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Chapter 10

I. Basic Characteristics

A. Forestry

The area of managed forest land in Estonia amounts to 1,925,500 ha, or 44,5% of the land area of Estonia (without Lake Peipus). In total, 1,850,100 ha (95% of forest land) is covered with stands. The general stock volume is 286.8 million scm (solid cubic metres) or 155 scm per hectare. Increment estimations are somewhat inexact, depending on the calculation methods but should with great probability vary between 9.2- 9.8 million scm (managed forest land).

The growing stock per inhabitant in Estonia is 178 cubic metres but if we take into account the timber from the areas covered by bushes and shrubs and from natural grasslands (15 million cubic metres in all), it is 187 cubic metres. In the forests of Estonia the annual current increment of timber per one inhabitant is 5.8 cubic metres. With regard to these indicators Estonia surpasses the world average level and also the level of many European countries.

Table 10-1
Percentage of Dominant Tree Species in Estonian Forests

Specie% of forest land% of stands% of growing stock
Pine forests37.738.239.1
Spruce forests23.522.525.1
Birch groves30.230.627.1
White alder forests4.34.54.0

Source: [5]

Because of the ongoing land reform and consequent changes in ownership patterns, it is very complicated to provide a comprehensive overview of private forests, since the land and forest that formerly belonged to the State is in the process of “transition”. By traditional State forest land is meant forest land that until July 23, 1940 belonged to the State and which in most instances will not be privatised. The rest can be treated as private forest because it will overwhelmingly be returned or privatised. By January 1, 1996, there were 25,154 land holdings (with 99,875 ha of forest) which may be treated as private forests according to the Forest Act; they had been registered in the Land Cadastre (Table 10-4). Nearly 0.9 million ha of forest land is waiting to be returned or privatised.

Table 10-2
Distribution of Forest Land by Ownership Category

 State forest districtsFarmsOther agricultural producersOthersTotal
Countytotal land areaforest land areatotal land areaforest land areatotal land areaforest land areatotal land areaforest land areatotal land areaforest land area
x1000 hax1000 hax1000 hax1000 hax1000 hax1000 hax1000 hax1000 hax1000 hax1000 ha
Ida - Viru195.5136.313.26.897.633.530.10.0336.4176.6
Lääne - Viru110.091.136.614.3188.057.511.90.4346.5163.3

Table 10-3
Distribution of Stands by Dominant Tree Species

Dominant tree species
CountyOwnership categoryArea of managed stands
pinesprucelarchoakashbirchaspencommon alderwhite alderother
per cent of area
Harjustate forest123 089.453.
 private forest5 869.822.227.1-
Hiiustate forest43211.953.111.8--
 private forest1 302,332.413.90.20.940.11.610.30.50.1
lda-state forest131 99.748.413.90.1-0.343.
Viruprivate forest3 370.026.520.8 -0 10 136 22.51.619.50.2
Jõgevastate forest67 182.423.026.90.1-0.343.
 private forest3 664.812.327.5-
Järvastate forest63 188.539.931.80.1 -
 private forest4 619.523.334.4 -- -
Läästate forest42 600.747.811.20.40.435.
 private forest1 879.618.
Läästate forest87 753.641.729.
Viruprivate forest6 070.816.345.5-
Põlvastate forest47 929.264.716.
 private forest7 047.154.516.9---
Pärnustale forest140 358.642.019.3- 1.31.4-
 private forest7 853.831.017.4-
Raplastate forest78 791.744.324.0-0.5-27.01.6 0.91.6-
 private forest14 181.026.725. 1.310.1-
Saarestate forest58 701.366.94.8-4.60.820.71.4 0.50.3-
 private forest1 805.852.29.4-2.42.624.26.9
Tartustate forest66
 private forest6 977.219.126.3-0.10.338.22.2 2.311.40.1
Valgastate forest57 326.353.624.
 private forest1 952.116.236.2--0.332.71.0 0.313.00.2
Viljandistate forest79 074.434.326. 2.02.3-
 private forest2 071.920.228.4- 1.518.2-
Võrustate forest52 904.956.425.60.10.1-15.01.7 0.20.7-
 private forest6 108.835.026.0---26.42.5
Totalstate forest1 140 130.745.420. 1.2-
 private forest74 774.527.725.4-0.20.530.92.2 1.811.10.1

Table 10-4
Registered Cadastral Units in the Land Cadastre as of December 31, 1995

CountyNumber of cadastral unitsTotal areaOf which forest land

According to the Estonian Forest Management Centre a forest owner has on average 8.7 ha forest land with an annual increment of 5.2 scm. The dominant tree species are spruce 29%, pine 27%, birch 25% and white alder 11%. The volume of timber used as prescribed by the management plan is on an average 94% of the increment. Tree species envisaged to be felled have the following distribution: spruce 30%, white alder 23%, birch 19% and pine 14%. Such a difference between the growing stock and its use is conditioned by the age distributions of the stock, resulting in their turn from historical factors. At the outset of the Republic of Estonia, 70 years ago, farm forests were cut ignoring the principles of their even use. Spruce stands starting to grow during this period have become mature by now but are in a relatively poor condition. After World War II neglected agricultural land has been renewed with birch and white alder stands which have also become mature.

The total volume of all fellings (3,819.5 thousand scm) carried out in 1995 exceeded the amount cut the previous year by 196.3 thousand scm or 5.4%. The corresponding figures for forest land are respectively 3,755.0 and 218.7 scm or 6.2%. The share of final fellings decreased by 102.9 thousand scm or 5.7%. Thinnings, on the other hand increased, by 252.8 thousand scm or 16% and the ratio of other cuttings grew by 46.4 thousand scm or 18.8%.

