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Key habitat

What is a key habitat?

Pursuant to the term defined in the Forest Act, a key habitat is an area where the probability of the occurrence of narrowly adapted, endangered, vulnerable or rare species is high. 

The Estonian abbreviation VEP (vääriselupaik) of key habitat may be interpreted in several ways. Primarily, it is an abbreviation of the word vääriselupaik, but to remember the term, it may be worded as väga eriline paik metsas (very special place in the forest).
Based on the order of the Minister of the Environment, all key habitats located in state forest are protected.

Key habitat protection in private forest

The best way to make sure whether a key habitat is located in your forest is to use the public forest register http://register.metsad.ee/. Choose the tab “kihid” (layers) in the left column and then activate the layer “vääriselupaigad” (key habitats) in the submenu “looduskaitse” (nature conservation). The key habitats of Estonia are then displayed using a light brown colour.

Protecting a key habitat in a forest belonging to a private person is voluntary. The private forest owner may conclude a notarised contract for the protection of a key habitat, on the basis of which the immovable is encumbered with a personal right of use in favour of the state for a term of 20 years. For that, a sum equal to the value of the standing timber shall be paid to the owner as annual payments within 20 years proportionally.

The contract prohibits removal of down timber from the forest in the key habitat, drainage of the forest, construction of forest roads, reforestation, camping, making a fire and cutting the forest, except for extraordinary cutting upon the consent of the Environmental Board.

The entry into contract is regulated by section 23 of the Forest Act and section 27 of regulation No. 2 of 4 January 2017 of the Minister of the Environment.

If you have additional questions or wish to enter into contract, please contact the office of the Environmental Board of the location of the key habitat or a forest conservation specialist.

Lobaria pulmonaria Photo: Tanel Niklus

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