RIGA - In a bid to promote woodchip production, the government on Tuesday endorsed amendments to a logging regulation that will allow cutting younger forests.
According to authors of the draft legislation, the logging requirements are being eased upon analyzing and comparing felling rules in Latvia, Estonia and other countries in the Baltic Sea region, as well as scientific research on forest maturity models in Latvia.
Based on this research, it has been concluded that the minimum age at which trees can be cut should be lowered to ensure an effective use of land resources, promote the productivity of forest stock, as well as increase the capital value of Latvia's forests and the competitiveness of the Latvian forest industry.
The draft amendments to the logging regulations have been harshly criticized by environmental organizations. They note that the adoption of the amendments has already been stopped twice thanks to public pressure. Now, the government is again pushing ahead with their adoption despite Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins' (New Unity) earlier promises to put the bill on hold until an agreement is reached between the environmental organizations and the forest industry.
The draft regulation allowing to cut younger pine, spruce and birch forests was first proposed in 2017 and again in 2019. Since then, no discussions have taken place on the matter, according to the environmental organizations.
Environmentalists warn that as a result of the new regulation, logging volumes will increase, which in turn will lead to biodiversity loss and reduce Latvia's ability to achieve its climate goals. They also argue that the environmental and climate impact of the new rules has not been properly assessed.