Compared to last year, the volume of all felling on farmlands increased by 145.5 thousand scm or 32.3%. and on the land of agricultural cooperatives, other agricultural producers and State forests of other management types by 29.2 thousand scm or 8.3%. On the lands managed by state forest districts the volume of fellings increased by 21.6 thousand scm or 0.8%.

Final fellings yielded 1,426.87 scm of marketable wood. This figure is 13% smaller than in 1994. Different forest harvesting companies logged 63% of final fellings, whereas 43% of fellings were performed by the 10 biggest forest companies. Timber cut by farmers on preferential conditions made 70,000 thousand scm or 5% of the volume of final fellings. 177.33 thousand scm or 12% was cut by contractors. Forest districts logged 111.17 scm or 8%.

B. Water

1. Surface Water Resources

Estonia is rich in both ground and surface water resources. There are over 1,400 lakes in Estonia as well as 7,400 rivers, streams and drainage canals, of which 15 rivers have a catchment area than 1,000 km2. Estonian rivers are divided four basins: the Lake Peipus-Narva River basin, the Gulf of Finland basin, the Bay and Muhu Sound basin, and the Island basin (Fig. 10-1). The average runoff from Estonian territory is 8.2 1/skm2 or 11.7 billion m3 per year, equivalent to a 258 mm layer of water. Only 0.4 % of this flows into the territory of Latvia or the Russian Federation. Average precipitation is 600–750 mm per year but is somewhat lower in the islands and coastal areas. The Haanja uplands in Southeast Estonia and Sakala uplands in south receive the greatest precipitation. Evaporation (evapo-transpiration) is 400–450 mm per year.

The average runoff differs from area in Estonia (Fig. 2); the.specific discharge varies in region of 4–12 1/skm2. The greatest specific discharge is in the Pandivere uplands (10–12 1/skm2). From there runoff in the direction of Gulf of Finland and Bay of Riga reduces to 7–8 1/skm2 and in the direction of Lake Peipus-Pskov to 4–5 1/skm2. The average runoff may vary considerably through the years. In the case of large rivers, this difference can be much as 3 or 4 times. Runoff within any one year fluctuates greatly. Floods caused by spring snow smelt constitute some 40–50 % of the total yearly runoff and the specific discharge are 70–120 1/skm2. Runoff is at a minimum during winter and summer. Winter runoff makes up 15–20% the yearly runoff, with specific discharge of 1.54 1/skm2. Summer runoff constitutes only 10% of the yearly runoff, with specific discharge 0.54 1/skm2. The latter is of particular importance from the point of view of supplying agriculture with water and when planning irrigation (Fig. 10-3). In order for sufficient discharge to remain in the rivers so that the minimum sanitary standards can be reached, no more than 0.5 1/skm2 of water should be taken from them. That would give 175 million m3, enabling 150,000 ha of fields to be irrigated.

It will not possible to implement irrigation in the islands and coastal areas, where the minimum specific discharge is 0.5–1.0 1/skm2, without runoff being regulated (reservoirs). The considerable runoff and high water levels in rivers in spring and autumn require the construction of drainage systems for fields and grasslands. Waterlogged soil would prevent the majority of the land being used in Estonian agriculture from being cultivated, sown or harvested.

Estonia is situated entirely in the Baltic Sea basin and therefore all pollutants and decomposed substances which have been discharged into rivers eventually reach this half enclosed sea. Because of this, the level of pollution in rivers must be continually monitored. According to the Estonian Ministry of the Environment, in 1992 Estonian rivers carried 54,4001 of organic matter, 48,600 t of nitrogen and 1,400 t of phosphorus into the Baltic Sea. By 1994, the figures had fallen to 35,650 t of organic matter, 27,590 t nitrogen and 1,200 t of phosphorus. Agriculture has also had a part to play in the falling levels of pollution through a reduction in the use of chemical fertilisers and the fact that many large farms have ceased to exist or reduced their operations.

2. Ground Water Resources

Estonia is situated on the southern slope of the Fennoscandian shield. Because Estonia rose from the sea bed, its surface is flat. The variety of the landscape is due to the retreating ice shield which completely changed the appearance of the country after the last glaciation period, i. e. about 10,000 years ago. In Estonia the bedrock is represented by Ordovician and Silurian carbonate rocks (limestone) and partly also by Vendian, Cambrian and Devonian terrigenous rocks (sandstone). The surface relief of the bedrock is flat, with slight elevation and depressions. The Quaternary deposits are unevenly distributed, almost lacking at the northern coast and being up to 200 m thick in south The underlying aquifers are as follows: Quaternary; Upper-Middle Devonian; Middle Devonian; Middle Devonian Silurian; Silurian-Devonian; Ordovician-Cambrian; Cambrian-Vendian.

Estonia is hydrogeologically rather well studied. For the majority of towns and settlements groundwater is the only source of potable and industrial water (except Tallinn and Narva cities where groundwater resources are very limited).

In the beginning of the 1990s, about half of individual consumers in rural areas had potable water of poor quality, mainly polluted with nitrates from fertilisers. Due to the economic decline in agriculture in recent years, the problem of nitrate pollution has generally been reduced and now has a local character. In some places the pollution of ground water with oil products (former military air fields), nitric compounds (areas with intensive agriculture dating from Soviet times) and with bacterial components characteristic of waste water, is a serious problem. Large areas of groundwater polluted with oil products have formed around locations of military' bases.

