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Local people stopped destructive logging near Beltzovo village

16 october 2020
The Primorsky Province Ministry for Forestry and Wildlife Protection has canceled the forest exploitation plan and suspended logging operations near the village of Beltzovo. Chainsaws have been stopped midair right before a new round of felling. The villagers and WWF Russia have been striving for this decision since early 2020.

Since January 2020, dwellers of Beltzovo have been fighting against loggers harvesting timber near the main water source of the village. Devastating cuttings and deep skid roads reduce the water level in the wells. Moreover, felling is being done in Korean pine and linden forests important for local people.

In January 2020, the villagers sent their concerns to the local forestry complaining about serious violations during logging. However, they were very much surprised with the received answer according to which, “…18 raids organized to the site in 04.01.2020 -  26.02.2020, revealed no violations, no illegal logging; the arguments on felling in the water protection zone are doubtful”.

After such reaction, the villagers appealed to WWF Russia Amur branch for the support. Starting from March 2020, forest specialists of WWF Russia participated in a number of joint inspections organized by the regional Ministry for Forestry and Wildlife Protection. The first raid has immediately revealed violations: logs landing site was organized within the specially protected forest plots, skid roads were dug on steep slopes with ditches up to 2 meters deep, the information about forest stands listed on paper did not comply with the reality.

Back in March, it was impossible to estimate the amount of damage due to the snow cover. However, after a series of inspections carried out in summer, all violations of the Forest Code were confirmed: arrangement of a landing site within water protection zone; arrangement of skidding roads on steep slopes; illegal logging; inconsistency of forest inventory data to reality.

According to preliminary estimates, the damage from these violations is more than US $730 000. At the request of the regional Ministry for Forestry and Wildlife Protection WWF specialists carried out an expert assessment of the fact of intentional manipulation of forest inventory data.

“This story continued this October, when, according to local people reports, 20-30 people with chainsaws were brought to all logging sites with incorrect inventory. In a normal situation, the optimal number of fellers does not exceed 2-3 people for each cutting area but this time they were in a hurry to cut the trees thus “destroying” evidence of incorrect inventory before the executive authorities had time to react and organize field inspections,” comments Pavel Garazha, senior specialist on sustainable forestry at WWF-Russia Amur branch.

People of Beltzovo urgently wrote a complaint to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and the Governor of Primorsky Province Oleg Kozhemyako, demanding to stop the felling. At present, the Primorsky Province Ministry for Forestry and Wildlife Protection has suspended the actions of loggers. Moreover, the forest exploitation plan and the current forest declarations have been canceled. Thus, the loggers no longer have the right to cut in this forest area.

Yakovlevsky District of Primorye is one of the key areas for the Amur tiger conservation.
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