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FSC Awarded Friend of the Sacred Groves Title for Protecting Sacred Sites in Estonia

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

The 'Friend of the Sacred Groves' is clothed with a sash which is supposed to give strength and protect the person in the future. (© Kiur Kaasik)© Kiur Kaasik
The 'Friend of the Sacred Groves' is clothed with a sash which is supposed to give strength and protect the person in the future.

FSC became the first organization to receive the Friend of the Sacred Groves title in Estonia. FSC International was awarded the title for including the preservation of sacred natural sites into its regulatory procedures. FSC Estonia also received an award for the same reason and for developing a map of the Estonian sacred natural sites.

On 24 November, FSC International received the Friend of the Sacred Groves title for adding wood cut from sacred natural sites as one of the risks mentioned in the high conservation value category of its centralized national risk assessment (CNRA) for Estonia. FSC risks assessments are used to determine the risk for a business to obtain material from unacceptable sources when sourcing controlled wood.

Since the CNRA came into effect in March 2018, all FSC certificate holders sourcing controlled wood from Estonia must exclude wood cut from the sacred natural sites from their supply chain.

Three local organizations – House of the Sacred Groves Foundation, Estonian House of Taara and Native Religions and Foundation of Indigenous Peoples of Estonia – awarded the Friend of the Sacred Groves title to FSC. This was the first time that an organization received the title in its 12-year history.

There are over 260 FSC chain of custody certificate holders in Estonia with more than 350 production sites. For this reason, the FSC risk assessment has a big impact for the protection of the sacred natural sites in Estonian forests.

Sacred natural sites map

In addition, FSC Estonia received its own award for including sacred natural sites into their CNRA, but also for developing a map of these sites. The Sacred natural sites map was introduced to help certified companies spot easily the sacred sites located in their area.  With this new tool companies can avoid buying wood sourced from these sites and protect them.

Altogether there could be approximately 4,000 sacred natural sites in Estonia, but most of them have still not been mapped.

Mapping Estonian sacred natural sites is not an easy task

© Kiur Kaasik

The Executive Director of FSC Estonia, Indrek Talpsep, who received the two awards, explained the necessity of developing this map in his speech: “With the help of our stakeholders, we produced the first sacred natural sites map covering the whole country with around 1200 sites included. A majority of these sites have been previously scattered across different maps (nature protection, heritage protection, etc), with some of them mapped either inconsistently or in an incorrect location. In addition, there are around 150 sites included, which have not been present in any of the national databases so far. To be able to protect sacred natural sites, it is imperative, that their location is easily accessible.”

Although the state also recognizes the need to map the sites and that the National Heritage Board of Estonia – a governmental agency – is taking steps to do so, no resources have been allocated so far to properly carry out the work at national level.

Mr. Talpsep regretted that the project met some resistance: “It has not been easy and there has been a lot of criticism both from the state and from the forest industry, due to a more extensive methodology and precautionary principle used for mapping. It makes me sad, that within half a year, this map was removed from (…) all the [Estonian] public servers, on the orders of the Ministry of the Environment of Estonia. (…) I have understood that too often this is a question of values, not awareness. Values which revolve around profit, rather than responsibility.”

The map was created in cooperation of House of the Sacred Groves Foundation and Land Board of Estonia and funded by FSC Estonia. With their help, as well as the one of many other stakeholders, FSC Estonia hopes that eventually all the estimated 4,000 sacred natural sites of the country will be mapped.

"FSC is a shared vision, a global community"

In his speech, Mr. Talpsep also underlined that FSC connected different interests across the globe, “FSC is a shared vision, a global community. We are a unique democratic organization, giving equal voice to environmental organizations, indigenous peoples and local communities as well as companies. We work for a world, where communities and indigenous peoples, as well as their culture is valued and protected and where forests flourish. We work for forests for all forever.”




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