Estonia is a forested land but this doesn´t automatically mean that forest inhabitants are doing well. Extensive forest thefts that took place in the beginning of the 1990s cut vast and dangerous wounds into our most forested areas close to Alutaguse, Lahemaa and Pärnu. Even though illegal logging has been taken under control, due to the government’s liberal forest policies the forests are managed so that rather than true forest, only fields of trees grow back.
The richness and strength of a forest comes from its diversity. A diverse forest creates habitats for many different species, including the rare ones. Great diversity also makes forests more durable and increases their ability to recover from large-scale disturbances (storms, forest fires etc.). The extremely intensive forest management of the beginning of this century put a lot of pressure on many species living in the old forests. Scientists say that at least 10% of the Estonian forests should be left to develop naturally in order to preserve those species.
In addition to the biota of the old forests, species with specific habitational needs require our attention. The preservation of their habitats doesn't necessarily require the protection of vast wooded areas but rather the preservation of their specific living conditions, be it the existence of dead wood, conservation of the natural water regime, big old solitary trees or some other specific requirement.
The importance of the forest in our culture cannot be overlooked. All throughout history, we´ve tried to connect with our ancestors and the spiritual world through the trees and the forests. There are over 550 sacred groves that still exist in the forest today which proves how important forests were to our ancestors.
The main activities of ELF in the Estonian forests are:
introducing the principles of the knowledge-based sustainable forest management into the Estonian forest policy and the relevant legislation;
cooperation with private forest owners in order to promote sustainable forest management;
cooperation with logging companies in order to create a more transparent forestry sector;
cooperation with the State Forest Management Centre (RMK) in order to apply the principles of sustainable forestry in the state forests;
taking inventory of valuable forests;
surveillance of developments in the Estonian forestry and forest conservation sectors and bringing attention to problematic issues;
The rarest species living in the Estonian forests can be found in areas where the oldest trees have been preserved. ELF stands for strict protection of all valuable forest habitat types in Estonia and for logging commercial forest lands in a way that doesn´t damage the natural systems of the forest. The areas of cut forest also need to include old crop trees, fallen tree trunks and key biotopes similar to old forests, offering shelter to uncountable numbers of fungi, lichens and moss which in turn provide food and shelter to insects, mammals and reptiles.
ELF supports the responsible forest management.