SFMC logging in wood grouse courting grounds, English subtitles
  • The head of the forest departement at the Estonian Environmental Board comments on Estonian Forest Aid’s new campaign on filing complaints over logging on protected areas, admitting it adds to their work and suggests turning to the legislators instead of them.
  • 2/29/2020: An interview with professor Asko Noormets who works at the Texas A&T University is published at Postimees.
    In the interview it gets highlighted that 1) old forests in Estonia are not a ‘climate risk (the carbon balance of pine and spruce forests will not reach 0 at at the median stock age of 80 years)’; 2) young forests are not a ‘climate solution’; 3) a tree’s natural lifespan may expand several hundred years and 4) that one should not underestimate the carbon in the forest soil.
What are you doing after the maturity exam?”
– “Oh, I thought of going to the harvester.”
“Vikerkaar”
  • 3/2020: The cultural monthly Vikerkaar (“the Rainbow”)publishes a first ever edition spanning account of the pulp mill saga, titled “The Factory that Split the Society” by Henri Kõiv.

Prologue

Approximately one and a half years ago Estonians could be divided in two: ones supported the factory, others were against it. First ones gave long tirades about economic growth, jobs and valorizing wood. Others spoke of the fragility of the environment, eroding democracy and destruction of a local identity. It was a collision of two contradictory world views. With large brush strokes, the polemic around the pulp mill that was planned to be built next to River Emajõgi could be depicted just like that. It that article the lines are finer, contrasts more varied, details and characters with their motives come to the forefront from the background.

This is a vital perspective, as there are several different stories underneath the one big story. A story about capable businessmen who wished to fulfill the dream of their lives before retiring. A story of state power in service of private interests. Two drastically different stories about the meaning of forests for people of Estonia. A story about scientists that started doing politics. A story about politicians that were shunned for doing politics. A story of perfectly ordinary people that defended their most precious thing, their home. And finally, a story of Estonia becoming a hinterland with its desires and fears. So the next seven chapters could be concluded.

One time, the tale goes straight to the heart of Estonianism, and the next, it can dwell on a technical detail for a while. The locations switch between Estonian forests and Facebook groups, the rectors’ cabinets and news rooms, round tables of district societies and city council hearings, the shores of River Emajõgi and the bottom mud of Lake Peipus, Tartu and Tallinn, village Vorbuse and the seats of power at hill Toompea.

In that tale, laws and studies have at least an equal parts as characters as flesh and blood people. More than 30 of the latter were interviewed in order to tell it. Some of them told me that the mill saga robbed a year of their lives. For others, it was one decision in thousands. An automatically given signature. Meetings already forgotten in the governing roller-coaster. Maybe that is the reason why the later interpretations vary so greatly: what was an existential question for one, was for another just daily routine work. This story needs to be told exactly now, because it helps us understand whence we have come from as society and whence we are headed. It is a story of people handling their affairs in a world which is complex and changing, they are still looking for a roadmap toward future.

  • 3/03/2020: Ahto Kaasik (House of Groves) discovers 6 cross trees have been logged by the SFMC at the border of Toolamaa and Nulga villages next to the Tartu-Räpina highway. The state forest manager has also failed to heed the Environmental Board’s suggestion to leave a protective 20 meter strip to protect the remaining cross trees from untimely breaking.
  • 3/05/2020: The local newspaper Northern Shore criticizes the government’s mass wood burning plan in an editorial, saying we already were at this point 10 years ago, and when we last mass burned wood for electricity, it led to a 40% increase in the residential firewood prices and that the wood-burning is fully subsidized by the citizenry. The editorial does understand why forest owners support the plan, however.
  • 3/06/2020: Rainer Kuuba publishes an analysis of the 10 years that have passed since the National Audit Office’s findings that Estonian state forests are too intensively managed was effectively rejected by the then Minister of the Environment. The forest area managed by the SFMC has increased by merely 7% during that time, while the area of planned regenerative cuts has increased by 29%.
  • 3/09/2020: Mart Kangur’s poem goes viral (for an Estonian poem) online:

and lead me not to the crowd
but deliver us from the herd
for yours are the fields
and forests
and loneliness

