1. FOREST RESOURCES
Agricultural land covers more than 50 percent of Lithuania. Forested land consists of about 28 percent, with l.8 million ha, while land classified as forest corresponds to about 30 percent of the total land area. The southeastern part of the country is most heavily forested, and here forests cover about 45 percent of the land. The total land area under the state Forest Enterprises is divided into forest and non-forest land. Forest land is divided into forested and non-forested land.
Forest land is divided into four protection classes: reserves (2 %); ecological (5.8 %): protected (14.9 %); and commercial (77.3 %). In reserves all types of cuttings are prohibited. In national parks, clear cuttings are prohibited while thinnings and sanitas cuttings are allowed. Clear cutting is permitted, however, with certain restrictions, in protected forests; and thinnings as well. In commercial forests, there are almost no restrictions as to harvesting methods.
Lithuania is situated within the so-called mixed forest belt with a high percentage of broadleaves and mixed conifer-broadleaved stands. Most of the forests - especially spruce and birch - often grow in mixed stands.
Pine forest is the most common forest type, covering about 38 percent of the forest area. Spruce and birch account for about 24 and 20 percent respectively. Alder forests make up about l2 percent of the forest area, which is fairly high, and indicates the moisture quantity of the sites. Oak and ash can each be found on about 2 percent of the forest area. The area occupied by aspen stands is close to 3 percent.
Because of overexploitation of forests during certain periods, the age class distribution in Lithuanian forests is very uneven, with a high percentage of middle-aged and premature stands.
The growing stock given as standing volume per hectare is on the average of l80 m3 in Lithuania. In nature stands, the average growing stock in all Lithuanian forests is about 244 m3 per hectare.
Total annual growth comes to 11 900 000 m3 and the mean timber increment has reached 6.3 m3 per year and per hectare.
In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, reforestation and afforestation were very intensive with initial stocking of 10 000 trees and more per hectare. This high degree of stocking was practiced in order to get high-quality logs. However, the maintenance of these stands has been poor and there are now large areas with over-stocked stands facing problems of instability, snow-break and wind hazard. These stands, together with the lack of markets for small-sized logs, create one of the major problems in Lithuanian forestry today.
The flat terrain with poorly-drained soils results in a high water table. This causes many problems from a forestry point of view. The root systems of the trees are shallow, making them susceptible to wind damages. Frost is a problem in flat areas and drainage is sometimes difficult.
Current harvest has reached some 3.0 million m3 u.b. per year. The consumption of industrial wood in the domestic forest industry, including export of industrial wood, is estimated to be less than 2.0 million m3. The remainder is used for fuel or stored in the forests, with a deteriorating quality as a result.
The potential future annual cut is calculated at 5.2 million m3, of which 2.4 million m3 is made up of sawn timber and the remaining 2.8 million m3 of small dimension wood for pulp or board production, or for fuel. The figures refer to the nearest 10-year period. Thereafter a successive increase should be possible if more intensive and efficient forest management systems are introduced.
2. FOREST INVENTORIES AND MANAGEMENT PLANNING
Forest inventories and management planning are today performed by the Forest Planning Institute (FPI), "Misko projektas", in Kaunas. The FPI, currently under the authority of the Ministry of Forestry, provides all state Forest Enterprises with inventory services and forest management plans. Until recently these plans had to be followed by the Forest Enterprises; today the plans are considered more as guidelines permitting a certain degree of flexibility and freedom to the managers of the enterprises.
A forest inventory is carried out every ten years for each Forest Enterprise according to regulations by the Ministry of Forestry and the results are used for both strategic and operational planning. The techniques used in the inventory are interpretation of aerial photos and field measurements. Standing volume is estimated from relascope measurements of the basal area for each compartment. This technique is simple and fast but does not provide any estimates of strategic parameters such as diameter distribution, volume increment, etc.
The currently stipulated rotation for forest planning is 10 years, which means that 4 or 5 Forest Enterprises are inventoried every year and new management plans are prepared. This preparation of management plans is done partly by computer and partly by manual procedures. The computer lists are manually checked and thinning schedules, etc., are corrected before the plans are distributed to the Forest Enterprises.
Routines for forest planning are today centralized, somewhat theoretical and rather time-consuming. The economic impact of the plan is difficult to calculate, partly because the input data are insufficient for such calculations.
