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Премия рунета 2017

Taiga for everyone

10 may 2017
For thousands years in Northern European Russia, in the interstream area of the Northern Dvina and Pinega lay virgin boreal forest – taiga – a true deep forest, just like from fairy tale.

There you may not find any roads, power lines or industrial harvesting zones. Bears, lynxes, gluttons, owls, reindeers and other wild animals are lords of this land. And local purest rivers are full of salmon in its spawning time.

There are practically no places in the world with pristine nature and each year there are fewer and fewer. The territory of the Dvinsky Forest  is also decreased as logging camp zones continues growing. WWF considers that the only way to preserve this forest is to approve it as NPA (Nature Protected Area) . Possibly, as early as in 2017 a landscape reserve will be arranged there.

Creation of the reserve is under control of governor

On 17th of April the governor of Arkhangelsk Oblast Igor Orlov met with Igor Chestin, WWF Russia Director and confirm the intention of the regional  government to create NPA it the interstream area of the Northern Dvina and Pinega. WWF expects that involvement of the governor will give a boost to this never-ending process.

For the first time the unique value of the forest massif was evaluated in the beginning of 2000s by scientists fr om Institute of Ecological Problems of the North of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Their initiative was endorsed by environmental institutions and government agencies. Since 2003 several expeditions were organized by WWF to explore the massif and in 2008 reserve was included into Forest Plan and later into the Scheme of territory planning of Arkhangelsk region. In 2013 NPA  of 500 thousand hectares was approved by governmental Ecological Expertise. However for the last 4 years this taiga massif – that could be considered as unique in the world – still has no reservation status and is still deforested. The main reason is that mostly the whole territory of future reserve is leased by logging operators.

«The reserve will be created, but it’s necessary to determine its lines taking into account day-to-day realities, regional leasers’ and locals’ position», stated governor Igor Orlov on the meting with Igor Chestin.

Woods are not just a log deposit

It seems that forest operators are coming to realize that woods are not log deposits. For decades boondocks of Arkhangelsk region were considered as a inexhaustible source of timber  grown by nature with no human part. Economically valuable conifer  forests renewal on developed areas was almost absent. As a result clear-cut areas  regenerated with asps and birches.

Now it is clear – natural forests are almost exhausted. Only the most hardly accessible areas of untouched boreal forests remained.

All over the world such forests, which called Intact  forests by specialists – considered to have huge value and measures taken for their preservation. That is why European timber buyers who are the target customer of pomor companies pay close attention to the product origin. If timber logged in an intact  forest, Western customer can just refuse to buy it.

Today almost all landholding companies of the territory planned for the forest reserve are certified under FSC standards, i.e. operating on basis of ecological and social responsibility. And intact  forests preservation is one of FSC’s main requirements. That is why most of companies uphold forest reserve creation in general. Many of them have signed moratorium (voluntary logging ban) agreements on forest cutting with WWF. Logging surrender on part of rented territories will not lead to business shutdown, while allowing to preserve unique nature and access to European markets.

Why do locals need forest reserve?

Upon the project, prospective forest reserve will be situated on the territory of four districts of Arkhangelsk region: Pinezhsky, Vinogradovsky, Kholmogorsky and Verkhnetomsky. Locals have mixed feeling about new NPA: part of inhabitants supports its founding, others are disturbed by it.

According to WWF research of January 2017, many people extensively use this area for hunting, fishing, berrying and mushroom picking. They would like to keep this area free of cutting. For countrymen forest bounty is an important asset, sometimes even the main source of family maintain. Part of inhabitants mistakenly think that after reserve setup access to forest lands will be prohibited. It is expected that restrictions for hunting, fishing, berrying, mushroom picking and stocking up on firewood to be implemented. But this is not so. Establishing NPA will allow to keep favourite hunting and fishing areas from destroying - locals can still use forest bounties, like before, as landscape reserve management prohibits commercial cutting only.

Another issue which raise fears of local authorities – should the reserve establishing lead to shutdowns and job loss? First, according to WWF investigation share of local population occupied on forest harvesting is not that big. Today forest harvesting is operated by high qualified personnel, frequently, non-resident rotation workers. Two operators of special purpose machinery – harvester and forwarder can replace a whole team of workers on modern facilities. But the most important is that neither ecologists, no authorities or, moreover, lumberers are not interested in shutdowns.

«Obviously, we do not want the reserve establishing to discriminate against locals», WWF Russia head Igor Chestin says. «Our target is to set borders which allow facilities to proceed their operations and preserve the most valuable part of forest lands, heart of interstream area, basin of Ula river. That is why we are trying to find a middle-way solution for all parties interested.»

Even if the whole area of prospective forest reserve is open for harvesting, this would not solve forest-based sector problems and northern villages extinct. The forest will be enough for about 15 years to the facilities. What will be the next, after business leave and locals left without job and woods?

WWF supposes the sad scenario can be avoided only with a soonest switch to intensive but sustainable type of forest management. It implies smart forest renewal on previously developed areas – more efficient and higher accessible – and new plantations management. This will allow to grow more forest and, accordingly, to harvest more timber.

Intensive forest management provides three times more job, first of all thanks to forest renewal and improvement cuttings. That is such forest management that authorities’ and business should be direct their efforts to, if they really care about future of regional forest sector and country fate.

As late as in June public consultations will be held on places. Locals can obtain detailed information about forest reserve borders and management, sound their fears and wishes.

 If not harvested, will the forest be lost?

This is a common misconception that is unfortunately often heard by ecologists from forest management decision makers. Forest dieback is, actually, has a place in the massive.  However, outburst of this phenomenon fell at end of 1990s – early 2000s. Today this process has almost faded out.

According to WWF data confirmed by expeditions participated by specialist scientists, dieback  evolution is indicative for harvest perimeters wh ere original environment was damaged by human. Further inward the depth of boreal forest drying up is dramatically down. Small centers of dieback wood are perfectly restoring, thus making no harm to the ecological value of forest. By the way, there are almost no fires in the depth of forest lands. Firebreaks happen close by the roads and not far from places of forest harvesting, i.e. in the places of frequent human activity.

WWF specialists are sure that intact forests cannot be saved with cutting. Nature took care about it and worked out its own refreshing mechanism. No wonder, the woods in-between Northern Dvina and Pinega rivers are not less than 4 thousand years old now. Trees, like people, are born and die all the time. Instead of fallen «overmature» firs young ones grow up. This is a natural history of completely setup and self-renewable ecosystem. Any interference will only bring harm.

Forest reserve boarders to be set collectively

According to Arkhangelsk region governor Igor Orlov, as for today, authorities have no doubts about forest reserve necessity – such a unique natural site must be preserved. At the present stage, the borders should be set, which allow to keep the balance of ecologic, economic and social interests. So that both natural valuables are preserved, facilities continue operation, locals keep their jobs and could use their favourite hunting, fishing, berrying and mushroom picking places. The governor assigned to update the projected forest reserve borders before the 1st of July. If all interested parties reach an agreement, virgin boreal forests would live for thousand years. 

© WWF Russia / Elena Rai
© WWF Russia / Angelina Tihonova
For additional information please contact
Press Officer of Archangelsk Ecoregional Office
Director WWF