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WWF Russia demands the exclusion of key tiger habitat from timber auctions in Primorsky Province, Russian Far East

20 october 2010
Even on the eve of the International Forum on Tiger Conservation to be held in November in St. Petersburg the forestry administration of Primorye continues its efforts to open critical Amur tiger habitats for logging

Protective forests in the north of Primorsky Province, incuding key habitats of the Amur tiger, are again under threat of destruction. On the 26th of October the Forest Management Agency of Primorsky Province will conduct an auction in which 16 harvest sites in the Bikinsky and Pozharsky Pine Nut Harvesting Zones, riparian forests along the Bikin River that protect salmon breeding habitat and the newly-established “Middle Ussuri” wildlife reserve will be available for so-called “intermediate harvesting”. Today a press conference was held in Vladivostok in which the harmful effects of this auction were elaborated.

“The Forest Management Agency of Primorsky Province for the first time so openly demonstrated its “untouchable” status and stands in opposition to everyone,” commented Denis Smirnov, director of the forest program of the WWF Russia Amur Division. “In the first place, it stands against public opinion: the scandal ignited by the presentation of the documentary film “Dark Forest” on the Rossiya channel has not yet subsided, but already the Agency prepares anew for the implementation of the plan described in the film by the Agency director Pyotr Diuk- to cut over the pine nut harvesting zone of Pozharsky County in two years.

Secondly: the Forest Management Agency of Primorsky Province demonstrates that it has the right to violate the law. The inclusion in the auction of territory leased by the Indigenous Peoples Community Enterprise “Tiger” for the collection and processing of edible and medicinal plants is illegal, because the Community Enterprise holds the rights to all management of this territory.”

Coordinator of forest projects for the Amur Division of WWF Russia Anatoliy Kabanyets presented facts on illegal logging in protective forests of Primorsky Province and identified the key problem – the authorities’ lack of genuine information on the true scale of illegal logging and its influence on region’s forests: “At the same time that hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of illegally logged timber is shipped to China and a number of loggers are even incarcerated for illegal harvesting, on paper the cut-over forests remain well-stocked and even increase in volume every year! The lack of consideration for actual changes in forest conditions will lead to further over-cutting and the destruction of our Provincial wood supply.”

Representative Aleksandr Ermolayev of the Legislative Assembly of Primorsky Province, following the example of Moscow mayoral candidate Sergey Sobyanina, who publicly stated that Moscow is in first place in Russia for the level of bribery, said that in order to solve the problem of illegal logging it is necessary for the governor to recognize that “Primorsky Province is in first place for embezzlement, illegal logging and the plunder of natural resources.”

Taking part in the press conference was Michael Stuewe, senior consultant for WWF USA on species conservation. He noted that Primorsky Province is the homeland of two of the most charismatic examples of global biodiversity: in the animal kingdom the Amur tiger, and in the plant kingdom Korean pine. He offered the following observations, connected with mankind’s concern for and care of the world’s tigers:

“The world is committing to tiger conservation this year – yet from what I have heard here today it seems that Primorsky Province has decided to do exactly the opposite. The opposite even of what Russia has asked thirteen heads of state of Asian tiger countries to come to St. Petersburg for: protect tigers. Looking at the map of planned new logging sites in prime tiger habitats in Primorsky the operations will fragment the population, lead to increased poaching of disturbed and displaced tigers, and most importantly will likely increase human deaths from conflict with tigers, as we have seen in Sumatra. Will that be the future of Primorsky Province?” asked Michael Stuewe. “The Far East should remain the leader in tiger conservation in Asia, and make Russia a proud host for the International Tiger Summit in Saint-Petersburg.”

WWF demands that protective forests in key Amur tiger habitats be excluded from the upcoming timber auction.