Forest maps are today prepared manually, which means that area calculations, copying, and up-dating are time-consuming. Certain changes are now taking place which lead to the possibilities for upgrading the mapping routines, such as changes in the availability of computers, topographical maps, aerial photographs and base maps produced from satellite images.
The changing political and economic conditions and the changing ownership structure will increase the need for more accurate estimates of the forest balance and the sustainable harvest level, both from the viewpoint of forest policy and from industry development.
The commercialization of the state forestry sector will put new emphasis on the economic viability of management practices and calls for more economic parameters in the planning process as well as more efficient routines for inventory and planning.
3. FOREST POLICY AND LEGISLATION
The following formulation has been recommended as the overall goals of forest policy and as the initial paragraph of the new Forestry Act.
3.1 General goal
"The forest land and the forests growing on them are a national resource which shall be managed so as to provide the highest possible benefit to the country and its people on the basis of sustainability and multiple use, and with a proper environmental consideration. Access to the forest land shall be secured through public rights and responsibilities. Aesthetic and cultural values of the forests shall be protected.
3.2 Wood production goal
"Forest land - suitable and designated for wood production - and forests growing on them shall be managed efficiently and responsibly so as to best utilize the wood production capacity with the aim to providing a sustainably high and economically valuable yield. Management systems shall be adapted to both prevailing growing conditions and demands for environmental protection.
3.3 Environmental goal
"In all management and use of forest land and forests, proper consideration must be given to conservation and protection of nature and wildlife. Biodiversity and genetic variation must be maintained by the protection of endangered plants and animal species, and by conservation of valuable forest biotopes".
A proposal for a new Forestry Act has been prepared by a working group. The first version was sent out to all relevant forestry and environmental organizations in early l993 for comments and remarks. After revision, a third version was presented to the Government in November 1993. The bill was accepted by the Government with some minor changes. It was presented to Parliament in early 1994. According to the Forestry Act, state ownership on forest land will continue to prevail in Lithuania. Forest land may not be leased or converted into other land use type
Guidelines for the application of the law will be implemented by the regional forestry authority.
The Nature Conservation Act has been prepared, focused on combining forestry with nature protection and biodiversity preservation and is closely coordinated with the new Forestry Act (see above). Guidelines for the application of the law must also be prepared. A first version of a new Hunting Act has been prepared.
4. TYPES AND SIZES OF FOREST ENTERPRISES
The organizational framework and administration of the state forest and forest industry in Lithuania had been designed and developed during the USSR period and thus primarily adapted to a centrally planned system with a state and collective ownership structure. The conditions above have, however, drastically changed since Lithuania in 1990 declared itself a free and independent state and there is now a definite need for a substantial restructuring of the institutional framework. Ministries and authorities have been reorganized and their new responsibilities and tasks clearly defined. A new policy and legislation have been formulated and implemented, covering both public and private enterprises.
Almost all forest land is still state owned and controlled and managed by 43 state forest enterprises (averaging 30 000 ha) subordinated to the Ministry of Forestry. The land reform, through which some 25 to 30 percent of the forest land is expected to be given back to the former land owners, is slow and no decisions have been taken regarding further privatization of forest land. The situation demands that certain actions be taken in order to avoid jeopardizing the development of the forest sector or the transition to a free market system. Private forest holdings are mostly very small (averaging 3-5 ha).
5. ORGANIZATION OF THE MINISTRY OF FORESTRY
The Ministry of Forestry should be restructured and its authority more clearly defined. All commercial activities should be screened and organized in separate joint-stock companies or other types of economically detached entities. The forest authority section shall, as it is currently, encompass a central organization but should also be complemented with a regional organization.
The current State Forest Enterprises should be reorganized into one or a few National Forest Enterprises (NFE) with a Board (or corresponding body) through which the State - the owner - exercises its influence and power. The NFE shall be based on a central body and a regional organization, principally made up of current regional Forest Enterprises.
Commercial activities, like wood trading and hunting, should be the right and responsibility of the operating companies and thus be transferred to the proposed new National Forest Enterprise(s).
The Ministry of Forestry shall be organized in one central organizational unit and one regional organization. The central organization shall concentrate on issues of overall national character - policy formulation, revision of forest legislation, overall strategic forest planning and follow-up, etc. - and prepare instructions and guidelines for the work of the regional organization.
The regional organization shall be responsible for the implementation of the forest policy and legislation on a regional level.
