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WWF is concerned about the violations while doing sanitary logging in Irkutsk Province

28 march 2019
WWF Russia along with partners prevented the illegal sanitary logging on the total area of 31,000 ha.

WWF Russia along with partners prevented the illegal sanitary logging on the total area of 31,000 ha. For 5 months WWF has checked 260 acts of forest pathology examination officially uploaded on the government websites and reported that most of the documents had significant violations. About 600,000 cubic metres of wood was supposed to be cut off according the documents. After official checking 52% of the documents were called back and sent for revising. 

In October 2018, WWF Russia initiated a process of public monitoring of forest sanitation in the Irkutsk Oblast and involved some local experts. The experts inspected 260 protocols of forest pathology researches (FPR) on the website of the Ministry of Forestry of the Irkutsk Oblast, according to which the timber procurers had planned to cut 600 thousand cubic meters of wood. The majority of the inspected protocols contained violations and non-conformities. As a result of appeals filed by WWF Russia to the Ministry and the Department of Forestry of the Siberian Federal District, 52% of the protocols were canceled and a part of the documents was sent for revision.

Forest sanitation involves felling of sick, damaged, drying out and dead trees. The task of forest sanitation is to improve and clean forests from unviable trees to prevent the spread of pests, diseases and forest fires. Such cuttings should be carried out with extreme caution in order to maintain healthy forest and biotopes critical for biodiversity.

The expert Task Force examines the trees selected for felling.
Such incisions are made by foresters to verify the extent of fire damage to the wood.
Within the Task Force, the WWF experts inspect the planned sanitation site and check for possible violations and non-conformities.
The post marking the planned felling site.
Within the Task Force, the WWF experts inspect the planned sanitation site and check for possible violations and non-conformities.
Burnout of the tree root collar.
Specialists inspect the planned felling site in the area damaged by forest fire in Baikal ecological zone in 2016.
Checking the area where the sanitary logging is planned
(c) WWF / Anna Kirillova
"Unfortunately, some negligent Russian forest users disguise illegal finewood procurement, felling of protected and other forests as care and sanitation. The inspection of FPR protocols, initiated by WWF in other entities of the Altai-Sayan ecoregion, has revealed violations and prevented illegal forest felling”, says Anna Kirillova, Forest Programme Coordinator of the WWF Altai-Sayan Programme. “Today, the Irkutsk Oblast is the leader in timber production volume. More than 10% of the country’s forests are concentrated in the region; about 35 million cubic meters of wood are harvested here every year. WWF and the local community are concerned that with such harvesting volumes, a part of timber procurement might be illegal. Public monitoring of forest sanitation is one of the ways to combat such violations".

Today in Russia, forest sanitations serve as a cover for industrial logging in reserved forests, including protected territories, green areas, water protection zones etc. Barbaric logging causes shallowing of rivers and reservoirs, destruction of plant and animal habitats, and soil erosion. To “legalize” such fellings, unscrupulous forest pathologists deliberately overstate the degree of damage caused by pests and diseases, and the scale of forest fire damage. 

“Such violations can be combated by public monitoring, which is impossible without transparency of forest management data, including timber harvesting and forest planting. WWF Russia has always insisted on the openness of information provided by governmental organizations. Without this, billions of rubles provided by the state budget may be just wasted for nothing", says Nikolay Shmatko, the director of the WWF-Russia Forest Programme.

According to WWF experts, the large number of errors and non-conformities in the FPR protocols found in the Irkutsk Oblast also proves poor professional competence of the forest pathologists involved in the development of protocols, and indirectly indicates that the protocols might have been made without visits to the planned felling sites.

The joint project of WWF and Irkutsk community will continue. WWF counts on the support of the regional Ministry of Natural Resources, the Federal Forestry Agency and other interested parties.

Russian community got the forest sanitation monitoring tools in 2016, when the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No.1158 “On approval of the Provision on control over the accuracy of information on the sanitary and forest pathology condition of forests and feasibility of activities foreseen by forest pathology research protocols, approved by the state authority bodies of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, exercising the forest relations regulation power given by the Russian Federation” dated 12.11.2016 was enacted. The document obliges the competent bodies to publish forest pathology research (FPR) protocols for public access. It gives environmentalists a chance to prevent illegal logging disguised as sanitary cuttings.