January 26, 2023

Kaidi Tingas

Astra Ait, Kalju Simpson, and Mario Talvist are recognised as outstanding managers of seminatural grasslands

On 25th of January the Ministry of the Environment and the Environmental Board, in cooperation with the LIFE IP ForEst&FarmLand project, acknowledged the most outstanding managers of seminatural grasslands for the second time! Among the seven nominees, Astra Ait from Saaremaa, Kalju Simpson from Läänemaa, and Mario Talvist from Saaremaa and Muhumaa were awarded the title. They have all made a major contribution to the preservation and restoration of our biologically diverse semi-natural grasslands.

Astra Ait, who manages 6.4 ha of wooded meadows in the village of Kuke on Saaremaa, is an example of how it is not always necessary to be big to achieve something big! Astra has kept open the areas where she and her parents used to make hay for the livestock when she was a child, cut back bushes, removed protruding stones and stumps, and, with some help, restored a 120-metre-long stone fence. Every spring and autumn, nature lovers gather to watch the flooding of the karstic area of Astra’s wooded meadow.

Astra is passionate about what she does and takes pride in her area, upholding a message of conservation for everyone. Small managers are an important link between large and medium-sized areas, contributing to the diversification of rural biodiversity.

Kalju Simpson, the most meticulous caretaker of 193 ha of the Kasari floodplain, can be trusted 110% and does the three-year job of restoring floodplains in a single year, contributing more to the project than the Environmental Board contracts require or support schemes can compensate for.
Kalju does his job with a great level of quality, fairness and accuracy, and wants to be addressed in a straightforward and precise manner. He often has suggestions on what more could be done to improve the maintenance and stands up for himself, his rights and sense of justice, being a short-tempered and unpleasant opponent for lawbreakers.

Kalju's trustworthiness and thoroughness was well demonstrated when he and his family carefully picked out angelica and garden angelica plants from the hay which was to be delivered to the Tallinn Zoo, to ensure that the hay met the quality requirements. Kalju still supplies the zoo with hay, and is also the largest contract partner of the Lihula boiler house.

As a passionate nature conservationist, he stands up for both himself and our natural resources.

Mario Talvist is an entrepreneur and nature lover who took over his grandparents' work 13 years ago, but as his own Põripõllu coastal pasture soon became too small for him, he has given several other seminatural grasslands in Saaremaa and Muhumaa a second chance, and provided several people from Saaremaa and Muhumaa with work in the area.

Mario has a wealth of experience, being one of the first to restore and maintain the island's extensive alvars and wooded meadows, encountering unexpected obstacles and difficulties, which have in turn provided lessons to other land managers and authorities alike.

The size of the areas he now manages is impressive, with 600 ha of seminatural grasslands under management and over 50 ha in the restoration phase. Mario has found a successful and enviable way of combining good business sense and good communication skills with modern nature conservation in the management of seminatural grasslands, and has managed to rally people around him to help make management of seminatural grasslands a reality.

Mario is active and socially influential in advocating and providing ideas not only for seminatural grasslands, but environmentally friendly agricultural policies in general. He promotes an environmentally friendly way of thinking and living, and is said to also have an impressive list of bird sightings.

Ways to talk to the public about the need for seminatural grasslands, how to encourage landowners whose land includes natural values to restore and manage their land, and ways to ensure that the grandchildren of current land managers would also be interested in this work and lifestyle were also discussed at the recognition ceremony.

There are more than 800 managers of seminatural grasslands in Estonia, whose activities diversify agriculture and ensure that Estonia's traditional natural habitats will not disappear but are well cared for and managed.

Photographer Heikki Avend's photo gallery can be viewed HERE.