  • 3/11/2020: The NGO Saving Estonia’s Forests announces that the mass protest in support of the forest manifesto that was to happen on 3/21 (English link) is to be postponed due to coronavirus crisis.
  • 3/12/2020: The Tartu-based forest firm “Eesti Metsameister” (“Estonian Forest Master”) is being investigated by the prosecution and the tax bureau on the suspicions of a major tax fraud, the “Reporter” show of the Postimees portal reports.
Rainer Kuuba at the 3/21/2020 Digital Protest, showcasing how at “the forest which owns him” the trees which have surpassed the maturity age stated in law are still standing and how the carbon in storm-broken trees is still sequestered. Self-portrait.
  • 3/13/2020: Rainer Kuuba publishes the second part of his analysis confirming the predictions of the National Audit Office (English link) on state forests 10 years ago:

“One should not think that the logging is worst at the state forests. The most intensive logging goes on at the forests belonging to legal persons or firm forests, in which the average logging intensity for their owned productive forest land has been about two times that of the state forests, averaging 10,7 cbm/ha per year. Managing company forests usually happens in a way that after buying the plot all the trees are logged with a single technique, as much as the law allows. It is not rare that the stands which are bordering legality are “mis-inventoried” in the bounds of the allowable error, thus legalizing the logging. This way, the plots are logged empty and there is nothing more to log there for years. Legal persons can keep on logging similar volumes only when they manage to buy more plots which are yet unlogged. But the data at the forest registry does not permit a similar analysis on those forests as it does for the state forests, because the data reaches the forest registry shortly before the loggings, and in a little while, the registry does not describe the forests of the plot adequately, because the mature forests have been logged.”

/…/

“There is no point for the wood industrialists to perform heart-wrenching proclamations about how lowering the logging volumes endangers the jobs at rural areas. Firstly, the forest industry itself has been a rural job destroyer due to modern forestry equipment. Secondly, as the over-logging has been going on for years, the future lowering of the logging volumes is inevitable. It’s just the question of whether they will be lowered knowingly, at the first opportunity, which would be better for both forest mature and the economy of the state, or trying to keep the volumes at the current level at any cost, with great damage to nature and a bit later, but an even sharper fall in logging volumes with much greater economic damages compared to the ones accompanying an informed lowering of the logging volumes undertaken as fast as possible.”

