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The community of rangers: “We want to communicate with the society”, or why the majority of rangers are fanatics

Gintautas KNIUKŠTA
Business and Politics 1(38), 2013

“Verslas ir politika” talks with a ranger of Viduklė district, who is a member of presidium of rangers‘ union in Lithuania and a chairman of rangers’ community council, Raimondas JUZIKIS. A few years ago he was awarded with a medal “For the merits to Lithuania”. He has noticed that the majority of rangers are fanatics.
Since time immemorial, in the western part of Lithuania, there is Raseniai land. Here, as throughout the Lowlands, in plains, on the mountains and their foothills, in the pits between the mountains, and in the river terraces, one can find spruce forests, which are very green, have white stems, and broad branches.
In 1919, Lithuanian national forests were divided into 16 administrative units, which are called forest stewardships. Raseiniai forest stewardship was one of them.
In 1921, Raseiniai forest stewardship included 10 districts: Šimkaičiai, Šiluva, Birbiliškės, Padubysis, Jurbarkas, Kražiai, Viduklė, Gruzdžiai, Tytuvėnai, and Žagarinė. In 1926, there was the first organization of forest exploitation. The chronicle of 1918-1938 of the Agriculture Ministry shows that in 1926, 58 297 hectares of forests were arranged in the forest stewardships of Raseiniai and Raudondvaris.
Currently, in the territory of Raseiniai forest stewardship, which is controlled by the national company, the area of forests consists of 42 thousands hectares and stretches in the districts of Raseiniai and Jurbarkas. The forest stewardship manages 19.5 thousand hectares of forests, and 5.9 thousand are reserved for privatization. Forests in the area of forest stewardship are divided into 7 districts: Birbiliškės, Padubysis, Paliepiai, Pikčiūnai, Šimkaičiai, Vadžgiris, Viduklė. Žaiginis nursery provides planting stock for the forests of stewardship.
Dear ranger, when I have called you to arrange an interview, you have said that you are in the forest. What does a forest mean for you as an individual, as a citizen, but not as a specialist?
It is hard to say, because I am strongly attached to a forest, so I find it difficult to assess in a human sense. For more than 20 years, I have been working in the forestry department. Usually, it hurts when I fail to do something, or when someone is wrong and you are unable to change that.
It is said that in general, all dirty works are performed by the forest rangers and their teams. How would you explain, what is a ranger?
For children, I say that a ranger protects a forest from disorder and noises of cars. It is very well characterized by an old Soviet movie.
Without a forester, without a ranger, society is not comprehensible anymore. I suppose. I interact with our society a lot, I am often invited to organize campaigns, and we live friendly.
I interact with children and young people most of the time; I am a real public figure. I coordinate groups of young forest friends at two schools. City people and young people usually imagine a ranger as a bearded, quiet, and shabby person.
This image appeared long time ago. Today, a ranger is one of the social cells; all rangers are educated, has eloquence, like to socialize, and participate in community events. We participate and promote the society to organize various events with a forest theme: “Darom”, Christmas promotions, etc.
Is this job of a ranger is somehow specific? Can all graduates of the Faculty of Forestry choose this job?
You can work at any job, but the question is how you do your job. I believe that there is no such job that a person would be unable to work. You can only succeed or fail. Sometimes I am joking that I could be a Prime Minister, but the question is whether I would be a good one?
However, the majority of rangers are fanatics. This fanaticism is associated with a forest, when you can give up your leisure time, sometimes even with your family. Young people see our work from the distance, and they think that it is beautiful. Although, if you look closer at the ranger’s job, you will find that it is quite difficult. Each job has specific issues.
In order to work as a ranger, you have to have a passion. We meet with young people, they come, look, and when we go to the forest, only then they can see what we are working. It appears that they could not even imagine. After all, you can even count the trees, although, some people joke that it is impossible.
When our work is appreciated, euphoria and pleasure sag. I am proud of being a ranger, and I think that we create our own image. If we show to the society that we are happy, we are working hard and do not complain, so it would seem that we are actually happy as it should be.
How did you accept the news that Lithuanian forests are among the best managed forests in the world?
This news was very joyful. Sometimes you can think that you failed to do something, but in the overall context of Lithuania, we are working hard. The majority of rangers are working without counting the minutes, and maybe that is why the government does not forget us.
For example, there was a meeting of rangers’ community at the University of A. Stulginskis. There were also representatives from the General forest stewardship. The general forest steward sent greetings by the email, and the dean welcomed the students with the wind-horn march. We were pleasantly surprised. This evaluation is a very strong argument for skeptics, proving that we are really hard workers. They cannot defile our work so often and unreasonably.
How do you assess the management model? Is there too many controlling authorities? What do you think about changes that are coming from Vilnius?
We are experienced rangers already; we are the first to suggest that it is necessary to set the area, which should belong to a ranger, what should be the scope of work. The talks about a revolution in forestry department are unacceptable.
Today’s functions of a management system are separate: General Forest Stewardship is an economic unit, and political decisions are made by the Forestry Department. This model has been present for a long time, and I think it paid off. We say that it is better to follow an evolutionary path, rather than revolutionary path. The effect of revolutionary decisions appears after a few years, but when we want to go back – it is impossible. It was considered to amalgamate the forest stewardships, and these discussions are also present among rangers. Even the former minister A. Kundrotas tried to ask for our opinion.
In my opinion, it all depends on how a forest stewardship lives and how is it able to sustain itself. If we are able to manage our forests the best in the world, I think that the forest stewardships are doing a great job. We cannot say that the system is perfect, but it works, and to change something or destroy would be an unwise move.
