Feel Good at Talgud: Practical Nature Conservation, Estonia

Estonian Fund for Nature (SA Eestimaa Looduse Fond; stands for the preservation of natural diversity. It keeps an eye on the Estonian government in their processes of drawing up environmental regulations and of compiling development plans, participates in and convenes with different parties to plan discussions, restores damaged areas, and advises on sustainable management practices.

In Estonian, ‘Talgud’ describes unpaid, large-scale physical work carried out in groups, which ELF has successfully implemented through its conservation camps with volunteers for 21 years. This project aims to involve 100-150 volunteers over 10 camps at 5 island and mainland locations popular with hikers and kayakers to protect endangered Estonian flora and fauna. Working in semi-natural habitats, brushwood and invasive species will be removed to restore open landscapes. Brushwood will be removed from the coastal areas of Ruhnu and Rammu islands, providing feeding space in coastal meadows for the baltic dunlin and, pines, left over from the Soviet Union’s reforestation campaign of the 1980s will be removed on Rammu Island to protect black crowberry moor, which only grows on a few North Estonian islands. Cowpens will be built on Osmussaar island to ensure appropriate grazing on alvars and protect wild orchid habitat . Finally, brushwood will be removed from the banks of Lusika and Piiruoja creeks to help black storks gain access to feeding sites whilst nesting.

The Update

During the implementation of the project, 136 participants did 1095 hours of work during 31 days in 10 conservation camps and 6 locations. They managed to restore considerable portions of the habitats of the baltic dunlin and other waders (0.548ha of brushwood removed on the island of Ruhnu), the feeding sites of the black stork (1.925 km of creek bank cleared in Lusaka, Sutesoo and Valgu creeks), the unique landscape of the crowberry moor (1.33ha of pine removed on the island of Rammu) and to ensure proper grazing in the habitat of wild orchids (1.13km of sheep pens built and 6.91ha of wooded pasture enclosed on the island of Osmussaar). Concurrently, the volunteers had the chance to visit picturesque locations and increase their knowledge about endangered species. Some alterations were needed to the project, such as the second camp on Ruhnu island needing to be replaced by a third camp on Rammu Island due to continuous sea storms meaning that the ferry used to access Ruhnu island could not dock, and the semi natural habitat on Osmussaar being conserved changing from an alvar to a wooded pasture. Despite these deviations from initial plans, the Estonian Fund for Nature reported that the project was successful and that it achieved its objectives.

With thanks to EOCA member Nikwax Germany which has generously made a donation towards the grant given to this project through its Green Friday promotion 2022.