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Forest industry voices concerns over EU’s views on clear-felling
EU believes clear-felling should be avoided for climate change reasons
Industry interest groups as well as the forest owners themselves have expressed their concern over the European Commission’s proposal for the regulation of keeping accounts and operating plans for the use of land and forests.
The interest groups fear that at some stage a ban on clearcutting or clear-felling will be added to the regulations. With the regulations, a framework will be created for the measuring of forests’ carbon sinks and leaks.
The groups suspect that on the grounds of environmental matters a uniform forest policy will be introduced in the EU. At present, the decisions related to the use of forests are made at national level.
The Commission’s proposal on the measuring regulations for the carbon sinks and leaks will be presented to the European Parliament in July, and more than likely it will be decided on by the end of the year.
The interest groups are not upset because of the articles suggested by the Commission, but because of the preceding rationale.
According to the Commission, within the forest industry there are plenty of opportunities to curb climate change, such as reforesting.
The preceding justification states that climate change can be curbed by avoiding clear-felling operations. This notion is one the Finnish interest groups cannot accept, for without clearcutting the supply chain of timber for the Finnish forest industry cannot function.
Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK) forest expert Janne Näräkkä is of the opinion that the example included in the rationale is debatable.
“Whenever the EU puts something in black and white it can later be used as a recommendation. Then it is said that the EU has already formed its own opinion on how forests should be maintained in the union”, Näräkkä says.
“It may become a question of principle, even though it is not a law as such.”
In Näräkkä’s opinion, Finland’s forest industry’s raw material supply does not work without clear-felling operations. “Without clearcutting, the Finnish forest economy disappears. After that it would just be controlling climate change.”
According to Finnish Forest Industries Federation CEO Tomi Salo, it is useful that the different approaches to forest maintenance are discussed. In his view, clear fellings have to be kept on the table.
In Salo’s opinion, the sentence in the Commission’s rationale about avoiding clear-felling is not right.
“The way I see it such a matter should not be expressed in any form.”
Salo frets that the EU is bringing restrictions on the use of forests in the name of climate protection. “This poses a definite risk to the Finnish wood and timber supply.”
Green League MEP Satu Hassi considers the Commission’s suggestion justifiable.
”From the point of view of the carbon stored in the forest soil, clear fellings are not a good thing, especially if they involve ploughing-in of the ground”, she says.
In the opinion of National Coalition MEP Eija-Riitta Korhola, at this stage there is no catastrophe in prospect.
“There is no scientific evidence that clear fellings would be a poorer alternative from the climate change point of view”, she says.
Clear-felling means that all the trees are cut and cleared from a forested area.
Often sporadic trees are left upright here and there for aesthetic reasons. Some stumps may also be left for birds to enjoy.
In Finland, clear fellings are usually limited to small areas. The average size is less than two hectares.
The alternative is to thin the forested area out gradually, leaving it looking forested all the while, as it gradually renews itself.
Finnish sawmills and pulp & paper plants require something of the order of 50 million cubic metres of timber each year.
Collecting this sort of volume of wood by selective felling would be both laborious and cripplingly expensive.