There is extensive use of groundwater as drinking water in Estonia and problems exist with the content of natural minerals. Concentrations of iron and heavy metals occur above the Estonian Drinking Water Standard in some places, as do concentrations of fluoride which can reach over 6 mg/I in southwestern Estonia. As a result of intensive human activities the hydrodynamic balances of aquifers have been damaged in Tallinn and Kohtla-Järve. That will bring significant degradation of ground water in the future.

The quality of groundwater in deeper aquifers mainly satisfies existing requirements for potable water. But in southern Estonia, groundwater, which is bound up in Devonian sandstones, frequently has a high natural iron content. In western and sporadically in central Estonia, groundwater of the Silurian-Ordovician water horizon has higher fluorine content than permissible, which makes it difficult, and in certain districts impossible, to get water suitable for use without prior treatment. In 1995 the total groundwater consumption was 201,400 m3/d.

Figure 10-1
Estonian Rivers and Basis

Figure 10-1

1 - Lake Peipus-Narva River basin; 2- Gulf of Finland basin; 3- Bay of Riga and Muhu Sound basin; 4- Island basin.

Figure 10-2
Average Specific Discharge 1/skm2 in Estonia

Figure 10-2

Figure 10-3
Minimal 30-day Specific Discharge in Summer in Estonia

Figure 10-3

Figure 10-4
Groundwater Resources in Estonia by County

Figure 10-4

Figure 10-5
Area of Drained Land in Estonia by County

Figure 10-5

Figure 10-6
Area of Sub-drainage Systems in Estonia by County

Figure 10-6

3. Land Amelioration

The yearly allocation of water resources and water quality are affected by land amelioration. Drainage systems quickly lead the spring floods away and therefore the maximum volumes of runoff increase and the groundwater level in drained fields and grasslands rapidly subsides. Drainage systems are essential in our climate because it is thanks to drainage that it is possible to sow at the right time in spring and harvest in autumn.

Drainage of agricultural land in Estonia dates back to 1650, when the first areas of pasture land were drained artificially. The first drainage bureau was established in 1897 and the first Baltic Marsh Improvement Society in 1906. In 1925 a Land Amelioration Law was passed, followed by a Law on Water Conveyance in 1928 which transferred the operation and maintenance (O & M) outflow canals to amelioration societies. By 1939 there were 779 such societies. In 1957 Land Amelioration Bureaus were established to expand, operate and maintain the systems. By 1975 about 165,000 ha had been artificially drained, of which about 145,000 ha were sub-surface drained. In the 1970s around 40,000 ha of sub-surface drains were constructed annually.

Materials used for sub-surface drainage have historically included wood, rock and clay tiles. Only during the last five years have PVC pipes been introduced. Today there are still around 3,600 ha drained by wooden pipes. PVC pipes cover about 5,000 ha and clay tiles about 634,000 ha. The total length of the pipes is 322,700 km.

The lack of true land ownership during the last five years has reduced the responsibility for the drainage sub-sector and the rate of reconstruction of the old drainage infrastructure has been considerably reduced in line with limited public funding. New farmers, largely with temporary titles to the land, are financially weak and not sufficiently organised to carry out the O & M of the drainage systems under their responsibility. Consequently, insufficient O&M is being done, leading to reduced canal capacities and the continuing deterioration of tiles.

The capital invested in land amelioration has been considerable: 650,000 ha of tile drains alone represent an investment of no less than 6 billion EEK at current prices. If the open canal system below tile drains and the 96,000 ha without tile drains are taken into consideration, the figure comes to around 10 billion EEK.

The speed of further drainage expansion has slowed since 1990 to an annual rate of about 7,200 ha/year whilst necessary reconstruction due to worn out systems has increased to 9.000 ha/year, of which only 2,000 ha/year are actually being reconstructed. This deferred maintenance has led to the accumulation of some 4.000,000 m3 of deposits in large canals, spread over a length of more than 4,000 km, and a similar amount in about 36,000 km of smaller canals.

Currently 732,000 ha of agricultural land in Estonia are drained, including 650,000 ha with sub-surface drainage (Figs. 10–5 and 10–6). The total length of open drains and drainage canals is 45,306 km and of drainage pipes 324,607 km. If water conditions are not regulated through the use of drainage then 2/3 of the land suitable for agricultural production will suffer from excessive moisture. During the course of property and land reforms, a large proportion of land is being returned to the former owner or passed on to a new owner. Drainage systems are large and are therefore beginning to be used by many farmers. This creates complex legal and economic relations between the owners because water does not recognise the borders between different areas of land.

II. Past and Current Policies

A. Forestry

Forestry plays an important role in alleviating socio-economic problems as well as fostering rural development and helping provide employment for the population. That is why the most general aim of Estonian forest policy is the preservation of forests and assuring their stability, high productivity and biological diversity. The general principles of Estonian forest policy have been stated in the Forest Act passed by Parliament on October 20,1993. According to this Act, the forest is an ecosystem which consists of woodlands, trees, shrubs and other plants growing there and animals living there.

In the early 1990s the Estonian forestry sector was organised largely on the basis of structures inherited from the Soviet era. The adjustment to a market economy and to new environmental standards proved to be slow and difficult, and gradually it became apparent that a thorough overhaul of the sector was needed. The principal issues were related to organising public forest administration, establishing an appropriate balance between forest production and conservation, and providing support to private forest owners. In order to accelerate the development of the forest sector and to improve the basis for legislative reforms, the Ministry of the Environment decided in early 1995 to launch the Estonian Forestry Development Programme which included among its tasks the formulation of a National Forest Policy.

