«Korean Pine the Tree of Life» - campaign for saving the tree from cutting
Korean Pine-broadleaved forests are of high priority for biodiversity conservation in the Russian Far East (RFE). Only here rare Amur tiger and the Far Eastern leopard still roam, only here a legendary ginseng, the root of life, could be found. The whole ecosystem depends on the Korean Pine: where there is cedar (as local people call Korean Pine) there wild boar, main food for tiger, lives; ginseng grows only under the canopy of Korean pine stands. The cost of a living tree is ten times higher than its timber. At the same time, Korean Pine-broadleaved forests are very often the only source of income for residents of remote villages.
For the period 1946-1993 >square of Korean pine stands reduced by 2, 2 times. Only one third of the stands stays intact. To date, the area of “untouched” forests is 2, 86 million ha which comprises 1, 1 % of the total Far Eastern forests.
Ban for cutting cedar imposed in 1990 could not prevent exporting 170 000 cubic meters of cedar saw wood in 2005 though in fact not less than 600 000 cubic meters were cut which is about 130 000 trees! According to experts, if this speedy destruction maintains in 15 years Korean pine stands will disappear in the Russian Far East.
In 2005, WWF started the «Korean Pine the Tree of Life» project in RFE with kids creativity contests, festivals where kids drew cedar, composed poems, sang songs, performed plays on the stage, produced arts and crafts. In the course of this work kids came to a question “What is going on with cedar stands growing near the villages we live in?” In six RFE districts 18 kids’ expeditions were conducted. It was a kind of inventory survey of cedar stands. Students together with state forest management bureaus (leskhoz) staff went to logging sites to see where and how cedar trees are cut, why this or that tree was prescribed for cutting; how cedar recover after logging operations, how cedar grow after being planted by men. And students did not like what they observed. They gathered numerous rallies and wrote appeals to Primorskii krai’s Governor asking him to forbid logging of Korean pine. Meanwhile, they decided to act, to restore cedar forests. In 2005-2006, students in cooperation with state forest management bureaus planted over 70 000 Korean pine seedlings.
In 2006, WWF conducted questioning of local people in the model Chuguevskii district. In the past, the district was the cedar-richest one but for a century the square of cedar stands reduced from 600 000 hectares to 180 000 i.e. two third of cedar forests eliminated! Productivity of cedar forests (cedar nuts) in Chuguevskii district dropped 30 times for 40 years leaving local people without income. All this is a result of logging companies’ operations. Therefore, the majority of forest villages are very much interested in cedar stands conservation.
WWF announced 2007 the Year for Korean Pine and proposed a package of measures for cedar forests conservation based on the following WWF-elaborated claims:
to include Korean pine into the List of tree species not allowed for cutting; to forbid prescribing Korean pine for any types of logging and organize efficient control over enforcement of the ban; to provide transfer of cedar forests for long-term use to harvest non-timber products with regard to priority rights of local people.
The «Korean Pine the Tree of Life» campaign started on February 7, 2007. Being actively supported by residents of forest villages the campaign overstepped borders of RFE and became Russia-wide. 50 initiative groups and NGOs, students and teachers of 105 schools, 4 students’ brigades for nature protection, 13 nature reserves, zoological garden, two journals, two district newspapers, three clubs of environmental journalists, hundreds of volunteers have joined the campaign. For four months 20 000 WWF-produced post cards, about 1000 e-petitions were sent to Russian President demanding prohibition cedar cutting. When people run of ready-made post cards they made black and white copies of the card or wrote down subscriptions lists with dozens signatures. According to our modest calculations, over 25 000 citizens of Russia have addressed Mr. Putin.
Citizens of Primorskii and Khabarovskii provinces addressed their Governors. Kids’ role was outstanding. Huge packages of drawings, posters were headed to Governors’ reception offices. Practical work also continued. In 2007, students planted over 100 000 cedar seedlings only in Primorye.
During meetings, residents of Chuguevskii district with one voice asked to impose a ban on cedar cutting and regulate issues on collecting cedar nuts. People are ready to take responsibility for forest fires prevention and anti-poaching activities to protect valuable forests receiving in exchange preferential right to collect nuts and other non-timber products to their own needs.
In their appeals to the Primorskii province Governor and to the Chuguevskii district Head people suggest creation around villages recreation zones which would include forests traditionally used by locals for collecting berries, mushrooms and nuts.
A wave of “cedar riots” ran down Primorye. In a number of villages meetings of local people took place. People demanded from officials of supervision agencies to stop large scale commercial cutting of Korean pine and other valuable tree species done by state forest management bureaus and disguised as intermediate cutting. This is one of the most urgent ecological issues in RFE. Impudence and impunity of forest poachers, lack of state control have forced villagers to ask WWF and journalists for help.
WWF initiated several inspections done by environmental Prosecutor‘s office. Nine administrative cases were filed against heads of two leskhozes; 35 protests passed on illegality of logging permits in four leskhozes.
Positive results of the campaign have been already received. Primorskii province administration heard the voice of people. Recently created Forestry Department of Primorskii province has given time-out to cedar forests having stopped all types of logging in Shkotovskii leskhoz territory and in Korean pine harvesting zone of Roshinskii leskhoz.
From April 20 intermediate cutting has been suspended in Primorsky province. Forestry Department of Primorskii province has informed the public that in cooperation with Legislative Assembly they are in the process of preparation proposals to the Russian Government to include Korean pine into all-Russia list of species forbidden for cutting.