The Ministry of the Environment gave the Environmental Board the task of analyzing the idea of creating Hiiumaa National Park. This does not yet mean that the creation of a protected area has been decided, and all felling is automatically suspended for 28 months. The Environmental Board reviews applications submitted from June 8 and later and, based on their impact on conservation values, either suspend the activity or allow it.
On June 8, the Estonian Fund for Nature made a proposal to form Hiiumaa National Park, which would mean that over 18,000 hectares of state forest will be taken under nature protection, mainly in the Kõrgessaare rural municipality district. According to the proposal, the state forest, which would cover the majority of Hiiumaa's currently protected areas, conservation areas, permanent habitats of protected species, and valuable habitats located in the state forest, should be taken under protection.
The Ministry of the Environment decided to accept the proposal and forward it to the Environmental Board for further processing but also informed the Estonian Fund for Nature that it would like clarification of the data and additional explanations regarding the proposal. Clarifications are requested from the Estonian Fund for Nature within two months.
Leelo Kukk, the Deputy Director General of the Environmental Board, explained that it is now the task of the Board to assess the justification of the possible future national park under protection and the expediency of the proposed restrictions. "There is no doubt that there are natural values in Hiiumaa that need to be protected and which are already protected on nearly 24 thousand hectares. Now it is the task of the Environmental Board to thoroughly consider whether the Estonian Fund for Nature's proposal to create a national park is necessary and justified," said Leelo Kukk. "It is not yet possible to say with certainty how long the analysis phase will take, but it is not a matter of a few months, but rather a process of a few years," added the head of the Living Nature Department of the Environmental Board.
The assessment completed by the Environmental Board will also be presented to the public. The Environmental Board will announce through the media when, to whom, and in what way the public can send their suggestions and opinions.
Taimo Aasma, head of the Department of Nature Protection of the Ministry of the Environment, explained that the decision to start or refuse to establish a national park is made by the Minister of the Environment based on an expert assessment and the opinions received. "If the creation of a national park is initiated, approval from the Riigikogu is also required because the creation of a new national park requires an amendment to the Nature Conservation Act," said Aasma.
As a result of the Nature Conservation Act, after a proposal to place an area under protection is made, the Environmental Board has the right to suspend for 28 months the procedure for all permits that could harm the placing of the area under protection.
According to Leelo Kukk, the forest notifications submitted since June 8 will be reviewed, and it will be assessed whether their implementation may harm the future protection goal and, based on that, whether the activity will be stopped or allowed. "Similar analysis is done for all new notifications. If the planned felling does not conflict with what is stated in the proposal, the Environmental Board can allow felling even while the proposal is being processed," said Kukk.
The Environmental Board will therefore suspend the processing of a new forest notification only if the proposed felling may harm the conservation objectives stated in the proposal. Felling permitted under forest notifications submitted before June 8, 2022, may be completed.
If the proposal to create a national park becomes a reality, the area of all protected areas in Hiiumaa will increase to 40 percent of the entire island's area. Currently, nearly 20% of Hiiumaa's area is under protection. The county with the largest share of land under nature protection is currently Läänemaa, where nearly 29% of the area is under protection.
You can read more about the idea of creating the national park on the website hiiurahvuspark.ee.