The Quest to Save the Last Ancient Forests in Lithuania

Lithuania is a country with a rich and diverse forest heritage, but only a fraction of its original forests remain intact. These ancient woods are home to rare and endangered species of plants and animals and provide vital ecosystem services for the climate and the people. However, they are under constant threat from logging, development, and fragmentation.

That is why a group of passionate conservationists decided to launch the Sengire Fondas (The Ancient Woods Foundation), a non-profit organization that aims to buy and protect the last remaining old-growth forests in Lithuania. The foundation was inspired by "Sengire", a stunning nature documentary by Mindaugas Survila that captured the beauty and diversity of Lithuania's ancient woods. The movie is available through Vimeo's on-demand service.

In this episode of the NatureBacked podcast, we spoke with Rimante Paulaskaite-Digaitiene, the project manager of the foundation, about their mission, challenges, and achievements. She told us how the foundation works to identify and acquire the most biologically valuable forest plots in Lithuania and leave them for nature to develop naturally. She also explained why these forests are not only important for biodiversity but also for cultural and historical reasons, as they represent the heritage and identity of the Lithuanian people.

"The organisation was founded in 2020 aiming to protect the last remaining forest plots of old-growth forests, the last remaining biologically very valuable forest plots, like fragments, and don't do anything with that, meaning leaving it to nature to develop naturally. So it really becomes the real old-growth forest," she said.

She also shared some of the stories and emotions that she and her colleagues have experienced while visiting and working in these forests. She said that seeing these ancient trees and animals in person makes them realize why they are doing this work, and how much they have to lose if these forests disappear.

"It may seem that it's not much, especially when you sit near the computer and look at the data, look at the Excel, but when you get to those forests, you understand what you're doing, understand why you're doing that. And it seems a lot easier to understand when you get there," she said.

The foundation has already acquired around 90 hectares of old-growth forests with the help of donations from individuals and businesses. Their goal is to reach 100 hectares by the end of this year, and eventually create a network of protected forest areas across the country.

If you are interested in learning more about the foundation and its work, or if you want to support their cause, visit their website or follow them on Facebook.

You can listen to the full podcast episode here.

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