Resource availability, planning rigidity and Realpolitik in Lithuanian forest utilization
As tensions among diverse forest-use interests in Lithuania are on the rise, this study examines the actual resource availability, the underlying planning approaches and the pertinent policy arena. Two 5-year cycles of sampling-based forest inventory provide accurate data showing that the overall timber harvest/increment ratio (or utilization intensity) is 61%. Utilization intensity is similar in state and private forests. It could potentially be raised to 70-80%, with due account for environmental values. Such an increase is inhibited by rigid routines of forest management planning, involving inflexible rotation ages and cutting norms. Age-class analysis indicates that the current planning practice counters its underlying aim of achieving a long-term even flow of timber. According to a survey of key forest stakeholders, those who directly benefit from forest utilization have a weak position in the policy arena, the dominant powers being vested in the national forestry authorities. State forest enterprises have to follow restrictive plans from above, private forest owners are constrained by stern regulations and suffer from the bad image caused by the persistent myth of overuse in private forests. More rational management of Lithuanian forests is hardly possible without major shifts in the institutional set-up accompanied by transformation of the professional ideology.