To the government, parliament and president of the Republic of Estonia:


Forests are of ecological, financial, social and cultural value to people, and their use, in all of these respects, must be marked by balance. At present, such balance is lacking. Forests today first and foremost represent a production resource for the timber industry; a source of riches apparently lying idle. Balanced forestry means the consistent regeneration of ecological, cultural, financial and social value.

We insist that the Estonian government and the members of the Riigikogu, in both the coalition and opposition, prepare legislation for the immediate transition to a system of balanced forestry.

We cannot place the burden of responsibility for resolving problems that arise as a result of unsustainable forest management on our children and grandchildren. We must not allow ourselves to go down in history as the generation that bequeathed to its heirs an uninhabitable land. Stable, well-functioning ecosystems which are rich in species are not only important from the point of view of culture or nature conservation, but primarily because they are linked to natural benefits on which we, the human race, depend for our lives. Even if we are unaware of it, our day-to-day well-being depends on the vitality and integrity of the climate, the soil, water systems and biodiversity. The loss of biodiversity which results from logging on a truly senseless scale will eventually impact on the availability of fresh water, the production of food and aspects of culture and national defence.

The initial steps in the transition to balanced forestry are as follows:

1. Reducing logging to a sustainable level


To compensate for years of excess logging, the permitted volume needs to be reduced to less than 8 million cubic metres per annum – preferably to between 4 and 6 million.
The objective should be to produce valuable, innovative, long-lasting products that allow for selective logging and indeed less logging overall.
If we continue to cut down our forests at the rate we are presently doing so, the resources of the loggable forests currently owned by the state will be exhausted in around 10 years’ time. It is for this reason that large-scale logging is already taking place in protected areas and limited management zones. Protected areas must be kept under protection lawfully, not allowed to be used according to schemes that are legally permissible but ethically dubious. The protection policies which apply to such areas must not allow clear-cutting in limited management zones, whether in private forests or in state forests. The critical stock of forests as a renewable natural resource must be unequivocally defined – as required by the Sustainable Development Act – and preserved.


2. Ensuring that forest management is environmentally friendly


In Estonia’s forestry policy, timber production is based entirely on machinery that is too heavy for the ground beneath it and on widespread clear-cutting. Topsoil which does not freeze through due to increasingly warm winters and alternating summers of drought, rain and storms are amplifying the negative impact of management techniques that are unsuitable as it is. A landowner who thinks sustainably would never lay waste to the soil in his forests or to the new growth that characterises it, but spare the undergrowth and take care of the flora and fauna in it, both seen and unseen. 
Leasing payments on forest harvesters must not dictate national forestry policy – on the contrary, we await from the state comprehensive support in searching for and finding innovative new methods of forest management. In private forestry, support schemes need to be redesigned and the amounts of support paid out increased so as to promote environmentally friendly forest management and continuous-cover forestry.


3. Introducing a logging hiatus in both state and private forests


A three-month hiatus in logging in all Estonian forests (both private and state-owned) during spring and summer is the minimum we need to implement in order for the natural world around us to enter a new life cycle. The current hiatus, which only applies to state forests, and for that matter only partially, lasts from 15 April to 15 June. Improvement cutting and cleaning and cutting designed to improve the overall condition of the forest are permitted almost everywhere using heavy machinery. In spring 2020, widespread clear-cutting was also sanctioned as part of the fight against the European spruce bark beetle. According to scientists, forest bird numbers have fallen by as much as a quarter in recent decades. 
Birds are a very good indicator of environmental status, since the changes which take in place in ecosystems are soon reflected in their numbers. They provide us with feedback on how we have treated our shared living environment in recent decades.


4. Transforming the State Forest Management Centre into the Centre for the Protection of State Forests


Given the effort that is being made around the world to protect the climate and biodiversity, including the European Green Deal and the objectives mentioned above, for the future of Estonian forestry the country’s existing system of forest management needs to be overhauled. We must abandon narrow objectives based on timber as a raw material and restore a broad-ranging system of forestry that pursues open and truly inclusive cooperation with all stakeholders and is flexible and innovative in allowing enterprise that is based on the creation of added value for timber and the use of forest by-products and other ecological services, always giving thorough consideration to the potential spatial impact and impact on the environment of such activities.
At a time when the sixth mass extinction of the world’s species is accelerating, the State Forest Management Centre 2.0, which is to say the Centre for the Protection of State Forests, must be an agency which is guided by the protection of forests as living environments rather than by their management.
Comprehensive reforms are needed if we are to achieve this objective – starting by changing the make-up of the centre’s supervisory board so that representatives of the four main values of forests (ecological, cultural, financial and social) are equally represented on it.


5. Remembering that forests form part of our national identity


With this petition and the demonstration on 16 August we are seeking to make heard the voices of those who need community forests close to their homes and who recognise the importance of old forests, key biotopes, green corridors and biodiversity as a whole in guaranteeing our own well-being. We are giving the floor to people who honour sacred natural sites, who understand the healing powers of the forest and who draw energy from its aesthetics. We are giving the floor to those who respect the bounty that the forest provides and use it to enrich their own dining tables. 
The cultural, social and ecological value of forests cannot be measured in money, because we do not pay the forest for services that form an inseparable part of our lives. Forests are part of the identity of Estonia as a country and of Estonians as a nation. In destroying our forests, we destroy ourselves. It is time to change the way we think. It is time to usher in a new era of ecological diversity, restoring the richness of species and managing our forests sustainably.



Petition is supported by:

Päästame Eesti Metsad MTÜ | Eesti Roheline Liikumine | Eesti Metsa Abiks | Eesti Looduskaitse Selts | Eestimaa Looduse Fond | Eesti Loomakaitse Selts | Eesti Ökokogukondade ühendus | Eesti Ornitoloogiaühing | Eesti Loodusturismi ühing | / OÜ Viis aastaaega | MTÜ Niilusoo | Keskkonnasõbraliku elustiili portaal Bioneer | Gaia kool | Studio Viridis Loodusharidus | Extinction Rebellion Tallinn | Elurikkuse Erakond | Erakond Eestimaa Rohelised | MTÜ Roheline Läänemaa | MTÜ Roheline Pärnumaa | MTÜ Rebala Kultuuriruum | Eesti Püsimetsaühistu | Forestly Eesti TÜ | Eesti Metsloomaühing | Raplamaa Loodushoiu MTÜ | MTÜ Aade | Muraste Looduskool | Lohusalu Poolsaare Loodusselts | Tartu Üliõpilaste Looduskaitsering | Nõmme Heakorra Selts | Hiiu Tuul MTÜ | Nõmme Tee Selts | Rakvere Joogakool | Ema Aed OÜ | MTÜ Kõiksus | MTÜ Lilli Looduskeskus | Loomakaitse Liit | Hiite Maja | MTÜ Rannamänniku kaitseks | PÖFF ja 3995 citizens of Estonia who are signed the petition (08.12.2020)