Do you get enough of attention and care from both Raseiniai and General forest stewardship? Or maybe sometimes you feel forgotten? What do you think about the work of General Forest Stewardship? Do their decision projects always reach you? Is it correct to say that it is a homogeneous body with all forest stewardships and districts?
As a leader of rangers’ community, I can say that in the past, rangers gathered to pour their problems and discussed that they need such laws, which would be possible to fulfill. Perhaps at that time, we did not confront the forest stewards. The General Forest Stewardship certainly does not forget us; we feel strong support on all issues.
On the other hand, I have always thought that if you want to be noticed, you have to do something on your own. We have rangers’ community, we invite the representatives of General Forest Stewardship, and we invite the general forest steward and the leaders of forest stewardships. The attitude of General Forest Stewardship towards us is sympathetic, positive, and favorable. It accepts our suggestions, when they want to change legal documents, we communicate. If at least some of our top ten suggestions are considered, it is already a breakthrough.
During the meeting of the forest stewardship, they ask for our opinion, fears, and we try to find solutions. We really understand each other.
Does the community of rangers is united?
Over the past few years, we have signed about ten statements regarding our structure and preservation of complex farming. We also expressed our concerns and requests at the highest level: to the President D. Grybauskaitė, Prime Minister A. Kubilius, and the minister of Environment. We asked to consider and do not irritate the rangers for possible structural changes anymore.
Regarding the unity, I can say that there are two types of rangers. One type is hard workers, true professionals, and they need a few weeks to get ready for going to a city. The other type is younger rangers, including myself, who likes to interact with the society and talk about how we work and what is our life like.
Over the past three years, during the Ranger’s Day, we present the system and rangers to society. Two years ago, in Vilnius and this year in Ukmergė. The society of rangers is closed, but we want to open it, so we seek to communicate more.
As far as I know rangers, they are modest, polite, dreamers, romantics, but I have read a book, written by a professor, Albertas Vasiliauskas: there was so much mud poured on fellow rangers… Why is it necessary?
I know Mr. Vasiliauskaas really well. More than once we have talked and discussed. In my opinion, his words are influenced by certain grievance outcome. I find it difficult to comment, but I do not like it too. If there are some negative things, we should deal with them jointly, rather than wait until someone will solve them for us.
What are the grievances of the professor?
Certain ambitions. No one will take away the recognition and the title of professor, but you can blame others, when you have strong arguments and without prior prejudice.
How do you see the future of the national forests?
In recent years, the burden of taxes is very high. I do not know, how much longer the forest stewardships will be able to carry it. I am an economist, so I understand when the burden of taxes becomes unbearable; it might happen that the system will collapse. To prevent this, we often talk. I agree that the state needs money, but it should avoid disrupting the system.
If it happens, the state would lose. Economics and financial life of forest stewardships will show how everything will turn out and whether it is possible to live under such conditions. It is said that some stewardships will amalgamate, because their potential is lower, but it should be carried out evolutionary. I have started to work in a forestry, where were 9 people, and today it employs only three at the same area. Structurally we are reduced. It is very important that some businessmen, politicians, and officials consider the forests more than a sack of money.
Are the rangers currently feeling the economic crisis?
I think that rangers overcame the crisis, because the General Forest Stewardship reacted very quickly. Within a short period of time, we have reduced our costs. Maybe some work areas have been affected and our salaries decreased. Although, now salaries are only average, the same amounts are paid by Lithuanian state-owned companies.
Today, I believe that Lithuanian forest stewardships do not feel the crisis. We live from timber sales, and timber is currently buyable. Currently, the situation is normal.
How would you present your forestry in a few words?
In a common sense, Raseiniai forest stewardship is not very different from others. Our forests are wetter, deciduous, and production conditions are more complex. Viduklė’s forest stewardship includes 7026 hectares of forest area, where 2810 hectares (40%) have national significance.
Currently, the forest stewardship has 29 recreational facilities. They are located in all districts. All recreational facilities have been established by the forest stewardship; only the design (Jūkainiai recreational path) was created by the specialists. Everything has been established by the employees of the forest stewardship and its regular contractors.
There are three cognitive paths: 2 in Viduklė district and 1 in Padubysis district. Our forest stewardship has one very beautiful object, which is Jūkainiai resort. It is famous in the area and attracts many people. Jūkainiai geomorphological reserve was established in order to preserve Lowlands’ washed moraine ridges of island-like remnant. In a natural sense, there are preserved old oaks and swamp-stream valleys.

The length of Jūkainiai recreational path is 2.5 km, and about 650 m of the path is adapted for people with reduced mobility. Jūkainiai recreational path is established near Viduklė small town, between the road from Viduklė to Gyliai and Apusinas river, in the separate forest of four blocks, which is recognized as a geomorphological reserve due to its expressive topography.
Here you can travel, enjoy nature, wander at the beautiful birch woods, and admire oaks, which sigh the melody about the majestic past of saint forest…
The path is decorated with the folk art sculptures, advertising and information boards, where you can find a lot of information about this region trees and bushes. A lot of pleasant moments can be experienced from the observation deck looking at the pond, and the journey through the swamp will leave a long lasting impression.

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© Directorate General of State Forests Solution: Infoluitai