  • 3/17/2020: The Private Forest Association gives advice to forest owners to take precautions against the bark beetle, pointing at conservation areas as a likely source of the beetles.
  • 3/19/2020: The Estonian Fund for Nature responds that the main cause of increased bark beetle infestation is spruce monocultures and intensive forest management, while conservation areas are a long-term relief for the problem, and thus the Private Forest Association’s point of view is unscientific.
  • The Environmental Board also highlights the faulty science in the Private Forest Association’s bark beetle stress release, pointing out that 3/4 of the bark beetle expertises conducted take place at production forests.
  • 3/20/2020: On the “International Forest Eve” the feminist portal “Feministeerium” publishes an interview with the Estonian Forest Aid’s communications and cooperation coordinator, in which she explains her dedication to forest matters by her value-driven upbringing and being the object of extensive school bullying, which instilled in her a great drive for justice and standing up for the weak.
  • Toomas Toomsalu publishes an opinion piece “Two-legged harvester” in Postimees, tying the toilet paper buying boom to the forest polemic, thus swiching blame to the Estonian consumer. Asko Lõhmus answers it in the comments section, pointing that to fulfil every Estonian’s toilet/kitchen paper need, only 87 000 cubic meters would be needed, if no recycled paper was used — less than 1% of the yearly logging volume. Since 1997, an Estonian’s toilet/kitchen paper need has risen fourfold, however.
  • 3/21/2020: Estonian Forest Aid publishes a detailed answer to the Private Forest Association’s bark beetle press release, specifically highlighting that the human-spread root rot intensifies the bark beetle problem.
“The Quarantine Runic Song Choir” presents a song of forest protection. English subtitles
  • As a part of the unity Digital Protest in support of the Estonian Forest Manifesto, Anna Hints and her runic song choir are performing their anti-clearcut runic song through Skype.
  • 3/24/2020: The forester Mati Sepp also criticizes the PFA’s bark beetle account, also pointing out that the association’s instruction manual for combating the beetles is inadequate.
But it’s a nature preserve!
– Yes, but the trees didn’t keep a two meter distance as mandated by the emergency situation.
Sign: “Stop! Forest ravished by the SFMC!”
Urmas Nemvalts, Postimees, 3/31/2020
  • 3/30/2020: Postimees reports that the destruction at Kiidjärve Redwood Ant Kingdom in 2019 has indeed been destructive towards the redwood ant populace and not beneficial — the number of active nests has been reduced from 200 to 60. The SFMC is now unwilling to use the name of the Redwood Ant Kingdom, unlike before.
  • Postimees also reports that the SFMC has been lobbying the Ministry for increased logging in preserves and the habitats of 2nd and 3rd category protected species and REDUCING STRICTLY PROTECTED AREAS for they could not otherwise fulfill their prescribed quota — but there is no prescribed quota really, but an *upper limit*, which means that the SFMC is not a mere tool of the Ministry, but a political actor of its own. 
  • 3/31/2020: Estonian Hunters’ Society, Timber Estonia and Estonian Private Forest Association write an open letter to the Chamber of Culture to remove Estonian Forest Aid from the list of nominees of the ‘Culture Deed’ award due to threatening or demeaning comments on their Facebook page towards forest workers, officials and industrialists. The Chamber of Culture did not comply with the request. Estonian Forest Aid said that they are working to reduce the amount of such comments and have repeatedly called up to civility, also pointing out that low social culture is a problem around the whole of Estonian society, including the government and also some people who have been awarded by the Private Forest Association.
  • 4/03/2020: Estonian Forest Aid sues the Environmental Board over rejecting their complaints on forest notices issued to a wood grouse habitat (a total of 21 notices and 95 hectares). The EB’s own documents point at the negative impact logging has on the wood grouse. In the 1983-2018 period, the wood grouse population in Estonia has decreased by 64%.
  • 4/06/2020: The Timber and Forest Industries Association claims that the bark beetle is endangering the state’s wallet and the welfare of country-dwelling people. Tõnu Ehrpais claims that the bark beetle is also bad for carbon balance and thus there should be a clear consensus between the interest groups this time.
  • 4/07/2020: The film operator Joosep Matjus says on the Estonian Television talk show “Plekktrumm (“The Tin Drum”) that it is already difficult to get aerial shots of an untouched forest mass in Estonia. He has observed nature for 20 years and the most radical change is the large clear cut areas that have appeared in recent years.
  • 4/08/2020: The Global Forest Coalition and 26 other organizations send a public letter to the Estonian Ministry of Environment condemning the act of rejecting the SEI Tallinn impact assessment for the EFDP2030 scenarios and suggesting they reverse the decision.
  • 4/09/2020: The Ministry of Environment reports of its plan to lower the maximum clear cut area from 7 to 5 hectares with a new Forest Act amendment – a small step in the right direction.
  • The Estonian Environmental Board gives an overview on the status of Estonian bird populations — it comes out that taken from the 1980s on, Estonia has lost the largest percentage (48%) of nesting birds of European states, followed by Sweden and the Netherlands.
