The following message from the ‘Peace-for-Birds campaign’ has come to our attention, which requires international attention and acknowledgement. Through this campaign, local people try to stop the damaging logging practices during bird’s nesting season in Estonia. We did not verify the content but thought it important enough to publish their statement.
Please also read: City fights against pulp mill threatening Estonian forests
Destroying nests taboo
The plan to halt logging during the nesting period of birds and beasts in Estonia was first proposed 20 years ago. The Estonian Ornithological Society’s Bird Protection Committee and four other environmental and scientific organisations initiated this proposal. The initiative came as a reaction to the change in forestry practice. Until the advent of the harvesters, logging was always a seasonal activity. Furthermore, Estonia’s traditional custom also held killing fledglings and destroying nests as a taboo and an ill omen, as undoubtedly in various other places.
Several currently active laws mirror this moral attitude. For example, the Nature Conservation Act and the Animal Protection Act. Both laws prohibit people deliberately killing naturally occurring animals and disturbing them during breeding time. Nevertheless, there are exceptions to those rules. However, these exceptions do not include “economic activities”.
Intention of breaking laws
If you know that your activity will or could breach a law, it counts as a direct or indirect intention. There is good reason to believe that all the involved parties know that logging activities damage nests and birds. Therefore, lawfully, it counts as intent, whether direct or indirect. However, currently the Estonian Environmental Board lacks a specifying clause to put those laws to work. In addition, they have not even requested such a clause, which right they have in their basic regulation. One may suspect that the cause for this lies in the Estonian environmental apparatus being largely controlled by industry interests. This has been the case from pretty much the very start of Estonia’s independence from the Soviet Union.
Estonian forest wars
The first attempt to establish a state-wide logging halt from April until the end of July, resulted in 2003 in a compromise of 2-month logging halt at Estonian state forests. In recent years, the demand for a longer ban has gained strength again. The cause of this is the debate on the sustainability of Estonia’s forestry policy. The disagreement has been dubbed ‘the forest war’ in the media. For many Estonians it reminds them of two former great Estonian environmental “wars” against Soviet industrial policy. The 70’s “swamps war” against excessive swamp draining and the 80’s “phosphorite war” against a massive Soviet mining program.
This year, 12 organisations dealing with conservation, animal protection or animal rights have asked the Minister of the Environment to use his power to establish a 2-month total logging ban. The Minister did not provide a positive answer to this request. In addition, the organisations collected about 4000 signatures in support of various sustainable forestry measures. The Peace-for-Birds is among them.
At this moment, it is even the most successful initiative on Estonia’s “People’s Initiative” portal. Fortunately, the Estonian Parliament must discuss any issue with over 1000 signatures. Furthermore, due to past years’ campaigning, three of the largest political parties included the logging ban as a part of their environmental programs. Nevertheless, only one of those parties is a part of the new coalition. Unsurprisingly, the industry is heavily opposed to the measure. Meanwhile, the civil association Estonian Forest Aid made a formal request to the Chancellor of Justice, asking to specify whether the current situation is in accord with the Constitution and other laws.
Though the main argument to ban logging during nesting season is a moral one, we should not disregard the direct consequences of spring-summer logging on the overall forest bird populations. Official estimations state it amounts to about 0,5% of yearly population loss. In fact, for the last 35 years, the same amount of birds has disappeared from Estonian forests yearly.
The state forest manager seems to have suffered no major economic loss from adapting the practice. Also, the Estonian forest sector, the Estonian job market and their economy as a whole are in a much better state today than they were 20 years ago. Yet, the Estonian forests not so much. In addition to the spring-summer logging, Estonia’s forests also suffer from over-intensive logging, defragmentation and other ills. Last year, even a logging record was even broken despite protests by specialists and the civil society.
International awareness is needed to support the demand to halt further damaging logging operations that impact the trees, plants, birds and animals in Estonian forests. They are at stake, and demand us to take action.