The principal objectives in the development of an Estonian forestry policy were:

  1. establishing, a clear definition of the mandate and functions of the Forest Department (FD);

  2. providing a range of policy options to support private forestry;

  3. making a reassessment of public support for the wood industries;

  4. carrying out an analysis of the sustainability of forest management.

The final version of the Estonian forestry policy was completed for democratic debate on September 30, 1996. Representatives of several ministries, organisations and institutions participated in the preparation of the document. The text of the document 121 became the main starting point for the compilation of the material concerning forestry in this Strategy.

B. Water

Notwithstanding the drawn-out process of land reform and the fact that reorganisation of agricultural production will still take a considerable time, interest in land amelioration has not disappeared. Starting from the passing of the Law on Farms, 2,852 farmers have submitted applications to the Land Amelioration Bureaus for maintenance and repair of land amelioration systems. This work must be carried out jointly and therefore 43 land amelioration societies, with 516 members and encompassing 34,552 ha of drainage systems, have already established in Estonia A similar number of societies are also currently in the process of being established.

A loan project from World Bank is commencing and this will enable land drainage systems on 60,000 hectares to be maintained. It is planned to carry out the work at about 60 sites. In the process of the work, the main canals and drainage outlets will be brought into order and cleaned out, the pipes and wells will be repaired and, if necessary, the drainage collectors and drains themselves will cleaned. This kind of work costs an average of 1,500 EEK per hectare. The land users who will benefit from the work participate in the financing of the project with their own resources to the extent of 20%. Depending on the technical conditions and natural circumstances at the site, the economical return period for the maintenance work is between 3.7 and 4.3 years. This kind of work is considerably cheaper than the construction of brand new drainage systems (the latter costing approximately 20,000 EEK per hectare) and therefore all energy and resources should be directed towards it. It is clear that, even with the best will in the world, it is simply not possible to keep all systems in good condition and so it is recommended that land with the poorest drainage should be forested. In 1994 the Land Amelioration Law of the Republic of Estonia was passed and it regulates the legal aspects of land amelioration.

III. Issues and Constraints

A. Forestry

In the Soviet era. the State had sole responsibility for all matters concerning forests and forest products. The Forest Department (FD), directly under the Minister of the Environment, is responsible for the management of State forests and for the development of government forest policy. The policy an regulatory- functions have been given limited resources and generally are overshadowed by the pressing needs of operational management. These activities require a larger share of professional and research support.

Forestry is closely interlinked with agriculture, industry, energy, the environment and other critical areas. It is therefore essential that the formulation of forest policies be conducted as a consultative process involving all relevant parties, including the Government, the private sector, and non-governmental organisations. This process should aim at building a working consensus on the principles and issues of forest management.

To accomplish the above, and to achieve the necessary separation of operational management from policy and regulatory functions, the institutional and organisational structure for managing forests should be reviewed. Under the present arrangements the FD is responsible for both the extensive commercial operations of State forests and the overall policy and forest resource management functions relating to both State and privately owned forests. Given the prominence of commercial objectives in the management of State forests, additional conflicts of interest may emerge since both private forest owners and the FD will be major (and potentially competing) players in the various wood markets.

Estonian forests have in recent times been characterised by a constant decrease in felling intensity. During 19911995 the average amount of marketable timber made up only 1.06% of the growing stock. In countries with developed forestry (Sweden, Finland) felling intensity reaches 2.53.0%. The moderate figures of Estonia have a historical background: areas covered with forest have expanded nearly 2.2 times during the last 50 years. Nearly half of this additional forest land was formerly not covered with trees and now has youngish stands growing, and it has conditioned the relative decrease in final fellings. The development plan of the Estonian forest complex for 19912020 refers to 3500.0 thousand scm as the mean annual felling volume (19911995). Of this only 80.1% was fulfilled. The fact that actual fellings lag behind the volumes forecast is partly caused by the various cutting restrictions established for the period of the land reform. At the same time, another relevant factor is the fact that environmental protection interests are convinced that they can perform their task of protecting forests better the longer the forests keep growing. Therefore, the area of forests where all forestry work is forbidden has begun to grow considerably in recent years.

The volume of agricultural production in Estonia has reduced significantly in recent years. According to various estimates, some 300,000400,000 ha of arable land remained uncultivated in 19941995. This kind of tendency is not a new phenomenon of the last half century although it has rapidly accelerated (Table 10-5).

Table 10-5
Total Area of Estonian Forest Stands and Volume of Growing Stock

Area of forest stands (1.000 ha)853131216561812181619151920
Total volume of growing stock (million m3)108135196237260270275

In addition to the above, we have 100,000–200,000 ha (officially 136,000 ha) of overgrown thicket areas and around 240,000 ha of natural grasslands which are in the process of becoming overgrown. It can therefore be forecast that the use of at least 300,000 ha of land will have to be restructured. The most likely means of development is natural and, to a lesser extent, induced afforestation of such areas.

In the framework of research done by the Estonian Forestry Development Programme it has become evident that the associations of forest owners are weak. Twelve different associations and unions have joined the Estonian Association of Private Forests and currently represent the interests of approximately 250 members.