  • The Head of the Ministry’s Forest Department, Kristel Järve, announces on the radio that approving the development plan is to be postponed by at least 2 years. Also, the public tender for the development plan’s strategic Environmental Impact Assessment has failed three times already, one of the cited reasons is fear of attacks by environmentalists — Estonian Forest Aid has repeatedly cited that environmental impact assessments may be sued and there is a good precedent at the supreme court: when an impact assessment contains unfounded statements, it is considered void.
“The bark beetle acts like some boss today.” “You don’t want to know how much the SFMC’s propaganda department paid him so the guy would use his wide back to cover the wickedness that goes on in the forest.”
Urmas Nemvalts, Postimees, 4/15/2020
  • 4/14/2020: The SFMC announces that it is going to “save the Estonian forest from the bark beetle”. They announce of a supposed need to conduct logging on 1000 hectares during the spring-summer logging halt.
Anneli Palo
  • 4/15/2020: Anneli Palo, a researcher of landscape ecology at the University of Tartu tells the Baltic News Service that deficient silvicultural measures are the cause of the bark beetle outbreak and that natural selection would be a preferred remedy.
  • The Tallinn Administrative Court deems the Environmental Board’s decision to reject Estonian Forest Aid’s objection on forest notices in wood grouse habitats unlawful.
  • 4/16/2020: The Estonian Environment Agency publishes an opinion piece on its website, penned by an official from the Wildlife department, Rein Nellis, suggesting three-toed woodpeckers as a remedy to the bark beetle infestation.
  • 4/17/2020: Linda-Mari Väli, Estonian Forest Aid, publishes an opinion piece at Sakala on how the mismanagement of the bark beetle problem ultimately serves the short term business interests of the forest industry.
  • Justin Catanoso reports about an open letter sent to the investment giant BlackRock to urge them to deinvest from biomass, like they have from coal. The international operative of Estonian Forest Aid got to give a short statement as one of the signees on the general facts of Estonian forest management as one of the most intensive forest economies and the site of Europe’s largest pellet producer.
  • A destroyed alley on private land sparks ire at Leebiku village, Tõrva municipality. Many find the old alleys important to local history. However, the owner had the permit to log.
  • 4/18/2020: The Estonian Naturalist Society reports of having mapped 4800 ha worth of key habitats on state lands. By estimate, forests with key habitat characteristics make up 2% of all Estonian forests.
  • 5/2020: Eesti Loodus (Estonian Nature, a monthly nature magazine) publishes a forest-themed edition and makes the digital version of all recent numbers freely available for the duration of the corona measures.
Video: Einar Lints „The Woods“ is a poem from Hasso Krull’s collection „Europe“ (2018) Translated by Adam Cullen Recorded on the 29th of March 2019 at Tartu Literature House at the event of the international poetry project „Borderlines“ Landscape views: Saaremaa and Kuressaare town, Estonia in spring 2020
English subtitles
  • 5/04/2020: The nature guide Eleri Lopp-Valdma writes about how locals can use the municipal special planning to protect forests important to them at Äripäev.
  • 5/14/2020: The 2018 German film “Abgeholzt!” on Romanian and Scandinavian forest problems airs on Estonian national television as a part of their Environmental Month program. Estonian Fund for Nature’s forest specialist Liis Kuresoo commented on the film, finding forest problems over the world rather similar and mostly springing from people’s inability to properly price natural values. She also highlights Estonian problem of natural values at forests not having received a high quality inventory yet, while it should be possible, as it has been done for swamps.
  • 5/15/2020: Teet Randma (Estonian Green Movement) writes at the cultural weekly “Sirp” on whether young trees grow faster than the old ones (they don’t) and says that Estonia’s current course in forestry will cost the country 950 million euros for the CO2 quota, giving an estimated cost for a hectare of logged pine forest as 2500 euros, while preserving that same forest would be a gain of about 176 euros. He then proceeds to propose a subsidy system for carbon sequestration and a carbon tax on wood, about 25 euros for cubic meter, a deforestation tax of 17000 euros per hectare, justifying it as a most possibly precise application of the EUs LULUCF regulation. He also stresses that as a businessman and a taxpayer he does not wish for societal solidarity in paying the CO2 quota.
  • Residents of the border town Valga/Valka are questioned over reopening the Estonian-Latvian border by Lõuna Postimees (Southern Postman). A resident called Aime, a pensioner, says she walks her dog at Latvian forests, as the Estonian ones have all been chopped down.
  • 5/16/2020: A large story at “Telegraaf”, the largest daily in the Netherlands, on the ecological havoc wreaked on Estonian forests by the biomass industry and illicit practices widespread in forest procurement.
  • 5/18/2020: Timber Estonia presents three propositions to the government, how to “protect rural jobs, taxes to the state and money gained from export”. Among other suggestions, it is proposed that in the coming years there would be no seasonal restrictions placed on logging and no increase in the area of protected forest. Increased logging from state forests due to falling wood prices and the need for a chemical industry are also brought up.
  • 5/21/2020: Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid visits a flying squirrel’s habitat accompanied by experts from the University of Tartu and the Environmental Board. The trip was organized by the Estonian Fund for Nature and was a part of the ‘conservation month’ program. The president said that by protecting the flying squirrel, we also protect hundreds of other species that make their habitat at the 80-100 year old forests.

TO BE CONTINUED

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