To create a neutral wood market and allow private and other state owned forest industry enterprises to compete for the wood on an equal basis, sawmills currently tied to the state forest enterprises should be separated and organized in one or more economically detached state companies. Privatization of some sawmills can be considered at the same time, or be done later, when the new sawmill company has been further developed.
The above strategy allows for a partly or fully successive privatization of forest land and forest enterprise sawmills, but in the meantime creates necessary conditions for the development of the forest enterprises, and the state and private forest industries.
A concession or leasing system for forest land is not recommended. The land owner, whether a private owner, a company or the State, should have full responsibility for reforestation, forest management and nature conservation.
Most new private forest owners are small land owners with limited resources available to manage their forest and trade the wood produced. Moreover, several new forest owners neither have the knowledge nor experience required. The possibility of starting some type of Forest Owners Association aimed at supporting individual forest owners and coordinating price negotiations, trading, etc., should be investigated.
6. LEVEL AND CHOICE OF TECHNOLOGY
Before and shortly after the Second World War, the development of the harvesting systems in Lithuania went beyond the traditional manual/animal logging methods with a large portion of selective cuttings and thinnings. The heavily mechanized whole stem skidding systems with terminal operations and based on heavy Russian type machinery, followed the manual/animal methods. It resulted in a large increase in clear cutting areas.
The last development state, which started a few years ago, includes the introduction of Nordic shortwood systems. The machinery - mainly forwarders, chainsaws, cranes and spare parts - has been imported and mainly financed through barter trade of roundwood with Sweden and Finland.
The future harvesting and transport systems should be fairly like the systems used in Nordic countries. This means manual felling, limbing and bucking to assortment in the stand with power saws. Later these operations could be mechanized by harvesting machines, but today's economic conditions do not permit any mechanization of this operation.
Any further mechanization of the felling-limbing-bucking operations through the introduction of wood harvesters should be postponed until labour wages and availability of manual workers require a higher degree of mechanization in order to keep the harvesting costs down.
In principle, the forest land owners, i.e., today the Forest Enterprises, must take full responsibility for the management and reforestation of their forests, including harvesting.
The use of large wood terminals to which stems are delivered and where various wood assortments are prepared will gradually be replaced by direct delivery of assortments from roadside to the end-user. Split transport and extra handling of wood at the terminals cannot be justified by the quality or cost point of view.
The assortment method which permits delivery of different qualities and sizes of wood to different clients directly from roadside is rapidly increasing its share of the harvested volume. Presently the share is more than 55 percent. This development will certainly induce the increase in long-distance truck transport. The trucking of roundwood to the user is a dominant procedure also today: more than 80 percent is delivered by truck and the rest mainly by railway and some minor quantities by barges.
The truck transport fleet is at present mainly owned by the State Forest Enterprises and includes trucks imported from the former USSR. A relatively large portion of the nearly 400 trucks is equipped with hydraulic cranes. During 1992 about 30 new cranes were imported. Most trucks are designed for whole stem transports and equipped with pole-trailers.
Most of the existing wood trucks are not able to utilize the maximum limits for total weight and axle load. This gives low load size and increased cost per ton km.
Railway transport of roundwood today equals about 20 percent of the total volume transported or about 450 000 m3. Although the distance of transport by railway is much longer (more than 100 km) compared with 26 km for transport by truck, the work in ton/km performed by railway is of the same magnitude as that by truck transport.
The railway network includes 17 permanent and 14 temporary loading points or terminals managed by the Forest Enterprises. The direct transport cost is only 25-40 percent of the trucking costs but the extra handling at the terminals should also be included and in that case the difference will be less.
Railway transport shall also be promoted in the future but the transport system, including railcars, terminals, etc., must be carefully designed. Larger industries at the Baltic Sea coast could gain from the use of a well-designed railway transport system where the terminals could be used as an extended wood storage.
The public road network is sufficient for long-distance wood transport by large truck and trailer combinations. The allowed vehicle dimensions (length 20 m, width 2.5 m, height 4 m), axle loads (l0 tonnes) and total weight (40 tonnes) are restricting cost-efficient wood transports.
The forest road network controlled by the Forest Enterprises is designed for the skidder system which requires a quite dense road network, density 10-30 m/ha of all-weather roads.
The use of army type all-wheel driven trucks on the forest roads gives good access to the forest area all during the year.
