It was under Reform Party management the national forestry policy came to concentrate on cutting. Forestry companies have donated large sums to parties time and again. Head of Lemeks group, Jüri Külvik, gave the Reform Party €5,000 in February of last year, while major forest owner and timber processor Kaido Jõeleht donated €20,000 the same month. These are not trifling sums for parties.
Jõeleht donated €20,000 to IRL in 2014. Forest businessman Mart Erik gave the Reform Party €1,000 and Külvik €3,500 in 2014. Smaller sums are moved more frequently. The latter is also a member of the board of Estonian Timber.
Chancellor Talijärv says that the fact he used to be a member of the association has nothing to do with decisions today. “The understanding that we have parts of forests that have matured and will mature sooner than the current rotation age allows has nothing to do with me having worked somewhere else,” the official said.
Talijärv went on to say that the current amendment concerns a very small part of spruce woods on highly fertile ground.
“Why cut them down earlier? The majority of them will start to rot on the inside before they reach the currently allowed cutting age of 80 years,” Talijärv said. “Were we to allow owners to cut them down earlier, they could get more out of their forest.”
Why have changes to the forest act been aimed at greater logging volumes for years?
“Why should we keep landowners from managing their forests without good reason,” the chancellor asked in turn. “I'm not sure inventing new restrictions for private owners is the most sensible course of action. Looking at the Finns, they've removed restrictions altogether. They have no rotation age limits, and they're doing just fine.”
Talijärv said it is a philosophical question what we are really after – why should we stop owners managing their mature forests?
How big is the role of the timber industry's lobby efforts in the gradual relaxation of the law?
“I do not think it is big; I've been present there, and I haven't seen any considerable lobbying efforts,” the chancellor added. “They definitely promote their positions, which conclude that ours is a state based on the rule of law where the owner must be able to use their property.”