Estonian court suspends logging on Natura 2000 sites | New
The Tallinn Administrative Court accepted the request presented by the pro-forest environmental NGO Eesti Metsa Abiks (EMA). Natura 2000 is a network of main breeding and resting sites for rare and endangered species and spans the 27 EU countries, both on land and at sea.
Indrek Kukk and Karin Marosov, the lawyers representing the EMA in court, said it was one of the most important environmental disputes of this decade.
âIn February of this year, the EMA started to analyze the number of forest notifications issued by the Environment Council for logging in Natura 2000 areas during the past year. dozens of protected forests and permanent habitats in nature and bird areas are endangered, “said Kukk, lawyer at law firm PwC Legal.
He added that the complaint lodged with the court concerned forestry notifications in twelve natural and ornithological areas. No complaints were lodged with regard to areas where forest had already been felled.
It should also be noted that the European Commission recently initiated infringement proceedings against Estonia for failing to properly implement the environmental impact assessment requirements set out in EU legislation. EU when authorizing logging on Natura 2000 sites.
âAs in the circumstances of infringement proceedings initiated by the European Commission, we are also guided by the fact that the Environment Council did not carry out appropriate environmental impact assessments during the process. ‘logging forest notifications,’ the lawyer said. âAccording to the constant case law of the European Court of Justice, any activity which is not directly linked to the achievement of the objective of conservation of a Natura 2000 site must be presumed to have significant effects on the environment. In any event, the felling carried out on the basis of the contested forest notifications was not linked to the achievement of conservation objectives, which means that an appropriate environmental impact assessment should have been carried out in order to to consider an operating license.
According to Kukk, in the case of contested forestry notifications, it is important to take into account their cumulative effects. In many cases, dozens of forest notifications have been recorded concerning a single nature or area of ââbirds within a short period of time. For example, in the ornithological zone of Taarikonnu-Kaisma, a total of 13 forest notifications were recorded from October 5 to December 17 of last year, mainly for clear cuts on about 21 hectares.
Thus, even though the negative environmental impact of logging under a single forest notification may not be significant, it may have a significant negative impact on the sites protected in combination. According to the Habitats Directive, the impact of a proposed activity on the integrity of a Natura 2000 site must be assessed, unless a significant negative effect on the Natura 2000 site resulting from the activity or project proposed, including in combination with other projects, was objectively excluded.
Foreign media have also drawn attention to the increasing logging in Estonian protected forests. For example, on January 20, Postimees published an article titled âDanish Media: Biomass from Estonian Protected Areas Burning in Danish Kilnsâ.
The article refers to an investigative article published in Ingenioren, a Danish weekly specializing in engineering topics, according to which Estonian and Latvian wood pellets come from Natura 2000 protected areas and the annual increase in volumes of slaughter is due to demand from other countries, notably Denmark, for heating with CO2 neutral biomass.
Ministry to respond to European Commission infringement registration notice
The Ministry of the Environment is preparing a response to the European Commission’s infringement proceedings to the allegation that logging undermines the conservation objectives of Natura 2000 sites and that Estonian law is not sufficient to protect these forests.
The ministry explained that Natura 2000 sites are protected at national level in accordance with the law on nature conservation and that the conservation rules take into account the conservation objectives of the Natura site. At the same time, the ministry launched a legislative amendment that would add a separate Natura impact assessment to the environmental impact assessment.
âIn our explanations, we considered that Natura 2000 sites are protected at national level under the law on nature conservation and that conservation regulations are drafted taking into account the conservation objectives of the Natura 2000 site, and that forest habitats requiring strict protection are zoned as a special zone. management area, âsaid Marku Lamp, deputy secretary general of the Ministry of the Environment.
“This means that, in essence, the impacts are assessed both in the drafting of the protection rules and in the processing of the forest notification, where, in the case of protected areas, the Environment Council considers each time impact of forest management activities, âLampe says.
Over the past five years, Estonia has made efforts to define its protection regimes more precisely – 75,200 hectares of natural values âârequiring more stringent protection have been dezoned into special management areas. In addition, no clearcuts are carried out in Natura habitats in protected areas on state land – neither in special management areas nor in limited management areas. The total area of ââprotected areas increased by 55,279 hectares, while some 4,000 hectares were excluded from protection.
In the infringement procedure concerning Estonia, the European Commission makes it clear that Estonia should improve impact assessment when authorizing forest management on Natura sites.
Lamp explained that Natura impact assessment under the Habitats Directive is integrated into the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment and Management System in Estonia. This was also confirmed by a legal analysis carried out last year. The analysis showed that it would be wise to develop a separate procedure for Natura impact assessment in cases where it is not necessary to launch a (strategic) EIA for other reasons.
“An amendment to the relevant legislation is being prepared: a separate procedure for Natura impact assessment will be introduced in the nature conservation law,” Lamp said.
The European Commission sent a notification to Estonia this week indicating the start of an infringement procedure. The complaint was lodged with the European Commission by the Estonian Chamber of Environmental Associations. The content of the complaint was that the Estonian State authorizes logging on Natura 2000 sites without assessing in advance whether such logging activities could affect the conservation objectives and integrity of Natura 2000 sites.
The ministry said Estonia will analyze the information contained in the notice of infringement proceedings and then formulate its position. He will prepare a response, which must be done within two months. The preparation of amendments to the Law on Nature Conservation and the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management System will also continue.
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