Dense and Mysterious Ways of Biržai Woods
The Issues of Forest Restoration
Robertas Skalvis, „Ekonomika ir visuomenė/Business and Exhibitions“
I asked Romanas Gaudiešius, the Director of Biržai forests, whether the forest restoration is appreciated. Romanas Gaudiešius has graduated with a degree in forestry from Lithuanian Academy of Agriculture (currently Aleksandras Stulginskis University) and was appointed to Biržai. He says that he was well received here and was the only one in his class to get an apartment, which was even in the city centre. Climbing the corporate ladder he became the Director and thus has a reasoned opinion about these lands and their forests:
"The lands here are fertile and produce a lot of wood. Its self-regeneration is good as well."
But preparing the forest regeneration and afforestation project, the foresters of Biržai suggest leaving the initiative for the implementers, allowing them to chose the most efficient means of reforestation. Nevertheless, Biržai Forest Directorate nurtures more than 300 ha of saplings every year, constantly supervising plantations in the area twice as large. Local forests constitute 60 000 hectares and more than half of them belong to the state. According to Andrius Samulionis, the engineer of afforestation and forest protection, they practically recreate everything that they cut. As it was stated in the normative documents, in three years. For example, last year the foresters restored 333.8 hectares of the forest. The Forest Directorate owns genetic reserves and special machinery for collecting tree seeds. Andrius says that they only need to buy pine seeds.
But seeds are not enough to recreate entire forests. Biržai Forest Directorate satisfies its afforestation needs using its own tree nursery. The Director says that the nursery is relatively small and cannot expand since it was established in an urban area, surrounded by a bypass and private property. However, this nursery practically satisfies the local needs.
"But perhaps there is no need for every forest directorate to have their own nursery?"
"Centralisation does not reduce any costs at all. The global crisis was created by large monopolies too. No monopolist would ever reduce the price. When you do not have an alternative to chose from, you will have to buy for any price. While having a local nursery benefits private forest owners as well. Because having only several nurseries in the regional centres would mean higher travelling costs and no options to choose from. This would almost eliminate competition." explains the Director.
The Forest Directorate not only sells saplings to private forest owners. It also provides consultations or training on how to write afforestation projects and prepare soil for planting, as well as take care of the forests. The Forest Directorate provides other agricultural services as well. However, communication with private forest owners that use state forest roads causes the most misunderstandings by far. In truth, what the private forest owners actually do is damage these roads with heavy timber trucks. Biržai Forest Directorate finds this particularly important as the local forests are damp and quite swampy.
"Why do not have any problems of such kind." says the Director of the forest unexpectedly. "But if you want to have order, you have to work for it, rather than wait for someone to come and take care of the private owners. We need to talk to the people, discuss with them, sometimes even punish. Biržai Forest Directorate has the densest road network in the entire country. Its total length in the forest of Biržai alone constitutes 450 kilometres. And they all are well taken care of, some of them covered with gravel and numbered to make it easier for people to find their way. The locals use them even to go to Latvia. No matter, summer or winter, as the roads are always cleaned.”
The locals are also happy, saying that travelling on such roads one can stock up firewood in a simpler and cheaper way.
Yet speaking about biofuel the Director remains reserved. Because its preparation costs, compared to firewood, are several times higher. Moreover, careless management might result in special equipment damaging the forest floor. The Director points out that no one is quick to buy such fuel anyway. Although Biržai and other forest directorates are able of producing much more biofuel.
The signs of patriotic memory in the forests of Biržai
The roads of Biržai forests have another very important mission – they lead to information stands, which were built by the Forest Directorate in order to commemorate freedom fighters and mark the places of battles or deaths of the post-war partisans and the rebels of the uprising of the 1863. There are nine of them in total. Seven of them are situated in Biržai wood, which is one of the largest in Lithuania, covering as much as 17 000 hectares. Whose idea was it?
"This was the idea of the Forest Directorate and the local municipality – the mayor Irutė Varzienė, to be exact." shares Jurgita Bruniuvienė, the Public Relations Specialist of Biržai Forest Directorate. It was she, who made sure that the information on the stands provided by the municipality is accurate and relevant, while the installations are attractive to the tourists, who are also provided with plans and convenient access to recreational areas not far from the places of commemoration.
Who are those heroes of Biržai lands?
The information gathered by patriotic Biržai citizens tells that on 6 May 1863 in the fields not far from Medeikiai village, the rebel troops led by Zigmntas Sierakauskas and Boleslovas Kolyška had successfully withstood against the punitive Russian unit and forced them to retreat to Medeikiai.The rebels withdrew from the battlefield into the woods as well. Having chosen the place for battle near Gudiškis village, which was situated deep in the forest, they were waiting for the attack not knowing that the during the night the enemy had received reinforcement. The crucial battle took place and was lost by the rebels on 8 May near Gudiškis. Bronislovas Žarskis, the battalion commander of Boleslovas Kolyška rebel squad, died and Zigmantas Sierakauskas, the leader of the rebels was severely injured. During the battle the largest rebel squad was defeated, many of their leaders died and a cart with ammunition was lost. After the battle or Biržai, the rebels avoided encounters with large Russian troops.
The forests of Biržai are the witnesses of the post-war partisan battles. During the decade of partisan resistance there were many regroupings in northern Lithuania and the rest of the Lithuania as well. The four partisan districts of Aukštaitija that operated in the north-eastern Lithuania the longest were: Algimantas district, the Great Battle district, as well as Vytis and Vytautas districts. The major part of Biržai region became a part of Algimantas district. During the years of 1944-1954 the forests of Biržai sheltered a large number of local partisans. There were both heroic acts and great losses.
Not so long ago the forest of Biržai revealed itself in a more positive way – archaeologists have found an ancient glass workshop near Kraukliai village. The Baltic tribes used to use glass already at the beginning of the common era, but our ancestors did not know how to process glass by themselves. The first glass workshop in Lithuania was founded only in 1547. But we can surely be proud of the fact that at the time, when the first glass manufactories were founded in Sweden and Russia, the glass manufactory in Biržai (actually, in the depths of Biržai wood), which belonged to the noble family of Radziwiłł, was already operating at full capacity. In this way the forests of Biržai open their secrets not only to their masters – the foresters.