Illegal Logging in Primorsky province could not be stopped without emergency measures
The special regime implies limited presence of humans as well as logging machinery and equipment.
If the local Governor accepts the deputies' proposal, the Primorsky province will become the second region in Russia (after Chitinsky region) where emergency actions are taken to halt illegal logging.
Data presented at the session by Mr. Egorov, head of Forestry Agency of the Primorsky province, proved that the Agency is not able to effectively control forest activities in the region during this winter. According to him, the Agency has no concrete plan for combating illegal logging; they are going to create a department of state forest control with 25 staff only in February-March 2008. For the past half year, the Agency conducted 1819 raids but revealed only 402 cases of illegal logging with total volume of cut timber equaling 21 000 cubic meters.
“Presented figures show an extremely low effectiveness of the Forestry Agency«, says Denis Smirnov, head of forest program at the Amur branch of WWF-Russia, who participated in the meeting. »The data indicates that illegal logging was recorded only in each fifth raid while joint raids between staff of the Department on economic crime fighting (DECF), Rosselkhoznadzor, and WWF revealed illegal loggings and detain special machinery daily. Reported 21 000 cubic meters of illegal timber is only 2 percent out of one million of cubic meters illegally cut in Primorye in commercial purposes, according to DECF. The mentioned figures prove that Forestry Agency of Primorsky province is not able to combat illegal forest harvesting and that regional forests are given to loggers for plundering during this season.”
Deputies doubt that increasing number of forest inspectors up to 800-850 persons could stop the accelerating wave of illegal logging in the region. From their perspective, the main reason of the large scale forest poaching is lack of good will from heads of controlling bodies to combat illegal logging; another reason is corruption of employees of forest sector, law enforcement, and administrations of all levels.
A number of measures identical to the ones introduced in Chitinskaya province and to those suggested for Primorye were proposed by WWF to the local officials two years ago. For example, in fall 2005, WWF addressed former head of Forestry Agency of Primorskii province with the initiative to introduce unified interagency system to monitor harvested and transported within Primorye wood. At that time, the initiative was blocked due to lack of support from the Forestry Agency that possessed information on issued logging permits.
As one of emergency measures, Denis Smirnov suggested to the deputies to introduce moratorium on issuing logging permits for intermediate and sanitary logging that generally recognized to be one of the most popular ways to documentarily disguise illegal logging and transportation of stolen timber.
“Introducing special regime by the Governor will no longer prevent stealing of hundreds thousands of cubic meters of timber this winter. In some territories of Primorsky province, power already belongs to “forest barons” who control local administrations, interior affairs bodies, and state forest management bureaus«, believes Dens Smirnov. »But the deputies' proposal gives the Primorsky province Governor a dilemma: whether, knowing about planned plunder, leave everything as it is and thus split the responsibility for the crime, or to take proposed emergency measures and thus at least partially resist criminals.”