The forest road network is not designed for the use of long-distance highway-type large truck and trailer combinations all year round.
7. PRODUCTION SYSTEMS
The overall situation in the Lithuanian forests is favourable. The growth of forests far exceeds the harvest. Much of the silvicultural activities carried out are of high quality, but in spite of this there is room for further improvement.
The seeds used for plantations are not as good as they should be. Today only as little as 20-30 percent of the seeds are genetically improved. While a large seed orchard area has been established, its management has not been intensive enough for good seed production. The reasons for this are several, but there seems to be a limited understanding of the need to use the best available seeds and to appreciate the positive effects this use could have on the forest economy. An additional explanation is that the orchards are managed by the Forest Enterprises and these lack specialists needed for this purpose.
The nursery structure is inappropriate as well. Too many small nurseries consequently result in a seedling production that is hard to control and inefficient. There is very limited equipment at most nurseries, and even watering systems are non-existent in most places. Well-trained nursery specialists are also scarce. This results in a poor seedling quality. Today, small mostly non-transplantable, bare root seedlings completely dominate, with spruce seedlings of an unacceptable quality. For pine seedlings the major problem seems to be that they are planted as one-year-old stock rather than keeping them one more year in the nursery.
Natural regeneration of pines with seed trees is not used in Lithuania. Very dense plantations are still prevalent. Spacing varies with site quality.
The recommended age in Lithuania for final harvest, especially for pine (101) and spruce (81) appears to be too high. Stands must be managed for a maximum return on the capital invested in them. To do this they need to be harvested relatively early and the investment in stand management should be kept low.
Clear cuttings overwhelmingly prevail in Lithuania, reaching about 90 percent. The clear cut areas are to be artificially reforested shortly.
8. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
Lithuania is in a rather good position from which to initiate and promote nature conservation, biodiversity preservation and ecosystem reconstruction for the following reasons:
- Since forest land is still almost entirely state owned, this should facilitate reserving areas for nature protection and applying proper forest management systems.
- Forests are still diverse with a high proportion of broadleaved trees and also a comparably high proportion of wetlands.
- There is a high proportion of national parks and nature reserves set aside; however these are not always protected in an effective manner or managed in a way that emphasizes nature conservation.
- Many sensitive species of plants and animals are still present.
The development trends are, however, not wholly favourable from the nature conservation point of view and the risk of short-sighted thinking and acting is great during the current economic recession, privatization process and transition towards a free market economy. The legislation has only partly been adapted to the new conditions and lack of knowledge and awareness of nature conservation; the issues of biodiversity preservation among its people is obvious. Lithuania signed the agreement of the Rio Conference in 1992.
There are over 2 000 species of vascular plants, of which l 450 are native, about 250 species of mosses, 400 species of lichens and 2 000 species of fungi in Lithuania. Today 501 of all species of the Lithuanian flora and fauna are listed in the red data book, according to the IUCN criteria. Of the total 120 endangered species (Category 1), there are 52 angiosperms, 29 insects and 12 bird species.
Currently Lithuania has rather dense populations of moose, deer and wild boars. These species are the most important for hunting and have a great economic value both for the Lithuanian hunters as well as for the Forest Enterprises selling and organizing hunting to foreigners. However, intensive browsing from elks and deer causes severe damage to the forest and prevents the deciduous tree species from growing into an adult phase and reproducing. This may, besides economic losses in the forestry sector, become a serious long-term conservation problem for hole nesting birds and mammals and other species that use old deciduous oak, ash and aspen trees.
The area that is under some form of protection at present reaches roughly 10 percent of the total land area. This includes 4 nature reserves; 5 national parks of which one (Trakai) is established for historical/cultural ends; 30 regional parks; 295 nature conservation reserves of various kinds; and 688 natural monuments. However, only the nature reserves and very limited areas within the national parks are strictly protected under the nature protection criteria. The strictly protected area totals less than 0.5 percent of the total land area
The frequency of dead or dying spruce trees in the Lithuanian forests has increased substantially recently, truly disturbing, and apparently due to an increasing number of the spruce bark beetle, Ips typographus. The remaining dead and tying wood in the forests from recent snow and storm damage provides the bark beetle with an excellent environment for a rapid population growth.