The provision of technical and commercial services to private forest owners will initially rely on the emerging forest owners' organisations and the establishment of a supportive State organisation. Forest owners' organisations should eventually become self-sustaining units without the need for public financing, as their members' knowledge and skills increase. In the interim, these organisations could be provided with partial State funding to ensure that they have adequate skills and that they provide more comprehensive outreach among forest owners.

A special issue related to private forestry is the average woodlot size. It is likely that the average size will remain small, around 10 ha, and that there will be 80–100,000 forest owners in Estonia. The large number of such owners has a social value in that it improves income distribution and indicates broad participation in a major economic activity. On the other hand, the small average size of the lots increases the costs of forest management and harvesting and may reduce the bargaining power of the owners, unless they form marketing cooperatives.

B. Water

The main concerns for water management are: a) the general state of disrepair of much of the drainage system, b) the lack of institutional development and funding arrangements that are adequate to guarantee continued proper maintenance of the system, and c) the possibility that a revival of agricultural activity could bring a recurrence of the high levels of agricultural water pollution that occurred in the past.

In order to maintain drainage systems at the current level it is necessary:

Major constraints that currently hamper the full realisation of these steps include the incomplete nature of the land reform and its legislative framework (see Chapter 3); the lack of sufficient farmer training and institutional development in farming communities in regard to the kind of cooperation among diverse kinds of farms that is necessary for the organisation and management of land amelioration societies; and the lack of sufficient funding at the national level for restoration of deteriorated drainage systems.

IV. Policy Objectives

A. Forestry

The Estonian forest policy recognizes that Estonian forests have high environmental and ecological values in terms of species biodiversity and landscape, natural stand structure, etc. Certain ecosystems may even have global significance. This value will be protected in compliance with the international agreements the Estonian Government is committed to. On the other hand, the Forest Policy is underpinned by the notion that the Estonian forest sector has high capacity to provide material and social benefits, and that the utilisation of this potential will be encouraged to the extent that other values and benefits are not lost or reduced. Thirdly, it is considered imperative that the action taken today does not reduce the amount and range of benefits available to future generations.

The policy objectives for the Estonian forestry sector are:

Following the re-independence of Estonia in 1991 and the passing of the Forest Act in 1993, the more specific defined objectives of policy have been:

B. Water

The overall objectives for water management for agriculture are:

The strategy for drainage maintenance work until 1999 must take into consideration the fact that not all agricultural land will have a use in the near future. Therefore some of drained land will have to be afforested. It is practical to omit insufficiently drained peat land (26,200 ha) and areas of light mineral soil (49,000 ha) from agricultural use. This means that substantial repairs and costly reconstruction work will no longer be a problem in these areas. In areas of insufficiently drained heavy mineral soil (19,200 ha), costly reconstruction could be replaced by repairs enabling the areas to be brought to the requisite standard for use grasslands.

Further savings could possibly be made by planning repair and reconstruction work on older land amelioration systems in a programme for the next five years so that the rate of depreciation for systems less than 20 years old is 3–5% per year. For older systems, the equivalent rate would be 2.5–3 times greater. Of the currently used systems, 31% of them have been in use since before 1975. This could be the starting point for the compilation of programme for minimising maintenance work. The volume, costs and economical return period of maintenance work until the year 2000 are presented in Table 10-6, having taken all the above into account.

It is apparent that the total cost of the maintenance work be 1.022 billion EEK and of the minimum programme 0.704 billion EEK. If it is possible to realise the minimum programme, then by the end of century 2,900 ha will remain insufficiently drained, 175,300 ha will be satisfactorily drained and 389,600 ha will be well drained.

Table 10-6
Volume, Costs And Profitability of Drainage Maintenance Work

Soil typeVolume (thousand ha)Costs (thousand EEK)Economical return period (years)
TotalMaintenanceNecessary minimum repairsReconstructionTotalMaintenanceNecessary minimum repairsReconstructionRepairsReconstruction
Light mineral soil78,541,237,3-145439,613196,2132243,4-4.8 
Medium mineral soil358,0135,0198,025,0866252,631146,0621881,8213224,86.37.0
244,791,222,1. 665129,456525,7420112,8188490,9
Heavy mineral soil115,524,790,8 -5492,5207,95284,6-0.1 

V. Policy Analysis

A. Forestry

In order to ensure neutrality and independence in the institutional environment of the forest sector, the responsibility for fulfilling normative functions is assigned to the State and their implementation is carried out by State organisations including municipal bodies. These functions include the formulation of forest policy, ensuring its consistency with other forest-related policies such as land use and environmental policies; and the formulation of legislation and law enforcement.

Forest land will be maintained in the ownership of the Republic of Estonia, Estonian nationals or legal persons-registered in Estonia. Privatisation of State forests will not be initiated until the national economy has stabilised, since at this stage of development the State is considered to be best positioned to secure the protection of environmental values and long-term investments inherent to sustainable forest management. Therefore, for a considerable period the State will retain ownership of a forest area at least equal to that which was in State ownership until 23 June 1940. This corresponds to approximately half of the present forest area.

In order to strengthen the basis for economic development in rural areas, the local population will have a preferential status among potential buyers when forest areas for which no claim has been made are privatised. Some of these areas will be set aside as multiple-use municipal forests, as recommended in Chapter 6, for the benefit of local populations.

The policy aims to increase stability in the roundwood market and to secure the functioning of market mechanisms in a manner which ensures the rational utilisation of raw material, an increase in local processing volume and high value added of exported products. The adoption of environmentally friendly methods of wood processing will be encouraged. To these ends, the present auction-based roundwood sales system in State Forests will be complemented by introducing long-term supply contracts and sales by assortments. The State will also arrange for certification of wood production chain and wood products based on internationally accepted standards.

