„The forest has a lot of sentimental value for us but is also a part of our livelihood. We get all the professional forestry services we need from the Forest Owners Association of Lithuania. It is an organization forest owners can rely on."
Forest owner, Valerijonas Kazimieras Sperskas, Vilnius
FORESTS IN LITHUANIA IN GENERAL
Forests make up one of the most important natural and indigenous resources in Lithuania. The general overview of forest statistics shows, that forest conditions in Lithuania are improving, forest area and timber resources are increasing. Resources accumulated in Lithuanian forests allows to further enhance sustainable forest development and fulfil social, environmental and economical functions of Lithuanian forests.The total average timber production per year in Lithuanian is 5 mln m³. Around 1 mln m³ of timber comes from private forests.
The on-going restitution and land reform is creating a large number of private forest owners. At the end of this process approximately 50% of the forest land or over 950.000 hectares are envisaged to be in private hands. On 1 January 2004 there were 202.8 thousand forest owners and 630.3 thousands of hectares of private woodlots registered in the State Land Cadastre. The average size of forestland holding in Lithuania is 4.5 ha
THE ROLE OF FOREST OWNERS ASSOCIATION OF LITHUANIA
In April 1993 the Forest Owners Association of Lithuania (FOAL) was founded first time in the history of the country with the initiative to represent the interest of forest owners and to develop the institutional framework for the family forestry and subsequently became registered as a public organization (on 8 June, 1993). The FOAL is the national interest organization for the forest owners in Lithuania and has status of independent public NGO.
FOAL is recognized national organization in Lithuania and internationally. FOAL is:
FOAL is taking the steps to enhance the education and extension services for private forest owners in Lithuania. It is the founder of public institution “Private Forest Extension Centre” (further PFEC) which is organizing courses for forest owners throughout the country since 2000.
The main purposes and activities of the Association are: to represent forest owners interests in the Government and other institutions, to have influence upon legal acts, to consults forest owners and to organize courses for them, to support co-operation among forest owners and co-operate with representative organizations of landowners in foreign countries.
The Association is actively enlarging and has established a country – wide network of organizational structures (38 local branches and 24 co-operatives of private forest owners, uniting over 3000 members).
VARIOUS SERVICES TO FOREST OWNERS
FOAL is working in close co-operation with forest owners in all matters related to forests – from planting to harvesting. FOAL offer training and guidance and provide professional assistance in forestry issues thus protecting forest owners' interests and helping to achieve set objectives. FOAL cooperatives take care of planning and implementation of forestry measures in private forests. They also provide consulting services in wood sales planning and wood sales transactions.
Much emphasis is placed on the profitability of forestry as it has a direct impact on the welfare of rural areas.
Forest owners can also grant their cooperatives the power of attorney concerning wood sales and deliveries. This has proved to be a valuable service to those forest owners who themselves do not have the time or opportunity to actively participate in the management of their forests or timber sales. The demand for power of attorney services has grown steadily with the urbanisation of the forest owners. Currently about 20% of timber sales from private forests are based on attorney sales.
FOAL group companies performed egghtfold growth in two years. During the recent years roundwood supplies from private forest were consistently increasing in Lithuania.
Currently private forests account for 40% of total roundwood supply in Lithuania, i.e. more than 2 mill.m³/yr. There are more than 200,000 forest owners in Lithuania and the average size of private forest holding is very small (4,5 ha). This determines difficulties in sustainable supply of roundwood from private sector. Removals in private forests are growing in line with forest land restitution. During 1995- 2003 the area of restored private forest land has quadrupled to 630,000 ha (31% of Lithuania’s forest area). While fellings volume has increased by 3,5-fold to 2,5 mill.m³. In addition, about 1,5 mill.m³ of potentially available for cutting wood annually remains “untouched” due to felling restrictions in forests reserved for restitution (almost 400,000 ha or 20% of total forest area).
Cooperation and consolidation of private forest owners is strengthening. Forest Owners’ Association of Lithuania (FOAL) supports the development of the network of forest owners’ cooperatives and other umbrella companies. These companies act under FOAL umbrella and provide all forestry related services, including trade in roundwood. FOAL umbrella companies employ more than 130 skilled specialists which advice and offer to forest owners the full range of services in management of their forest property. During the last two years the consolidated roundwood supply of FOAL companies has increased eightfold while the total roundwood supply from private forests in Lithuania has increased by 30% only.
FOAL group has become the biggest supplier in private forest sector and one of the biggest players in the roundwood market. Consolidated roundwood sales of companies working under FOAL umbrella accounted for more than 10% of roundwood supply from private forests (in 2001 – 2% only).
Even if the volumes supplied by separate FOAL cooperatives and companies are small, 70-80% of their roundwood is marketed through the specialised wood trading companies, belonging to FOAL network.
THE BOARD OF FOAL
The Board of FOAL consists of 17 elected members, and organisational work is carried out by the Administration. The Board meets every month, and in order to solve rising questions more efficiently there are formed 8 committees (each led by Board member) dealing with different issues:
- Forest Policy and Organisational Development;
- Cooperation and Support to Private Forestry Development;
- Forest Certification and Environmental Protection;
- Roundwood Trade;
- Education, Extension and Professional Training;
- Ethics and FOAL Logo Supervision;
- Project Initiation and Supervision.
Having the wide network of experts and specialists, FOAL is capable to offer the wide range forestry related services and expertise. During the 16 years of activities the Association has initiated and participated in a number of national and international projects.