Several times less violations, monitoring still needed
Environmental monitoring data indicate that the violation of the provisions of forestry law has decreased more than ten times in ten years. While in 1995, forestry violations all over Estonia were registered about 1900, and in 2002, even 2267, then in 2012, there were 144 violations.
Specification of legislation has contributed to the decrease of violation of law; however, monitoring capability and cooperation between agencies, such as, Estonian Tax and Customs Board and the police, has improved as well. Also, forest owners have become more aware, and the attitude of society has changed.
In Estonia, monitoring of forestry is conducted by the Environmental Inspectorate. Violations are detected on the basis of planned control, but also thanks to hints, as well as the information received from the Estonian Tax and Customs Board and the police.
As for which are the people mistaken?
The small number of illegal cuttings and the related small environmental damage imply singular mistakes in forest harvesting, rather than intentional and egoistic actions.
Violations occur mainly when the land owners themselves do not cut the forest but when they transfer the right for cutting or give the work to someone else to do. However, the related obligations are always not fulfilled. The necessary documents or entries are not formalised and the validity of the forest material ownership is not proven.
Lately, however, there have been more violations where people drive on others’ land without the owner’s permission, put up tents and log fires, which can also harm the trees growing there.
Another problem of its own is damaging the soil. According to the forest management provision, the rides, ditches, bridges and culverts may be damaged during the cutting works only if they are set into order during the calendar year following the expiry of forest notification or during one year from the end of the cutting works.
Several forest roads and roads leading to the forest have historically become jointly used and local interests should be taken into account there as much as possible. In these cases, good practice is, for example, that the extraction of forest shall be previously discussed with neighbours, which helps to prevent later misunderstandings.
If machines have caused damage to forest rides and culverts with the extraction, the Environmental Inspectorate recommends not waiting with forest restoration until the year allowed by law, but fixing the situation as soon as possible.
Who conducts the monitoring?
In October 2010, European Union passed a new timber regulation to fight against the trade of illegally grown timber, and it entered into force as at March 3, 2013.
The Environmental Inspectorate is a competent authority as to the regulation; its task is to check the fulfilment of the requirements established in the act. If henceforth the Inspectorate focused on checking the fulfilment of the requirements on internally collected timber and the related transactions, then the new regulation gives a right to conduct control also over the timber from foreign states and the products made from it.
The Environmental Inspectorate is ever more closely cooperating with the Estonian Tax and Customs Board and the Police and Border Guard Board. Joint inspections and information exchange help to ensure law-abiding behaviour in the field of forestry.