The restructuring of the utilisation of land not used in agriculture requires both State and private efforts. If it is decided to afforest 300.000 ha of former agricultural land, then this will mean a ninefold increase in the planting of saplings, a sevenfold increase in nursery area and additional annual investments of at least 300 million EEK. The formation of private nurseries to support such a programme will be encouraged, and afforestation contracts will be extended to the private sector The contracts will carry with them the right to specified long-term future exploitation of the afforested areas, under State monitoring.

1. Analysis of Firewood on Land not Used for Agricultural Production

As remarked above, the volume of agricultural production in Estonia has reduced significantly in recent years. Taking a longer-term view, during the period 1940–1994, the total area of forest has grown from 850.000 ha to 2,000.000 ha (Table 10-5). Since the war, less than 100,000 ha of forest cultures have been introduced into unproductive areas. It can therefore be seen that afforestation has occurred as a natural process and at the expense of natural grasslands.

The volume of felling has been 3–4 million m3 for decades. The prognosis according to State forestry policy is as follows. As the use of forest resources is currently below the level guaranteeing even utilisation of the standing timber, one route for forestry management is increasing felling volumes. This can be made possible in State forests by designating how felling units should be calculated. In private forests an increase in the volume of forest utilisation can be helped along by advising forest owners. Since the volume of forest utilisation also depends on the market situation, the wishes of the owner, etc., State forestry policy does not anticipate that felling volume will increase to more than 8 million m3 per year, thereby guaranteeing observation of the even utilisation principle in Estonian forests.

Estonia has considerable timber and peat resources. By using them to a greater extent than has hitherto been the case, it would be possible to increase the relative importance of domestic fuels in the national energy balance. It is possible to reduce economic and political dependence on imported fuels, to increase local employment (especially amongst country dwellers) and to decrease pollution resulting from the use of fossil fuels.

Approximate calculations of firewood resources are as follows: There are 2 million ha of forests in Estonia and the average increase is 5 m3/ha per year. A total of 10 million m3 of stem wood is produced yearly, not including branches. Half of the stem timber is small-sized timber and, of that, half is suitable only for heating. There are approximately 150,000 ha of overgrown areas (producing yearly 1 million m3 of timber only suitable for heating) and the same amount of natural grasslands in the process of becoming overgrown. The additional 300,000–400,000 ha of naturally afforested abandoned agricultural land of recent years overwhelmingly produces firewood.

There are currently some 3–4 million m3 of timber ready for felling in Estonia, of which firewood officially accounts for 1.2–1.5 million m3. The actual volume is clearly greater, particularly in terms of timber used for heating farms and private houses. Firewood constitutes 1–2% of total energy consumption in Estonia and 7.5% of the heating produced in boilerhouses has firewood as its source

The price of firewood has risen continuously in 1991–1996 whilst at the same time the price of logs and pulpwood has stabilised. Occasionally there are even price reductions. In 1994–1995 boilerhouses switched to using local fuels. This change progressed successfully thanks to loans and the low cost of firewood. In the winter of 1995/96, boilerhouses began to experience economic difficulties. The only possibility of guaranteeing the future competitiveness of local sustainable bio-fuels against fossil fuels is regulation by means of taxes. Using the experiences of several countries (e.g. Sweden, Denmark etc.), it can be said that an energy and contamination tax should be placed on fossil fuels or that, at the very least, firewood should be exempt from the sales tax (VAT).

Using research results from neighbouring countries (Sweden, Finland) and also some from Estonia, it appears that the natural conditions in Estonia are suitable for special energy plantations, particularly the planting of osiers. However, in view of economic considerations (expenses for land cultivation, fertiliser, chemical controls, the planting of special stands, and technology for cleaning and chopping biomass) and aspects of environmental protection (pollution from pesticides and fertilisers), it cannot be said that the development of energy stands has a particularly promising future for at least the next ten years. Nor is it likely to gain any great importance in the Estonian energy sector or rural management within that time span. One very important application of energy stands may, however, be the treating of sewage.

The process which began in the 1990s of former agricultural land no longer being used for that purpose has gone on unregulated. Former agricultural land has not been afforested and this is unlikely to change much in the near future. A predominantly natural overgrowing process is occurring with new types of trees and bushes, particularly grey alders. Grey alder groves already make up at least half a million hectares of overgrown areas, natural grasslands and uncultivated fields. The grey alder has the greatest production volume of any of the local trees and its production as a source of energy is equal to the birch. Its short rotation period (8–15 years), its positive effect on soil fertility (it enriches the soil with nitrogen and humus), its capacity for self-renewal (by means of seeds and suckers) and the fact that forestry expenses are required only at final felling would all seem to make the grey alder the best energy-producing tree in the coming decades.

An increase in the relative importance of firewood would improve the environmental situation, especially air quality, thanks to reduced emissions of SO2, NOx and CO2. A favourable market would be created for small-sized wood, thereby improving the economic profitability of taking care of and thinning young stands. The cleaning up of clearings would improve conditions for cultivation. The objective should not simply become the clearing of the entire biomass of wood from the forest; the necessity of guaranteeing the biological diversity of forests (dead hollow trees as nests, lairs, etc.) must be taken into account. (See Chapter 7.) The fertility of the vast majority of types of places where there are forests in Estonia would not survive the clearing of the entire biomass of trees (including leaves and needles). Restrictions must be placed on the "whole tree" clearing method in extreme types (e.g. limestone regions with thin soil and stunted vegetation, lichened pine groves), which make up less than 10% of the forest area.

