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    Valkininkai forests – witnesses of the distant past

    Valkininkai forest and its administration were first spoken about in written sources (revision documents) in 1566. Then, Žygimantas Senasis gave Valkininkai volost to Gardinas forestry officer to administer.

     

    “Business and Exhibitions”
    7-8, 2012

    Valkininkai forest and its administration were first spoken about in written sources (revision documents) in 1566. Then, Žygimantas Senasis gave Valkininkai volost to Gardinas forestry officer to administer.
    Several days are considered as the date of the establishment of Valkininkai state forest enterprise. One of them is 25 November 1918 when the Lithuanian Government took Vilnija forests over from the then Germany and started establishing Lithuanian forest enterprises. When Vilnius land was occupied by Poland in 1920, the forest enterprise was closed. The second date is 1 November 1939 when, after regaining Vilnius land, Valkininkai state forest enterprise was re-established and the administration of its forests was trusted to 4 forest districts.
    Many reforms were done, boundaries of the forest enterprise where changed during the soviet period. Today, Valkininkai state forest enterprise administers 48.2 thousand ha, of which 22.2 thousand ha are state forests. Forests of the enterprise are divided into 9 forest districts: Vėžioniai, Žilinai, Tiltai, Pirčiupis, Valkininkai, Šalčia, Žymantiškiai, Verseka, and Eišiškės. Prevailing are coniferous stands (84 per cent) with 68 per cent of pine.
    We talk to the Director of Valkininkai state forest enterprise Arvydas Strazdas about the current economic activities of the enterprise, fire protection of particularly flammable coniferous stands, and reforestation of areas damaged by a recent squall.

    What is the situation in your enterprise today? Was the last year successful? How is its activities impacted by the changes in the timber market?

    Our forest enterprise is classed as the rural-type enterprise. There are no large towns or settlements in its territory, houses are most heated by firewood. Forests are popular among mushroom and berry pickers what causes many extra problems and what decides specific activities of our enterprise. Spruce is extremely flammable and thus we must be watchful.
    I would say that the last year was quite successful. We earned 12.9 million litas of income of which 11.3 million litas came from the sale of 87.2 thousand m2 of roundwood and non-cut forest. Our profit before taxes was 303.7 thousand litas. The enterprise reforested and afforested 161.8 ha of forests, improved 126.4 ha of young stands, repaired 30.4 km of forest drainage network, 121.5 km of forest roads. Much work was done and money allocated for sanitary and fire protection. Nearly 2 million litas was given for compulsory forest regeneration, protection and preservation.
    The timber market is not stable. This year we see a significant drop in timber demand, prices of industrial wood and firewood have also gone down.

    Half-empty forwarders

    Your forest enterprise provides door-to-door wood transportation services. Are they profit-making?

    Last year, wood loading and transportation services brought 1 million litas to our enterprise. Although this is not a large amount in the total income scheme, we think it is reasonable to provide these services. First, we create new jobs what is very important in rural areas. Second, we help those clients which do not have specialized vehicles. Finally, this service is profit-making. The enterprise has three forwarders. Our transport unit was established long ago; a repair unit repairs forwarders and fire rescue vehicles, forestry machinery. If a tractor in a forest gets broken, the specialists of our repair unit will repair it in half a day whereas the same services in Varėna or Vilnius would last 3-4 days the least and would cost much more. Our forwarders work in two shifts from 7 in the morning till 23 in the evening and are operated by two drivers.
    There is one problem, however, overcoming which would allow transporting even more timber and making transportation services cheaper. It has been estimated that the weight of timber taken together with a vehicle, loader and trailer cannot be more than 40 tones so as not to damage the road covering. Our forwarders could carry heavier timber loadings. It is not the general weight of a vehicle that damages a road but a too large load for one axis. The axis load, depending on axis, cannot be larger than 9-10 tones. As we transport timber by vehicles with trailers, we always keep to the fixed requirements. The maximum load per one axis would not be larger than allowed even if the weight of the loading taken together with a vehicle, loader and trail would be 50 tones. When timber is transported by a vehicle with a trailer, the load falls on 7 axes which have even 26 wheels. So what is the purpose of these restrictions? If we transported more timber, we would get more income, save on fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Alas, these arguments cannot find their way in the Seimas which has to make certain amendments to the existing legislation. The draft law which is actually approved by the Government and the Ministry of Transport and Communications has stuck in the Seimas for several years. This kind of delay does not fit with the political standpoint.

    Prevention of forest fires

    Forest enterprises are accused of the installation of too expensive automated forest fires monitoring cameras. The Public Procurement Office has addressed the Prosecution Service with the statement that the public tender wasn’t transparent and forest fires monitoring cameras could have been bought at a lower price. What is your opinion?

    There is a proverb – when you want to beat, any stick will do. We get an impression that the director of the Public Procurement Office is settling personal accounts with foresters. Forest protection against fires is one of the most important functions of forest enterprises. We are protecting billions-worth property both state and private. Until now, protection against fires was rather primitive. Fire prevention towers which stood in territories of forest enterprises were used by men on duty who watched forests from high above and telephone specialists of a forest enterprise or a forest district once they saw the fire or the smoke. Wages of people monitoring forest fires were low and sometimes we employed people who did not and could not fulfil their functions well. They fell asleep at work and did not inform about the fire on time.
    Why is the price of fire monitoring cameras so much spoken about? We are introducing and installing an automated fire monitoring system consisting of peripheral video recording and transmission equipment – detectors and a central desk where an operator is on duty. Three video monitoring devices and a central monitor have been installed in our forest enterprise for the total value of 1.45 million litas, of which 80 per cent was financed from EU structural funds.
    As long as I know, preparations for the reform in forest fire prevention were launched long ago. As far back as in 2007, in implementing the action plan for forestry development strategy, the feasibility study for the creation of the automated forest fire monitoring system was prepared. A technical commission analysed the study and decided to install monitory detectors in GSM operators’ towers. These towers are much higher than fire prevention towers used by forest enterprises and therefore cover larger territories. Besides, GSM towers have electricity supply and security systems. There are three monitors in Valkininkai state forest enterprise, of which one is the former fire prevention monitoring tower and another two in Omnitel towers.
    Directors of several forest enterprises went to France, Germany and Estonia to learn more about the automated fire monitoring system. The demonstrational presentation of this system was organized in Varėna state forest enterprise which was agreed with the Public Procurement Office. Soon after, a tender for the introduction of an automated fire monitoring system was announced which was won by UAB “Telekonta”. It is said that other participants of the tender offered lower prices, however the experience says that cheaper does not mean better.
    We are fully satisfied with the new system. It allows us to employ only fewer operators and reduce maintenance costs of fire prevention towers. Of course, we are not planning to pull them down so far. This year, a small fire destroyed 2 ares of forest, last year we extinguished 4 fires and lost nearly 1 ha of forest.
        
    State Forests
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