Estonian environmental groups rally for protection of national parks

Nearly 30 Estonian environmental groups are calling for signatures on a petition to ban logging in national parks and other protected areas.

Environmentalists say that the deliberate loosening of logging restrictions in many of Estonia’s protected areas has led to a situation where clear-cutting is legal, as current protections do not ensure the preservation of forests as ecosystems.

Faristamo Eller, a board member of the non-profit organisation Päästame Eesti Metsad (Save Estonian Forests), pointed out the illogical nature of clear-cutting in protected areas, which many people are unaware of and find hard to believe.

“I’ve been told how strange the call to action for protect protected areas sounds to those unfamiliar with the issue, as they have always believed that ‘obviously, protected areas are being protected and clear-cutting doesn’t happen there’,” Eller said. She urged Estonians to watch “Vertical Money”, a documentary by Martti Helde, to understand what is happening in Estonian forests and protected areas.

A cut-down forest in Estonia. Photo by Save Estonian Forests NGO.

Nearly 40 species have become extinct in Estonia

The National Audit Office highlighted in its 2023 review that the current management of protected areas, which does not prevent regeneration felling, is failing to conserve and maintain the values of protected forests.

According to the Red List, 38 species have become extinct in Estonia, mostly in forests. National monitoring data show that the population of forest birds is declining rapidly, with a 26 per cent decrease in numbers from 1983 to 2018.

To ensure that protected areas, including national parks, ecological reserves, landscape conservation areas, Natura 2000 areas and sacred natural sites, remain unlogged, clear-cutting with regeneration felling must be banned, the environmental groups say. The signatories of the petition suggest that the use of nature should be changed to actually protect these areas.

A bird in a protected area in Estonia. Photo by Liina Steinberg.

The public appeal for the protection of protected areas was initiated by Päästame Eesti Metsad and the non-profit organisations Roheline Laanemaa and Hoiame Loodust, and has now been joined by 25 other organisations.

Read also: The war on Estonian forests.

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