The cultivation of the forest as a heating resource would increase employment in the countryside. Opportunities would arise for private enterprises to engage in the supply and processing of fuelwood, transporting it and rendering any business services relevant to heating. The processing and storing of chopped timber does however bring with it some known dangers (the accumulation of dust and spores, fire risk).

2. Considerations for Afforestation

In 1995, the National Forestry Board system grew and put on the market:

6 million young firs
3 million pine seedlings
100,000–150,000 deciduous trees

Total: approximately 10 million trees

A total of 164 nurseries with an area of 300 ha, of which 1/3 are not in use, belong to the State. The absolute maximum possible output from these nurseries is twice as many trees as at present, i.e. 20 million. Private nurseries are primarily involved in the cultivation of ornamental trees and shrubs. In 1995, farmers, for example, were contracted to cultivate 70,000 trees - less than 1% of the total of the State nurseries. According to the forecasts of the Estonian Forest Breeding Centre, investments of 2–4 million EEK are necessary to increase production by 1 million trees. Private nurseries can be encouraged to play a greater role in afforestation than they have in the past.

Prices of planting material and costs of planting 1995/1996:

young fir 1.20 – 1.80 EEK, planting 0.60 – 0.70 EEK
pine seedling 0.30 – 0.50 EEK, planting 0.40 EEK
1 year old birch seedling 0.60 EEK
2 year old birch seedling 1.20 EEK
2 year old ash tree 1.00 EEK

Approximately 3,000 trees should be planted per hectare. Costs for preparing the land and for planting will be added to their prices, as well as some maintenance costs in the first years following planting. If a field has been uncultivated for several years, then costs for preparing the land will be added. Afforesting land which has been out of use for over 5 years and which is overgrown requires implementation of the so-called corridor culture method which will lead to the planting and maintenance costs doubling.

Therefore afforesting 1 hectare of land costs approximately 8,000–10,000 EEK on average.

There are 19 tons of fir seeds and 1.5 tons of pine seeds in storage. In 1995, 2 tons of fir seeds, 1 ton of pine seeds and 60 kg of birch seeds were used. It would be possible to store twice as much as at present. The only limiting factor is the capacity of the drying rooms (husking).

In that same year, 4,226 ha of new forest were added to State forests and 142 ha of new forests were added by farmers, largely by afforesting clear cuttings. If 300,000 ha of abandoned agricultural land are to be afforested, then the process should be spread out over no more than 10 years. This means a total of 30,000 ha per year and requires expenditure of 300 million EEK per year: 90 million trees are to be grown every year. This means a ninefold increase in trees and a sevenfold increase in the culture area over the current levels. It will only be possible to accelerate the process if a special programme is put into effect using resources from the State budget, and if the participation of the private sector is increased.

Although afforesting agricultural land means a considerable intensification in the storing of seeds from trees and in nursery management, afforestation is still an investment with good future prospects, in comparison with many agricultural activities. Estonian forests produce a yearly average of 5 m3 per hectare and the average price of timber as a growing forest is currently 200 EEK/ m3 All forest establishment costs will therefore have been covered within 10 years.

The State should direct the process with the help of the taxation system (favourable conditions for the afforestation of uncultivated land and the exemption of young stands from taxation), and long-term private contracts should be designed for afforestation and subsequent forest management and timber harvesting.

Forestry experts and specialists do not consider the establishment of special willow energy stands to be economically or environmentally correct and prefer the growing of domestic grey alders as energy forests.

The main objective of an afforestation programme is to guarantee the beneficial use of the land as one of the most important domestic natural resources, for the good of the people and to produce greater prosperity than would be the case with the simple undirected development of natural processes.

3. Problems Requiring Solutions

The establishment of stands on agricultural land and carrying out research about them are not new activities for our forestry practitioners and experts but they must be approached bearing in mind new economic conditions and also the results of the current stands so that previous mistakes in afforestation are not repeated.

From 1880 to 1917 approximately 10,000 ha of arable land with low agricultural production were purposely afforested in Estonia. From 1920–1940 the figure was around 1,000 ha and from 1950–1987 approximately 65,000 ha.

Initial research should attempt to clarify the different methods of land utilisation (afforestation under different species and combinations of species, cultivation of energy grass, willow energy stands, conservation of land as grasslands etc.) from economic, environmental and social points of view as well as determining which development directions should be prioritised in Estonian conditions.

Economic assessments should be made and specific forestry management recommendations should be given as to the afforestation of agricultural land. The following factors should be taken into consideration: economic changes in the Estonian nation as a whole and also reforms in the domestic agricultural system, particularly changes in prices (land, field cultures, fuel, timber, equipment), the inter-relationship of agriculture and forestry in Estonian rural management, the relative importance of local fuels in the energy balance, the point of view of environmental protection, etc.

The basis for the afforestation recommendations (choice of tree type, method of cultivation, care, etc.) is research into forest cultures already established on agricultural land. It is necessary to examine the rate of growth, health, production and quality of production of the various types of trees growing on agricultural land (birch, fir, pine, etc.) as well as the cultivation of forests with a short rotation period.

