The Minister of the Environment (MoE), Tõnis Mölder, has sent to the Environmental Board (the Board) written guidelines, which aim to limit their work on the suspension of logging during the “peaceful nesting season” in spring and summer. The guidelines disregard the fact that the Board had carried out its decisions in line with the Nature Conservation Act (NCA) and case law. Such a statement raises the inevitable question whether the Minister’s position is taking into account current legislation or is affected by pressure put on him by the forestry industry.
The Environment Minister complains that the Board’s inspectors had acted disproportionately when suspending the logging in spring and summer. Inspectors detected several logging operations which infringe the Nature Conservation Act and thus have suspended the work of foresters on around 30 sites. As a result, the lives of the protected hatchlings and those birds not covered by the law have been saved in commercial forests. The Board, when carrying out its duties, has relied on the NCA and the ruling of the Court of Justice (CJEU) which prohibits killing wild birds as a result of logging.
“In his written notification the Environment Minister is driven by neither the NCA or the CJEU ruling but rather a desire to placate powerful individuals in the forestry industry. The current situation resembles very much what is happening in Belarus these days, where an individual can singlehandedly decide who, in nature, shall live or die, and which laws shall or shall not be obeyed. Whilst, obviously, not wanting to get their own hands dirty”, said Mati Sepp, forestry and conservation officer at Eesti Metsa Abiks (EMA, “In Aid of Estonian Forest”), in response to Tõnis Mölder’s statement. He continued: “The MoE has a right to intervene at the Board’s work, however, this should under no circumstances happen if it affects the wildlife on a large scale. Honourable Minister of the Environment, Tõnis Mölder, your job is to ensure due observance of the law and the protection of the environment as opposed to providing raw materials to the forestry industry at the cost of the lives of hatchlings.”
The science also confirms that a minimum of 80 thousand hatchlings are dying due to spring-summer logging each year. The MoE’s exhortations and strict guidance to the Board creates a situation where a mass slaying of hatchlings would carry on in its old way. The environmental groups Eesti Metsa Abiks (EMA, “In Aid of Estonian Forest”) and Päästame Eesti Metsad (PEM, “Save Estonian Forests”) firmly condemn the inappropriate behaviour of the MoE that is not fit for a minister, who is responsible for ensuring that all laws in Estonia are put in force, and not applied selectively. The environmental groups are following the development of the situation with great concern and we are sending a message to the Ministry that the Nature Conservation Act is there to be implemented as well as a reminder that according to the CJEU the rule of undisturbed tranquillity in forests should apply across Estonia. The self-made rules which arise from the economic interests of the forestry industry only harm both Estonia’s nature and its international reputation. We trust the Estonian Environment Board that they will hold their ground and continue their great work in stopping logging during the “peaceful nesting season”, which instils hope among many that the State will take robust action to protect the Estonian environment. The expectations and trust of the Estonian nation rest with the Environmental Board.