The Head of the Russian Government has signed Decree on creation of the natural reserve Utrish.
More than 16 years ago the problem of establishing of reserve for conservation of dry subtropical natural complexes on the Black Sea coast of the Northern Caucasus was designated, but only now substantive progress has been made in this regard.
“The reserve has been created and this is good because at least a part of the unique territory has gained the highest conservation status – says Roman Mnatsekanov, WWF Russia project coordinator in the Caucasus – But is the area allocated for the Utrish natural reserve enough to efficiently protect the Mediterranean ecosystems? WWF has repeatedly declared that it is not.”
The objective could be reached by implementation of the project developed by WWF in 2009, which provided for creation of two clusters – Abrau and Sheskharis with total area 34466.14 ha. But what’s really happened?
Formally, the Governmental Decree No. 725-p, which provided for establishing creation of Utrish natural reserve within area of 5 thousand hectares, has been executed even in excess because the area of the new reserve is twice as large as it was stated in the Decree. Yet, the boundaries of the reserve are not scientifically-based as suggested by WWF, but dictated by administrative, voluntaristic decision.
“The revision of the boundaries assumed in the WWF project was determined by the plans of building of new official residency in the Abrau peninsula under the guise of health and fitness center, as well as by the need to make an access road to the future construction site, by the desire of administration of the Krasnodar krai to use recreational potential of the territory by developing infrastructure and also by previous plans of the Black Sea fleet accommodation” – Roman Mnatsekanov says.
Any construction activity within the territory causes destruction of local environment and extinction of rare and protected plant and animal species, thus resulting in breach of environmental protection legislation. WWF claims necessary to relocate the President’s residency site to the Maliy Utrish village and include into the reserve the most environmentally valuable territories of Abrau peninsula and the territory between Sheskhares village and Gelendzhik city thus providing long-term protection of Mediterranean ecosystems of Russia.
Today Utrish is the place of conflict of different interests. On the one side, it is environmental and scientific community that realizes the value of this relatively small area for biodiversity conservation due to its richness of rare, protected and endemic species. On the other side are different governmental institutions and entities (administrative, commercial and others) anxious to use the territory for recreational purposes. The conflict of interests resulted in confrontation when civil society activists defended their right for healthy environment by blocking woodcutters in felling the unique forest for construction of a road to the future residency of the President.
While appreciating creation of the natural reserve Utrish, WWF appeals to the President of the Russian Federation, the Russian Government, the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and the Administration of the Krasnodar krai to accomplish the deal in a proper way by including into the reserve the territories of supreme value for conservation of unique ecosystems of the Russian Mediterranean notwithstanding the projects of doubtful value and transitory benefits because it is essential for the present and upcoming generations of the Russian people well-being.