Certification will ensure that multiple needs of people who depend on this forest are catered for simultaneously: space for recreation and inspiration, a healthy ecosystem hosting biodiversity, and wood to harvest for products of everyday life.
Riga is well known for its art nouveau buildings and spacious parks. Public recreation forests form a green crown around the capital, providing fresh air and the opportunity for residents to walk and relax. Over one million people live in Riga and the surrounding area, and because of these forests, they don’t have travel far to experience nature.
The landscape of the Riga forest features woodlands and wetlands, which are home to various wild plants and animals. Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) is the dominant tree species, and there are also birches (Betula pendula) and spruces (Picea abies). Visitors can enjoy a walk on a 6km-long wooden pathway over the wetlands.
"Rīgas meži" (Rigas Forests) is the forest management company that takes care of more than 60 thousand ha of municipal forests on behalf of the Riga municipality who owns them. The former Chairman of its Board, Mr. Aivars Tauriņš said: “The forests we care for are important to the majority of the Latvian population. We invest a large part of the profit to care for and expand Riga's greenery.” Tauriņš adds that the FSC certification helped them to understand where improvements were needed.
“I applaud the fact that “Rīgas meži” have risen to meet the requirements to be certified in accordance to the criteria established by Forest Stewardship Council”, the mayor or Rīga, Mārtiņš Staķis said. “It is not just economy that depends on highly responsible management of the forests within and around the capital of Latvia, but also the quality of their ecosystem services like clean air and drinking water, healthy landscapes and abundant wildlife diversity. So, as the FSC standard implies, the forests are there for all of us.”
Mr. Jānis Ģērmanis, Head of the Forestry Department, “Rīgas Meža” underlined that the certification process was another control measure to make sure they work in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible way. “We work with nature and environmental protection specialist, Mr. Edmunds Račinskis, so during the felling activities we leave trees of particular biodiversity value untouched. For example, we preserve all hollow trees or trees that could hold large nests that are useful for birds.”
The company's permanent staff include nature experts who monitor high conservation values and assess the impact of forest management practices on the conservation of species. Large birds of prey, as well as European rollers (Coracias garrulus) and woodpeckers of various species nest in these forests.
Responsible forest management means that along with conservation of ecosystems and care for people who depend on the forest, the managing actors can make their business a profitable activity. For that purpose, they can sell wood of the trees which are felled to cover for the costs of preserving biodiversity and maintaining the forest safe and clean for its visitors.
Mr. Jānis Stankēvičs, Production Manager, “Rīgas Meži” said “The certificate confirms that we manage our forests correctly and that we think about the future. We will expand our customers by those who care about sustainability of the timber they buy. "
Urban green spaces are becoming more and more important with the ongoing urbanisation of society. They improve the quality of life of people living in cities, and this has been highlighted during the pandemic, when parks and urban forests have been the only places to get away from work or household routine. Balancing the ecological, economic, and societal ecosystem services of urban forests which comes along with forest certification will be key in the urban planning of the future.