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Background information

Generic information about the conflict. Conflict started in 2017 in Latvia. It started when changes in the Cabinet of Ministers regulations regarding the felling of trees was presented - minimum diameter of trees that are allowed to be cut down. It is on-going conflict, because in 2017 it was refused, but after two years interruption in 2019 regulations were presented again. And suggestions are still under discussions (Ministry of Agriculture wants felling of thinner trees, Eng.lsm.lv, 2019).

Conflict type. It is forest industry and conservation conflict. It affects bioenergy use in Latvia, because forests contain main raw material for bioenergy.

Resources involved. The resources involved are solid wood.

Evaluation of the conflict

Main Issues and descriptions. The changes to the tree felling regulations provide for a reduction in the permissible tree felling diameter. This means that, once the law is accepted, it will be allowed to fell younger and thinner trees (The Ministry of Agriculture continues to push for the felling of thinner trees, Eng.lsm.lv, 2019). Environmental organizations want to stop the changes in law. Meanwhile, forest owners claim that, together with felling regulations, stricter rules for reforestation will come. Consequences of those changes will be economical, because more trees will be felled in next decades. And there will be ecological consequences - many more bird nests will be destroyed. If trees are older and with bigger dimensions then birds will be more interested to nest in them, like the black woodpecker or the black stork. Also, biodiversity would be affected, if the forest is older then, it is more valuable, with many rare and endangered species (Ministry of Agriculture wants felling of thinner trees, Eng.lsm.lv, 2019).  

Main stakeholders involved. From one side there is forest owners, from other - environmental organizations. So, involved is The Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development (VARAM), Ministry of Agriculture Forest Department, Latvian Ornithological Society (LOB), Latvian Fund for Mature, Latvian Forest Owners Association, “Latvia State Forests” The World Wildlife Fund. The role of The Ministry of Agriculture is, that it proposed the changes of law, but the Ministry of Environment want to stop the regulations.

Analysis of the stakeholder’s values and interests. Forest owners says that “..many of neighbour countries have made decisions on this issue a long time ago, Estonia in 2008, and Finland a few years ago lifted all restrictions, except that if the owner has felled a whole plot, then it must be restored” (Ministry of Agriculture wants felling of thinner trees, Eng.lsm.lv, 2019). Forest owner’s interests basically is economical. They want more freedom in their decisions about forest. So, in forest owner’s opinion, this incentive makes them to use forest land more carefully, and forest lands will not disappear. So, there always will be fertile forest areas. Also, the Ministry of Agriculture refers positive to this incentive. They say that carbon capture would increase, trees will be more valuable and forest productivity would increase by quarter in the next 30 years. On the other hand, environmental organizations are against these regulations of law, because of potential loss of biodiversity. As well as forest fragmentation will increase. The persistence of forests to climate change and pests will become worse. Variety of flora and fauna living in forest could be affected. The opportunities for recreational tourism, berry and mushroom picking in forests will be reduced. (Ministry of Agriculture wants felling of thinner trees, Eng.lsm.lv, 2019).

Evaluation of the intensity of the conflict. This as an open conflict, because there have been campaigns, like signature collection, and there is a lot of public opposition. The Latvian Ornithological Society collects signatures on the “ManaBalss” platform for an initiative titled “For a Pause in Forestry During the Time of Bird Breeding”. Environmental organizations are creating a working group to discuss environmental risks. Also, environmental organisations sent a letter to the State Chancellery calling for no further amendments to the rules (Vides organizācijas: šobrīd grozījumi noteikumos par koku ciršanu mežā nav pieļaujami,  WWF, Latvia, 2019).

Evaluation of the possible causes of the conflict. At this point there is bad regulations, because there is no mechanism in Latvia that would make the forest owner aware of natural values in the forest before the felling begins, and real destruction of protected species and habitats of EU importance takes place in the country. As well as regulation’s impact on the environment, including on several types of habitats and species of European Union (EU) importance, has not been assessed accurately (Vides organizācijas: šobrīd grozījumi noteikumos par koku ciršanu mežā nav pieļaujami, WWF, Latvia, 2019).

Main elements that may preclude conflict resolution. The environmental impact assessment needs to be done (The Ministry of Agriculture continues to push for the felling of thinner trees, Eng.lsm.lv, 2020). And then according to results next steps can be made. Also, if forest owners and The Ministry of Agriculture could describe the situation properly and present the facts to the environmental organizations and then they maybe could come up with agreement that both parts are satisfied.

Main elements that may encourage conflict escalation. Community are against the changes of the rules, they think that forests even now is being cut down too much and too fast, so the changes would be hard to implement. As well as some private forest owners are against those changes. It is no secret that in many economic sectors, different companies find ways to go around laws. Forest sector is no exception. Some forestry firms have expressed dissatisfaction about the reduction of minimum diameter of trees. Some of them practice “dark forest inventory”, for those firms it is not favourable to decrease the minimum diameter of trees that are allowed to be cut down. Poor government actions – if the environmental impact assessment is not done. If government do not take any action, conflict could escalate. Also, if environmental organisations begin to organise some protest actions.

References

  1. Foresters and environmentalists clash over tree felling amendments / Article / Eng.lsm.lv (2019). Available at: https://eng.lsm.lv/article/economy/economy/latvian-foresters-and-environmentalists-clash-over-tree-felling-amendments.a344329/ (Accessed: 13 February 2020).
  2. Ministry of Agriculture wants felling of thinner trees / Article / Eng.lsm.lv (2019). Available at: https://eng.lsm.lv/article/economy/business/ministry-of-agriculture-wants-felling-of-thinner-trees-in-latvia.a322251/ (Accessed: 26 January 2020).
  3. The Ministry of Agriculture continues to push for the felling of thinner trees / Article / Eng.lsm.lv (2020). Available at: https://eng.lsm.lv/article/economy/economy/the-ministry-of-agriculture-continues-to-push-for-the-felling-of-thinner-trees-in-latvia.a326997/ (Accessed: 13 February 2020).
  4. Vides organizācijas: šobrīd grozījumi noteikumos par koku ciršanu mežā nav pieļaujami | WWF Latvia (2019). Available at: https://lv-pdf.panda.org/zinas_jaunumi/?229830/Vides-organizcijas-obrd-grozjumi-noteikumos-par-koku-ciranu-me-nav-pieaujami (Accessed: 12 February 2020).