Estonia faces a fine of € 100,000 per day for logging protected forests | New
The newspaper wrote that Marku Lamp, deputy secretary general of the Ministry of the Environment, and Aigar Kallas, chairman of the board of the Estonian state forest management company RMK, are putting the show in the public eye.
“No clearcutting is done in Natura habitats in protected areas on state land – neither in special management areas nor in limited management areas,” said Marku Lamp on June 11, two days after it was made public that the European Commission launched infringement proceedings regarding logging in Natura 2000 sites.
However, Postimees said information in the state’s own database proves otherwise.
A few days later, the Association for Environmental Information (SA Keskkonnateabe Uhendus in Estonian) sent an analysis to the ministry and parliament of the actual extent of the clearcut – the same day that Lamp did In its declaration, the state authorized the cutting of 636,229 cubic meters of timber from an area of 8,289 hectares in one year, bringing the total allowable cut to more than 20,000 truckloads. Of this amount, 512,488 cubic meters would be cut from 6,562 hectares of Natura 2000 areas.
Logging is constantly destroying Natura habitats – essential breeding and resting sites for rare and endangered species.
Contrary to Lamp’s statement, the state has authorized the harvest of some 18,015 cubic meters of timber from nearly 255 hectares in Natura forest habitats in state forests and 76,448 cubic meters from 1,075 hectares at said sites in state forests. private forests. The Environmental Information Association compared the current prescribed annual yield to maps of conservation areas. The European Commission’s infringement proceedings concerned a previous logging operation. From 2001 to 2019, 15,000 hectares of forests in the Natura 2000 network were destroyed, according to the association.
The Environment Ministry admitted after some dithering that the analysis leading to infringement proceedings as well as the recent analysis are correct, Postimees reported. Essentially, loggers exploit protected forests while the ministry highlights the large total area of these.
Explanations provided to Postimees by ministry officials led by Lamp revealed that the sleight of hand with the size of protected areas is also being used in disputes with the European Commission.
“The activities of the Ministry of the Environment directly violate EU measures to restrict protected forests, in particular the requirements and principles of the European Habitats Directive,” said Siim Kuresoo, member of the board of administration of the Estonian Nature Fund, adding that its pleas to suspend the operation of Natura 2000 sites for the duration of the infringement proceedings fell on deaf ears.
“In addition, the European Parliament on June 9 approved a resolution on the EU’s biodiversity strategy for 2030. It stated that it was crucial that the remaining European old-growth forests be put under the greatest protection. quickly possible and that a temporary moratorium be established on logging works to prevent the destruction of these forests before they are placed under protection, “he added.
Kuresoo said that the notice of infringement procedure by the European Commission is an offer to eliminate the loopholes amicably, and not an invitation to start discussions on the judicial field, as the Environment Ministry appears. interpret it. Specifically, Lamp says the European Commission says impact assessments of forest management permits on Natura sites should be improved, he said.
“Poland, which chose to engage in similar discussions, suffered a devastating loss before the European Court of Justice which demanded the payment of € 100,000 for every day of continued logging in violation of the Habitats Directive “Kuresoo said. “It is surprising that a small circle of officials from the Ministry of the Environment have the power to take such risks which lead to possible damage for all of Estonia.”
Opposition Social Democratic Party MP Jevgeni Ossinovski said: “The infringement procedure is much more severe than the Environment Ministry admitted to the public. It includes a very in-depth analysis of Estonia’s failure to properly assess the impact of protected logging. habitat integrity. The opinion of the Ministry of the Environment that all is well with Natura habitats in Estonia will not convince the European Commission.
Ossinovsky noted that he had to battle with the Environment Ministry for a month and a half to gain access to procedural documents, which the ministry attempted to file even with the MP who was allowed access to the secrets of State.
Kuresoo said: “Estonia is accused of consistently violating the EU Habitats Directive, in particular with regard to clearcutting of private forests in limited management areas in Natura areas, and the Department of the Environment has denied the inconsistency with the directive for years. “
Ossinovski added that Lamp had essentially communicated the same position to the European Commission as well.
“The ministry admits no loopholes. In truth, however, it is very difficult not to agree with the complaints of the European Commission,” Ossinovski said after reading the court documents.
Postimees said the ministry has already started delaying the process and has requested an extension of nearly a month and a half to the deadline to respond to the Commission’s notice.
The Polish Ministry of the Environment has tried the same strategy. Poland started clearcutting one of the last virgin forests in Europe, Bialowieza Forest, under the pretext of protecting trees from a spruce bark beetle infestation in 2016 and has not stopped logging activities. ‘exploitation only in March of this year, when it became clear that there was no way around the fine of the Court of Justice ordering the payment of € 100,000 per day.