The cultivation of energy forest cultures should be looked at separately. In terms of the grey alder, it is necessary to examine the ecological, forest cultivation and economic aspects of its deliberate afforestation. Tables of the rate of growth should be compiled, on the basis of which the maturity of capacity (felling cycle) depending on the place of growth can be determined. Recommendations as to equipment and technology for clearing, chopping and storing should also be given.

Regarding timber cutting practices in State forests, it is important to note that contracts (or concessions) that are awarded for short periods of time, only a few years, do not promote interest in continuing afforestation of the logged-over areas on the part of the contractors (concessionaires). Instead, they promote an attitude of "mining" the timber resource. Another defect of annual or short-term concessions is that the wood processing industry' is not able to make long-term plans for timber supply. This latter issue is raised in Chapter 4.

Solutions to these problems involve making the timber concessions very long in duration, as discussed in section VI below. This is a trend in other countries around the world. Also, such concessions should be awarded at public auction, to ensure the best possible price of the resource for the State. Maintaining the concession is subject to the concessionaire strictly following the management plan agreed with the Forest Department. Failure to follow the plan can result in the concession being cancelled and put up for auction again.

B. Water

The information which has been gathered and its analysis shows that it is not possible to make a one-dimensional development strategy for water management. The following development-strategic considerations must be taken as starting points:

The first consideration would require some 640,000 ha of arable land. The second consideration would enable an estimated additional 240,000 ha of land to be used for agricultural purposes, primarily in dairy production. Therefore 425,000 ha of arable land and 93,000 ha of natural grasslands would remain unused, i.e. 518,000 ha or 11% of the total area of the country. This area should be afforested or certain initial maintenance work should be carried out there taking landscape-ecological requirements and those of fire precaution as starting points. Both of these possibilities would require investments. It would be necessary to carry out maintenance work on the open channels of the remaining drainage systems. Settlements and tourism or holiday-making in most of these areas are unlikely.

It is natural that arable land decreases mainly in areas that are difficult to drain. Some 73,000 ha are currently poorly drained. Another 365,000 ha are currently satisfactorily drained but these lands do not support intensive agricultural utilisation and they require maintenance and repair work. Of this satisfactorily drained area, 272,000 ha are either sandy lands, with a long payback period on repair work, or average mineral land.

The effect of agriculture on water conditions occurs because (Chapter 7):

In addition to the deterioration of the landscape, unpleasant side-effects on the water environment are also caused:

effects on surface water:

effects on ground water:

An improvement in the water supply in rural areas is also of significant importance in water management because the current situation of water supply is poor. Many inhabitants of rural areas use "poor" water, depending on the region. Although the nitrate content is reducing, this does not solve the problem as a whole.

Because we lack the resources for building water networks and for the mass construction of artesian wells, an improvement in the water quality of the rich water-rich aquifers must be considered important because water from wells will, for the near future, remain the main water supply for farms. It is still necessary to construct proper artesian wells to replace already contaminated wells. This should be a responsibility of the local authorities.

From the point of view of water conservation, the amount of nitrogen released by chemical fertilisers used for crop rotation should be limited to an average yearly total of 100kg/ha in Estonia. In karsts and areas of thin residual soil this figure should be 80 kg/ha, in the moraine hills of southern Estonia 70 kg/ha and on the islands 60 kg/ha.

VI. Recommendations

A. Forestry

It is necessary to formulate and implement a programme for the restructuring of the utilisation (afforestation) of land not used for agricultural production. The lead institutions in developing the programme should be above all the Ministry of Agriculture and the Forestry Board of the Ministry of the Environment but also private forest owners and representatives of forestry and social organisations and local governments. The programme should enable departmental disagreements or friction to be subdued in the name of a common objective. It may be observed that it is currently politically difficult to speak to agricultural leaders about the afforestation of agricultural land and that the Forestry Board maintains that its task is only to deal with woodlands already in existence. In the initial version of the national forestry policy compiled within the framework of the Estonian Forestry Development Programme there is the following paragraph:

"Afforestation programmes will be compiled for areas no longer used for agricultural production and also for artificial landscapes. Afforestation will be implemented in those areas where any other method of land utilisation would produce less prosperity for society, hereby taking into consideration both the values of environmental protection and the social values of the forest, such as biological diversity, landscape conservation and possibilities for the population to spend their holidays."

The changes should be carried out by using different methods of tend taxation, thereby creating stimuli for the establishment of forest cultures compared to leaving land uncultivated and overgrown.

It is necessary to advise and help private forest owners at several levels from simple guides for planting forests through to state subsidies. An assistance system for private owners and farmers via forest owners' organisations should be a priority.

Above all, it is essential that State lands under afforestation programmes either be privatised or subject to long-term contracts for timber planting, management and harvesting.

Specific recommendations are as follows:

B. Water

Under all development scenarios, guidelines for water management should take the following as starting points:

To keep agricultural production at the planned level:

From the point of view of water conservation:

40-36 Bibliography for Chapter 10

  1. Estonian Forests and Forestry, Compiler: K. Karoles, Estonian Forest Department - Tallinn, 1995, p.128

  2. Estonian Forest Policy, Second Revised Draft (unofficial translation), 30 sept. 1996

  3. Karoles, K., Leemet, A. & Logus, O. Forest and Forest Products Country Profile Estonia United Nations, New York-Geneva. 62p.

  4. Yearbook of Forests 94, compiled and edited by H.Hepner, Economics and Information Centre of Forestry - Tallinn, 1995. p. 107.

  5. Yearbook of Forests 95, compiled and edited by H.Hepner, Economics and Information Centre of Forestry - Tallinn, 1996. p.l 12.

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