The Implementation Plan of the Forest Management Plan for 2016 –2020 for the next four years focuses on the issue of aging forest resources and on the qualitative renewal of forests. The aim of the Development Plan to place 10% of the surface area of forestland under strict protection has already been fulfilled.
In terms of the objectives established in the Forest Development Plan for 2020, the aim regarding the surface area of strictly protected forests was fulfilled in the previous period (2011–2015) of the Development Plan. In order to maintain the good condition of the populations of endangered species and of the species characteristic to Estonia, 10% of the surface area of forestland (227,200 ha) has been placed under protection and the representability of the protected forests has been improved. In total, more than a quarter of the surface area of Estonian forests (570,600 ha) has been allocated to nature conservation.
In the process of planning the activities for the new period of the Implementation Plan, significant attention was given to the issues highlighted in the report on the execution of the Development Plan of 2011–2015. These included the depreciation of forest resources, lack of domestic young forest plants, and unequal treatment of forest owners in compensating the loss of profit from the protection of natural values.
The prescribed cut in Estonia has increased to 9.5 million cubic metres per year on average, which is about 70% of the set aim – the Forest Development Plan stipulates up to 15 million cubic metres per year as a sustainable prescribed cut – and below the forest increment of the previous decades. Therefore, every year, up to 5 million cubic metres of timber from the possible utilisation volume is left unused in the Estonian forest management for different reasons. This means that the value in use of the forest decreases, and at the same time the reserves of mature forests, which are characterised by damages from root and strain rot, increase.
About 80% of the investments to new productive forests are made in the forests belonging to the state. Private forest owners are not very interested in investing in forest renewal, and forests mostly renew naturally with foliage tree stands. The accumulation of low-value timber in managed forests keeps the prices of wood pellets and heating materials so low that the forest owners are not motivated to cut and replace their forest.
“Managed forests should be cut in the age when the profit from the realisation of timber and the ability of forests to fix carbon is at its highest. Otherwise, Estonia will not be able to use the opportunity to increase employment and replace fossil materials through the use of renewable resources,” said Marko Pomerants, the Minister of the Environment.
To stop the depreciation of forest resources and to ensure more economically rational management of forests, the Implementation Plan includes the implementation of maturity ages that consider the profitability of forest management, the establishment of the good practices of forest renewal, continuous counselling of forest owners, and supporting the renewal of private forests. Establishing and using additional capacities in energetics also helps in putting the low-value timber into use.
The issue of availability of domestic young forest plants also needs to be solved. To support the production of young forest plants of Estonia, the Ministry of the Environment is planning to prepare forecasts on forest plant production and consumption need, as well as promote investments into the development of producing young forest plants. At the same time, the quality of imported forest plants will be reviewed and the area from where cultivating materials can be imported will be delimited by two latitudes from south. This means that in a few years’ time, forest plants of Lithuanian origin cannot be brought into Estonia.
“From the viewpoint of a forest owner, the activities related to the better and faster availability of forest information are definitely relevant in guaranteeing to the forest owner an instant and comprehensive overview of the limitations related to the forest,” added the Minister of the Environment.
The total cost of the Implementation Plan of the Forest Management Plan until 2020 is about €24.7 million. Most of the costs of the Development Plan constitute the support measures for forest renewal, counselling, joint activities, and land improvement, as well as developments, scientific research, and notifications for performing the duties of the state. The Implementation Plan will be carried out in accordance with several forest related measures from the Estonian Rural Development Plan 2020.