In 2017. we bought 86,2 hectares of land (our of which 72,7 ha is forest) in the region of Alutaguse. It’s one of the least populated areas of Estonia with vast taiga forests and bogs. Thus, it has also been historically an important area where species, which are sensitive to human impact (Brown Bears, Golden Eagles, Flying Squirrel), have survived even during the more difficult times. For example, at the beginning of the 20th century when the number of Brown Bears was at its all-time low, around twenty bears managed to survive in inaccessible parts of Alutaguse forests. Thanks to these individuals, we can today speak of a strong and healthy population of Brown Bears in Estonia.
Today Alutaguse is under strong economic pressure. Therefore it is important that in addition to traditional forest management, we can create jobs, which are based on natural diversity. We also provide work in other parts of Estonia for people operating in the tourism sector and their income depends on the good state of Estonian nature. Urbanization is a big problem in Estonia and by providing work in the countryside, we can tackle it. Often the best way to preserve nature is to make sure that the people have a connection with their home and surrounding nature.
Although the piece of land we bought is not big, it interacts with existing nature reserves (Sirtsi Nature Reserve and the newly founded Alutaguse National Park), giving it a higher value. The former farmland is mainly covered with middle-aged taiga forest, but there are also patches of grassland. On our land, there is a Brown Bear and Wildlife Watching hide for observing Brown Bears and other forest species. Through building and managing the hide, we provide work for locals. The hide and activities related to it affect around 2 hectares of the total area, elsewhere we let nature run its course without interfering. This means also that no hunting is allowed on our land.
In addition to serving as a private conservation area, helping local bio-diversity, “Alutaguse Bear Forest Project” is working effectively as a carbon sink. It’s capable of offsetting all the CO2 emissions caused by the flights of our tour clients and even more, balancing our effect on the climate. You can read more about the project and our forests’ capability of biding carbon dioxide from the atmosphere from here.
But we have a clear plan on investing in future projects and will not confine with just the land we have right now. The natural resources of Alutaguse need protection and its biggest problems are connected to the forests. Thus, we plan to increase the size of protected forest land with our own resources and have created an opportunity for everyone who wished to contribute to this project. Namely, we have established the “Alutaguse Bear Forest Fund”.
Alutaguse Bear Forest Fund
The 86 hectares of land we have managed to buy and protect can be considered a good result for a small company such as Natourest. Also, the state has done a decent job of taking forests under protection, compared to a lot of other countries. But we see it with our own eyes that there are several shortcomings in protecting several endangered species, such as the Siberian Flying Squirrel or the Western Capercaillie. Thus we intend to carry on what we already started and try to take even more forests under protection. Initially, our plan was just to continue investing part of our income in buying the forest, but then something unexpected happened – a lot of our friends and clients let us know that they really like what we are doing and they want to support our cause! This is why opened the “Alutaguse Bear Forest project Fund.
At first, we wanted to create a separate organization for managing the fund, but then we realized that managing it would take too much time, money, and attention. Instead, we decided to focus more on just providing a good quality nature experience as we have done so far. Apparently, Natourest will still remain the main contributor to the fund and that’s why we have created the fund internally. We have created a separate bank account with separate accounting and the investments going there will only be used for the purposes of the fund.
The purpose of the fund is to protect forest biodiversity. The main means of achieving this is purchasing forest or forestland and prohibiting logging and hunting for a more natural forest development.
Principles of operation of Alutaguse Bear Forest Fund:
- The purchased forest will remain in the property of the fund.
- The forest owned by the Fund shall not be managed except in exceptional cases for the purpose of biodiversity. At times, some managing may be beneficial, such as making glades, developing stands of different species and ages, restoring wooded meadows.
- There will be no hunting allowed on the land owned by the Fund. Except in special cases: sick animals, risk of disease, etc.
- We prefer to buy the forest land in the Alutaguse area, bordering or close to our current forest.
- If there is a favorable opportunity to buy forest elsewhere in Estonia, we will do so.
- The costs of buying a forest are high, and if we fail to raise enough money to buy a suitable forest, the fund can be used for other forest protection purposes. For example, to support the work of scientists and to protect endangered forest species.
There are two main sources of investment for the fund.
- OÜ Natourest donates 10€ per person participating in one of our longer tours (even if the tour itself does not take them to the Brown Bear hide) and 5€ per person staying in our Brown Bear hide.
- Other contributors can donate to the fund by buying a Bear Forest T-shirt (coming soon!). The t-shirt has a minimum price of ..€ and the entire amount received from the sale will go directly to the fund. Of course, you can contribute to the fund without buying a shirt by just making a transfer.
By the end of the 2021 season, we have collected 4125€ through Brown Bear hide visits and 400€ through private donations. Read more about the season summary.
Alutaguse Bear Fund Account:
Bank: SwedbankIBAN: EE072200221073528738