The Raseiniai district lies in western Lithuania, and is typically 'Samogitian' in nature, characterised by plains, hills and river terraces covered with forests, both deciduous and coniferous.
The protection of these forests and their invaluable natural treasures is imperative, which is why local forest administrations were established already by late 1918, once the management of these forests was handed over from the German occupation rulers. In 1919Lithuania's state forests were divided into 16 administrational units, known as state forest enterprises — among them was the Raseiniai State Forests Enterprise.
In 1921 the Raseiniai State Forests Enterprise consisted of ten forest districts. The area belonging to this state forests enterprise tripled in size in 1920-1923 when formerly privately-owned forests came under state control, but this changed again alongside changes in the political structure inLithuaniain 1944 and 1958.
At present, the Raseiniai State Forests Enterprise controls a territory of about 42,000 ha distributed over the Raseiniai and Jurbarkas districts, of which 19,500 ha are state forests. Forests covering an area of 17,000 ha have been returned to private owners with an additional 5,900 ha reserved for future privatisation.
On average, forest stands in the Raseiniai State Forests Enterprise are 44 years old. Of these forests stands, 18% are mature stands, 27% are middle-growth stands, 26% are ripening stands, and 29% are young plantations. A greater part of the forests, or 15,636 ha (82%) are used for economic purposes (forestry). An area of 1,724 ha (9%) is set aside for ecosystem protection and recreational purposes, with an area of 1,752 ha (9%) classified as protective forests. Birch is most dominant (34%) in this area, but there are also spruce (30%), black alder (18%), asp (3%) and some oak and gray alder (both 2%).
The last forests inventory conducted in the Raseiniai State Forests Enterprise was in 2004.
The Raseiniai State Forests Enterprise replants 270 ha of felled sites annually, and 35 ha of land considered unsuitable for agriculture is also reforested every year.
Two spruce plantations have been established to provide seeds of the highest quality for reforestation. There are over 80 ha of genetic reserves and seeder stands found in the state forests enterprise territory containing black alder, birch and larch seeder stands, and four oak, six birch and four black alder trees that are select specimens. In total there are 28 seeding objects.
The Raseiniai State Forests Enterprise nursery (30 ha) produces 6 million saplings annually, of which 1.7 million are suitable for reforestation.
A great indicator of a healthy and living forest is the fauna that lives there. Birds are attracted to the Raseiniai State Forests Enterprise, thanks to the foresters who install nesting boxes and leave old, hollowed trees standing in felling sites, so that members of the woodpecker family may nest there. To facilitate this, 50 ant hills are fenced, 450 new nesting boxes are raised, and 400 previously-raised nesting boxes are restored every year.
Forests are protected through the use of pheromone traps, saplings are sprayed with repellents to protect them from wild animals, and sanitary clearings are also conducted.
The greatest danger forests face are fires; however, the Raseiniai forests are damp and the likelihood of fires emerging here is rather small.
Roads that allow year-round access so that timber can be transported from felling sites are crucial, and so, their installation and maintenance is a main point of focus in this as in other statė forest enterprises. The enterprise uses both its own funds, and 150,000 Lt that is allocated from the Roads Maintenance and Devel-opment Programme to lay 1 — 1.5 km of new roads annually.
The Raseiniai State Forests Enterprise clears 72,000 - 75,000 m3 of wood annually, of which 52,000-54,000 m3 comes from main felling and 20,000 - 23,000 m3 - from secondary felling. Every year this statė forests enterprise produces 66,000 - 68,000 m3 of timber, the remainder is commonly handled by local inhabitants who collect this timber for use as fire-wood. About 4,000 m3 o f fire-wood may be produced from the timber remaming after felling in state forests that are managed by the Raseiniai State Forests Enterprise, which local inhabitants also make use of.
The foresters here care for both the forest itself and its animal population - there are many boars, roe, deer, eik, foxes, raccoon dogs, hares and martens. Commercial hunting iš one of the main sources of income in this statė forests enterprise.
Every year an average of 10 roe bucks, 20 roe deers and young, 50 boars and a number of foxes, raccoon dogs, hares and martens are hunted in hunting grounds specially set aside for professional hunters. A single hunting expedition may attract over 50 hunters fromLithuaniaand abroad, who each add about 1,000 Lt to the income of this state forests enterprise, while the ten local hunting clubs have over 500 members.
In 2004, a 24 ha enclosure was established in the 35th quarter of Blinstrubiškiai forest in the Viduklė forest district within the Raseiniai State Forests Enterprise to protect and breed wild animals, and presently contains 37 fallow deer and 17 moufflon of various ages.
The Dubysa Regional Park extends over these wonderful forests, covering 4575 ha of forests from the town ofLyduvenaito Ariogala. The Dubysa River down from Lyduvenai has been announced as a NATURA 2000 territory protecting valuable and endangered fish habitats. The Blinstrubiskiai forest biosphere ground has been set aside especially for the protection of white-tailed sea eagles which nest in this forest.
The Lapgiriai forest in the Vadzgiris forest district contains the Lapgiriai Botanical Reserve which protects rare plant and fungi species, their habitats, and rare plant communities. The Jukainiai Geomorphological Reserve has been established to protect the unique remains of moraine ridges and the broad leaf and mixed forest habitats found there.
The inventorisation of key forest habitats in the Raseiniai State Forests Enterprise began in 2002, resulting in the distinction of 74 key forest habitats over an area of 243 ha.
The foresters of the Raseiniai State Forests Enterprise direct a lot of attention to public and especially youth education programmes, and the personnel are regular initiators and supporters of many environmental events, conferences and camps held in the district.
They are instrumental in protecting and fostering nature's treasures and objects of cultural heritage value, giving opportunities for the public to learn more about them, and adapting forest areas for recreation and relaxation. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the scenic lookouts, walking paths, and oak picnic furniture found in and among the range of rest areas, around half of which have disabled access. There is also a camp site in the Padubysa forest district.
The Jukainiai forest has always attracted people drawn by its unusual relief, plant diversity and historical past. The Raseiniai State Forests Enterprise has been busy constructing a walking path that winds its way through this unique forest, suited to children, adults and the disabled, since 2005.
The Raseiniai foresters place special importance on the activities of the Young Friends of theForest, established in 1992. At present there are five groups, each with their own leaders, who organise tree-planting activities and clean-up days, as well as building bird feeders and nesting boxes.