Project partner: Saaremaa municipality
Saaremaa Municipality was established on 21.10.2017, joining former Kihelkonna, Laimjala, Leisi, Lääne-Saare, Mustjala, Orissaare, Pihtla, Pöide, Salme, Torgu and Valjala rural municipalities as well as Kuressaare town. Saaremaa Municipality is located in West-Estonia, in Saare County and covers the whole Saaremaa Island. The number of inhabitants is 31819 (01.01.2018), the municipality includes Kuressaare town, 9 hamlets and 426 villages.
Saaremaa Municipality council and government form a local self-government that is leading and directing local development, including compilation of the local development plan and local spatial plans. The economy in Saaremaa Municipality is characterised by drawing on the local raw materials and clean nature. Agricultural sector consists of dairy and beef cattle, sheep and maintenance of landscapes. Tourism entrepreneurs offer wide selection of services and activities.
The area of Saaremaa municipality is 2712 km². Because of its mild maritime climate and a variety of soils, Saaremaa has a rich flora, illustrated by the fact that 80% of the plant species found in Estonia are represented here. Altogether 1200 species of vascular plants can be found in Saaremaa of which about 120 are under protection (including 35 species of wild orchids). Over 40% of Saaremaa is covered with forests – mostly mixed forests but in some areas also broad-leaved (deciduous) forests, which are relict plant communities of former milder climatic periods. The coastal landscape includes coastal lakes and lagoons, alvars, wooded meadows and coastal meadows. Besides Viidumae Nature Reserve (focused on protection of diversity of flora) and Vilsandi National Park (dedicated to protection of birds, seals and coastal landscape), there are over two hundred single nature objects under protection – parks, high cliffs, large trees, erratic boulders and unique marshy lowlands.
Saaremaa Municipality took over the responsibilities of the Lääne-Saare Municipality (that took over the responsibilities of Lümanda Municipality in January 2015) in the LIFE Viva Grass project. The initial project area was the territory of the former Lümanda Municipality (199 km²). Now it was decided, for the better application of project results, to consider the whole Saaremaa Municipality as the project area. Saaremaa Municipality is contributing to the development of the integrated planning tool from the local government perspective and will test the tool by implementing it through its strategic planning processes. The main interest of Saaremaa Municipality is to preserve its nature values and to gain more knowledge on grasslands’ economic growth potential for the local society.