Forestry and environmental protection in focus in Latvia

On November 30, one of the main topics at the Forestry Industry Conference 2019 was the issue of balancing industry with ensuring good conditions for various species and biotopes, according to Zemgale Regional Television.

Nature Conservation Agency data shows that the amount of biotopes and the bird population decreases with the development of intensive farming and increasing logging. The latest data on biotope and species protection shows that the situation has improved since the last European Commission report in 2013. Species protection has been rated positive for 13% more species. Biotopes, however, were found in fewer numbers than predicted.

“We have a slight problem with biotope quality, or health. We have quite a few biotopes and habitats in average or slightly bad conditions,” said Nature Conservation Agency Deputy Director Gunta Gabrāne.

A changing lifestyle has meant a worse situation for natural fields. Grey coastal dunes are also shrinking and several forest biotopes have been negatively rated. The European Commission report on biotopes was presented at the conference.

The forestry industry theoretically doesn't object to the creation of micoreserves, as long as it has an economic basis.

“If nature specialists have determined that a species is endangered, then we definitely have to thing. Execution is another question. If I owned five hectares and all of it was a microreserve, that would of course make forestry difficult,” said forest owner Raimonds Mežaks.

Finland plans on investing 100 million euros in solving environmental protection issues next year, but in Latvia the amount is about ten times less.

Forestry and forestry products play an important part in the national economy.

As previously reported, in 2018 forests occupied 3.04 million hectares (ha) or 52% of Latvian land, according to the State Forest Service, reported LSM's Latvian service on July 9. Therefore, Latvia's forest area has grown in the last ten years.

Latvian territory is made up of 6.46 million hectares of land, 3.35 million hectares of which is woodland (forests occupy 3.04 million ha). Compared to the rest of Europe, Latvia belongs to the coterie of countries rich in woodland. In Europe, forest covers an average of 33% of land, whereas in Latvia 52% of land is occupied by trees. 

1.49 million ha (49%) of forests in Latvia are state-managed, whereas 1.55 million ha (51%) of forests are privately owned.

Latvian Radio announced on December 2 that the European Commission sent an official letter to Latvia in regards to inadequate protection of biotopes and species in accordance with the Council Directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora. 

The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development explained to Latvian Radio that certain instances may require additional conservation measures, but some issues can be mitigated by handing in updated data. Latvia has two months to respond to the Commission's arguments. If no action is taken, Latvia may face legal action.

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