Soomaa: Largest bogland of EU endangered

Soomaa National Park was created in Estonia in 1993 to protect large raised bogs, flood plain grasslands, paludified forests and meandering rivers. With its territory of 359 km2 Soomaa is the one of the largest raised bogland of the European Union. However the protected area is currently endangered as the Ministry of Environment allowed forest cutting within its territory on 12 November.

Keskonnamet, the environmental agency of the Estonian Ministry of Environment, issued the permission for the State Forest Agency (RMK) to log in the forests of Soomaa National Park. This agency has been strongly criticised by the National Audit Office in its 2010 report on sustainable forest management. The National Audit Office stated the followings:

“…RMK does not manage state forests in a sustainable manner and is setting at risk the opportunities of the next generations for using the state forests. Within the last ten years, RMK has performed clear cutting in a larger area of state forests than it has been done in earlier decades. In some forest types, such as fertile spruce forests, RMK has already had to reduce considerably the cutting volume as the area of mature stands has decreased as a consequence of management. Continuation of cutting in the current volume would considerably reduce the area of old forests in better forest types (forests on more fertile soils) and therefore the ecological condition of the forests would deteriorate and the revenues gained from the state forests would decrease in the future.”

The company which is heavily criticised of its sustainability will now be allowed to penetrate its operation into a protected area. The logging activity will threaten the favourable conservation status of Soomaa Natura 2000 site (code EE00080574). There were 164 hectares of forest felling inside the protected area in 2014, while 137 hectares of forest cutting is planned only in January and February of 2015.

Local people are concerned and afraid of losing the value of Soomaa National Park for short term profit. They started a campaign in order to save Soomaa for future generations. Local nature-based tour operator Aivar Ruukel said that felling is also planned Raudna floodplain forests along the river, which is a rare and valuable. “It is ridiculous compared to the revenue loss that leads to a thinning,” he said.

“We at the European Wilderness Society believe that a large scale inventory of the benefits of Soomaa National Park must be implemented quickly. While the economics of biodiversity and Wilderness are not fully known within the area, the forestry activities must be put on hold.”

adds Zoltan Kun of the European Wilderness Society. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) introduced the concept of valuing protected areas beyond the direct use values. Unfortunately this concept has not penetrated yet into the practice; therefore areas such as Soomaa might be lost for future generations.

The campaign is also backed up by Estonian Fund for Nature as the largest conservation NGO of Estonia. According to them this cutting permission sets up a dangerous precedence for nationally protected areas and Natura 2000 sites of community importance.

“The inventory data of high conservation value forests of EU importance in Soomaa is inaccurate. This is also stated in Soomaa management plan. Before planning any fellings in Soomaa, new thorough inventories have to be carried trough”

says Liis Kuresoo, Forestry Expert of Estonian Fund for Nature.

“While IUCN and other international organisations are working towards establishing a green list of protected areas, Soomaa is being endangered! Extractive use shall not be allowed but Soomaa must be protected as a Wilderness area for future generation”

adds Zoltan Kun.

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2 thoughts on “Soomaa: Largest bogland of EU endangered

  1. As it well known, Estonian State forest managing centre or RMK is a truly follower of soviet time colonial expuatators and are -NB! still following the soviet five-year plan managing in Estonian wild forests, destroying all in his way- precisely as soviets did!

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Join more 100+ forest experts demanding a radical change in German forestry management.

Sign the Open Letter to the German Federal Minister of Forestry and Agriculture

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.

Motto: SYSTEMIC FOREST ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT INSTEAD OF WOOD FACTORY

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