Preserved Korean pine stands of the Far East provide food both for animals and humans
However, for sustainable development of this type of forest management substantial changes in the legislation are still needed.
Korean pine-broadleaf forests of the Far East are home for the Amur tiger, the territory of the traditional livelihood of indigenous peoples, the basis for natural resource use of local taiga settlements and a unique object for preserving the planet's climate. Back in 1953, the most valuable Korean pine stands were classified as nut-harvesting zones. But even the status of protective forests could not save Korean pine and other valuable tree species from logging, which have become widespread due to reduced resources in commercial forests. In order to preserve Korean pine stands, WWF Russia insisted, on the one hand, on the inclusion of Korean pine in the list of species banned for felling - and this decision was made by the Russian Government in 2010, the year of the tiger, and on the other hand – on the sustainable development of non-timber forest products use in the nut-harvesting zones as an alternative to logging operations in valuable forests.
As a result, since 2007 to 2009 with WWF support valuable forests of Bikinskaya, Vostochnaya, Melnichnaya and Koksharovskaya nut-harvesting zones of Primorsky Province were leased for up to 49 years for harvesting pine nuts and other non-timber forest resources. In 2013, this list was extended by Avanskaya, Bolonskaya and Gassinskaya nut-harvesting zones in Khabarovsky Province. Thus, the lease holders highly interested in maintaining the «bread giving» tree and in making profit on the complex use of non-timber resources instead of logging appeared in the territory of the intact Korean pine-broadleaf forests with a total area more than 660 thousand hectares. Due to this approach the devastated loggings conducted under the cover of thinning, which in the case with Vostochnaya nut-harvesting zone in Primorsky Province exceeded the permitted volumes more than twice, were stopped in these territories.
The abundant harvest of pine nuts happens once in 3-4 years. And every 6 years it is as rich as this year. In late October the journalists of the “Poslednyaya Sreda” environmental press club together with Evgeny Lepeshkin, the head of the forest program of WWF-Russia Amur branch, visited Melnichnaya nut-harvesting zone in order to understand the problems experienced by the lease holders of non-timber forest resources.
Melnichnaya is a unique and one of the most productive nut-harvesting zones in Primorsky Province. Most of the territory is covered with 100% Korean pine stands. It is the home for 5-6 tigers, and numerous tracks of wild ungulates, which are found everywhere, tell that the tigers feel comfortable here.
The lease holder of 22 thousand hectares of Melnichnaya nut-harvesting zone is a public organization of hunters and fishers “Sidatun” which unites about hundred and a half of hunters from the villages of Melnichnoyhe, Tayozhnoye and Molodezhnoye. In 2008 the hunters with WWF support managed to defend the territory of Melnichnaye nut-harvesting zone from logging, and now “Sidatun” provides protection of the territory from forest fires, conducts anti-poaching activity and is engaged in harvesting and processing of food forest resources and medicinal plants.
“Today we have a lot of responsibilities and almost no rights. Whether there is a nut crop, or no nuts - we have to pay a million rubles rent - 12 rubles per kg of nuts per year. Our responsibilities include protection of the territory, fire prevention measures, salary for people require another 3 million per year. It turns out that from harvest to harvest - and it happens every 4 years – the costs of hunting lease reaches 16 million rubles. And we must make them in a good year, - said Oleg Yushkin, the chairman of “Sidatun”. – According to forest management plan we can harvest 246 tons of nuts this year, taking in account poor crop of previous years. This entire volume already was harvested at the end of September, the product is processed, dried and stored in Melnichnoye waiting for export. The problem is in obtaining of export license, and the main obstacle is an administrative barrier. To get the license, you need to get permits from Rosprirodnadzor of Primorsky Province, the Federal Rosprirodnadzor, from the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Primorsky Province, and then from Rosselkhoznadzor which issues a quarantine certificate. Now our documents got stuck in Rosprirodnadzor in Moscow for more than a month. And that is a serious impact to our business, because in fact we have obligations to banks, moreover, nuts cannot be stored for a long time, and some part can be spoiled. Today it is necessary to simplify the scheme: the shorter it is, the less corruption component will be”.
Rich harvest attracted many people in nut-harvesting zone, including newcomers. After all, today the lease holder is restricted in collected volumes and area (in addition to all other additional obligations and restrictions), but every citizen it is allowed to collect non timber forest products free of charge anywhere without restriction that is just nonsense. The rangers of the Hunting Department regularly patrol the territory and keep notes on pine nuts collectors. But the issue of lease holder insecurity of clearly requires a systemic approach.
“The lease holder of non-timber resource use does not allow anybody on its territory for logging. In the same forest, the collection of non-timber resources is allowed without restrictions to any citizen. That means that someone pays rent, invests in the protection of the territory, while others just enjoy the gifts of nature” - said Yushkin.
One of the main problems that exist today in the legislation is the uncompetitiveness of lease relations: an enormously high fee for lease holders and absolutely no fee for those who just buy the resource harvested by people under the so-called own needs. We need changes in legislation in the field of food forest resources, stimulating primarily lease relations and legalizing all other participants involved in business activities in the forest, in order to make the forest sector really profitable for small and mid-sized businesses. Then the business can provide the proper maintenance of Korean pine forests through appropriate rent and other payments. It is also critically important to eliminate the administrative and legislative barriers for the development of this promising concept, the sustainable forest management free from logging.
WWF Russia hopes to cooperate in terms of normative work and systemic regulation in the sphere of forest management both on the federal and regional levels. Today, when thousands of citizens poured into the forest many things depend on regional authorities. Only with the full involvement of the state in the solution of these problems, we obtain an effective mechanism not only for conservation, but also for the sustainable development of Korean pine-broadleaf forests for the Amur tiger and for the socio-economic well-being of the inhabitants of the taiga regions of the Far East.