Nature conservation permits

Special permits are often required for activities in sensitive areas. Certain activities may be prohibited altogether


The beaches and shores of water bodies and protected natural objects (national parks, nature reserves, landscape protection areas, limited-conservation areas [1] and habitats of protected species [2]) cover quite a large part of Estonia. The protection procedure of a protected natural object is determined by the Nature Conservation Act and, in most cases, also the protection rules, which can be found in the Riigi Teataja on the basis of the name of the protected object or the name of the species. The location, name, and protection zones of the protected objects can be found in the Looduskaitse, Natura 2000 map application of the Land Board’s geoportal. The information on protected category I and II species is not public; the land owner can get acquainted with the information by logging in to the forest register with an ID-card. The shores and banks of most water bodies are subject to additional restrictions under the Nature Conservation Act and the Water Act – the water protection zone [3], building exclusion zone [4], and the limited management zone [5]. See the extent of the zones in the restrictions map application of the Land Board’s geoportal. The building exclusion zone may also differ from the description there, if it has been reduced by plans. More information can be obtained from a local government.


Find out more about the restrictions of the area you are interested in


If the area you are interested in – where you plan to go hiking or do any other activities – is located in a protected area or in a coastal and shore protected zone, check the restrictions that apply in the area. For example, visiting a strict nature reserve is allowed only for surveillance and rescue work and, with the permission of the Environmental Board, also for research and monitoring. There is a ban on movement during the nesting period and some year-round restrictions around the nesting sites of protected category I species [6]. There may also be a temporary movement ban in the conservation zones of protected areas. On protected objects and in the limited management zone of water bodies it is prohibited to drive outside the roads marked with a solid line on the main map of Estonia, except with special permits. There are also restrictions on the use of motorised craft, camping, and making a campfire. The construction of new buildings and structures is prohibited in the building exclusion zone, except for exceptions to the Nature Conservation Act [7]; reduction of the zone is allowed only on the basis of a plan and with the consent of the Environmental Board [8]. You can always ask the Environmental Board for detailed information on the applicable restrictions.


A special permit is often required to operate on a protected natural object or along a water body


The manager of a state-protected natural object is the Environmental Board [9]. An object protected at the local government level is managed by the local government or a rural municipality or city agency authorised by it [10].


The consent of the manager is usually (unless otherwise provided by the protection rules of the protected area) necessary for the following activities:

  • research and monitoring work in a strict nature reserve or an area with a temporary ban on movement;
  • land readjustment activities;
  • amending land parcels;
  • planning and construction activity, including creating a water body;
  • changing the water level and shoreline of a water body;
  • additional feeding of game animals;
  • felling;
  • nature conservation and land improvement operations;
  • restoring the water regime.

In addition, you may need a permit to drive a motor vehicle on water, to organise events, to fish, to hunt, and to gather reeds and algae in the protected area.


Permission is also required in a protected park for the felling, shaping, and planting of woody vegetation and on an individual protected natural object for carrying out work that affects its condition or appearance [11]. 


Authorisation by the Environmental Board is also required to capture or kill a protected species, retain a dead animal, or disturb a wild bird species during the nesting period [12], as well as to tag animals [13], remove species from the wild, relocate them, and keep them in an artificial environment [14].


In case of doubt as to whether the planned activity in nature is permitted or prohibited, it is always worth contacting the Environmental Board for instructions. If an activity requires a permit, it might take up to 30 days to obtain.



Text: Kaili Viilma, Märt Öövel

Editor: Reigo Roasto






[3] Nature Conservation Act §-s 35 and 39 ja Water Act §-s 118-123

[4] Nature Conservation Act §-s 35, 38 ja 40

[5] Nature Conservation Act §-s 35 ja 37

[6] Nature Conservation Act § 50

[7] Nature Conservation Act § 38 sections 4 - 6

[8] Nature Conservation Act § 40

[9] Nature Conservation Act § 21 secion 1

[10] Nature Conservation Act § 21 section 2

[11] Protection Rules § 6 clause 5

[12] Nature Conservation Act § 55

[13] Nature Conservation Act § 581

[14] Nature Conservation Act § 58