Moose and deer damage to forests in many parts of Lithuania is so deep-rooted that reforestation sometimes has become impossible. Many young stands are also being severely damaged. Priority must be given to considerably reduce the cervid population in such areas to a lower level. However, very recent felling statistics indicate that this is being accomplished to some degree. It should also be mentioned that there are parts of Lithuania with relatively low populations of moose and deer where a carefully controlled increase of populations could be acceptable.
Over the last few years, air pollution in general seems to have decreased, particularly in and around the cities, even if dust and nitrous oxide emissions have increased. The present low economic activity in Lithuania in all probability will serve to further reduce pollution in the near future. Long-term improvement will require large-scale investments in purification equipment and less polluting fuel or raw materials.
A sophisticated monitoring system has been set up to control air pollution in the forests and forest development, but the present economic situation makes it difficult to maintain this separate system.
9. FOREST EDUCATION, RESEARCH, TRAINING AND EXTENSION
The Lithuanian research and educational system is well organized but was designed and structured during the former USSR period; this is strongly reflected in the system as well as in the scope and content of its research and educational programs.
In the forestry sector, basic research, mainly addressing silvicultural issues, is covered by the Forest Research Institute and Forestry Faculty of the Agriculture Academy, both in Kaunas.
Environmental research, related to forestry and the forest industry, is spread over several institutions dedicated to research on water and water effluents, air pollution, etc. Very little research is devoted to environmental issues in the above-mentioned institutions for forestry and forest industry research.
Higher education in the forestry and forest industry sectors is offered at universities and colleges while vocational training and complementary training for staff and workers at enterprises are almost totally lacking. Some vocational training is provided for forest industry workers, mainly carpenters, etc.
Today Lithuania has a total of 15 institutions for research and higher education. There are 29 research institutes conducting research in the humanities, natural or social sciences and certain applied sciences given priority in Lithuania such as geology, biotechnology, construction and architecture, and agriculture. Moreover 16 research centres investigate practical problems, engage in experimental design and conduct analyses in ministries and departments of higher education.
New political, economic and organizational conditions now demand restructuring of the research and educational system and emphasis on applied research and the introduction of vocational training, extension and complementary education and training of employees at private and state-owned enterprises. Special attention should be given to marketing, company management, economy, environmental issues, etc., in addition to more traditional technical subjects.
Lithuanian researchers are skilled and experienced but need to upgrade their knowledge with western technology, environmental protection and market economy. Training courses in other countries are necessary to improve this situation.
Educational institutions in the forestry and forest industry sector train a considerable number of students each year, which in some areas may be exaggerated for Lithuania. As the development in the country is expected to bring about changes in the employee structure, improved contacts with the enterprises and the labour market are also important. The educational institutions need prior information on staff development plans of the enterprises so as to gear the plans to the numbers and requirements of the students.
The curricula of higher educational institutions are successively being updated. New subjects that should be given priority are: market economy, new technology and environmental issues related to forestry and the forest industry.
The development towards an increasing number of private forest owners creates a new target group with a need for information and training on most aspects of forestry and nature conservation. Many of the smaller enterprises of the forest industry have a similar need for information.
In order to best diffuse this knowledge in forestry and nature conservation, it is suggested that an extension organization be established to utilize the proposed regional organization of the Ministry of Forestry.
A large number of professionals in forestry and the forest industry need urgent upgrading of their know-how. Economy and new technology, markets and marketing, energy conservation and environmental issues are high priority items. A system of short, target-oriented training courses needs to be developed.
At present, there are no formal requirements for vocational training in order to be employed as a worker in forestry or the forest industry. It is suggested that specialized vocational training be established for forest workers at 3-4 vocational schools in Lithuania. Close contacts with the higher educational institutions is important when selecting the locations of these vocational schools.
Lithuanian teachers have considerable skill and experience but need to upgrade their knowledge. Economy and modern technology are subjects with high priority as well as environmentally related issues such as nature protection, impact of air pollution and water effluents, etc. Cooperation with other countries is suggested so as to develop short, target-oriented courses.
Funds for research are allocated from the state budget in a centralized process covering all branches, institutes and programs. While giving a good over-all picture, the smaller branches may have difficulty requesting resources for important work in their branch.
A modified system for financing of research is suggested with a split-budget approach. Part of the budget should be allocated for operation of the institutions, basic research and a part of their applied research. The remainder of the budget for applied research should be allocated through research funds provided by respective branches (state and privately-owned companies) and through remunerated research done on a consultancy basis.