WWF-RUSSIA: THE ECOLOGICAL RIGHTS OF THE CITIZENS OF AKRHANGELSK REGION MUST BE RESPECTED
The three-day offsite meeting was attended by the Minister of Natural Resources of Arkhangelsk Region, representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment of the Russian Federation, the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources Usage (Rosprirodnadzor) and experts of environmental NGOs. During the meeting pressing problems were raised relating to the violation of the citizens’ rights, including environmental rights.
The concluding plenary session held on 10th of November discussed the right to a to a healthy environment enshrined in Article 42 of the Constitution, and the development of a system of protected areas (PA) in Arkhangelsk Region. Attendees discussed the need to rapidly establish a reserve area of about 350 hectares in the area between the Northern Dvina and the Pinega rivers to conserve the most valuable part of one of the last major European intact forest landscapes, a unique wildlife site in Arkhangelsk Region. The unique intact taiga is rapidly disappearing due to commercial logging by local companies, which could infringe the environmental rights of the inhabitants of the region. On the same day, the issue of establishing the reserve was considered in detail during the session devoted to environmental rights.
Participants at the meeting noted that it was vital to rapidly establish the Dvinsko-Penezhsky nature reserve. WWF-Russia insists residents must continue to be able to use the forest to gather food and non-timber forest products, for fishing, hunting and recreation, and that the realization of the right to a healthy environment must not contradict the right to use natural resources. In addition, the creation of the reserve must be agreed with the forest companies leasing the area where it is due to be established. To date, only the northern border of the protected area has been agreed, which is leased by Titan Group; active negotiations are now underway with Pomor Timber LLC.
It is now important to combine efforts to engage the regional authorities and other timber companies leasing the lands of the future reserve in a constructive dialogue and encourage them to act quickly. The regional authorities had previously officially declared that the reserve would be established by the end of 2017. 2017 is drawing to a close, however the reserve, despite these promises, has not yet been created.
«Delays could be fatal for the reserve to which the inhabitants of Arkhangelsk Region have a constitutional right: by the time all parties have reached agreement and moved from talk to action, there will be no taiga left intact and there will be nothing to conserve. We must act now to defend both the environmental rights of citizens and the taiga. Otherwise, we will come to a dead end with no way out. And eventually this will affect the very timber companies, which, due to a lack of easily harvestable and accessible forest, are trying to log the last intact areas. This forest will inevitable disappear as well. It will disappear because key reason for the lack of timber resources lies in the reluctance of local companies to abandon the extensive model of forest management in favor of an intensive one, which is more profitable in the long term, and, critically, to engage in the intelligent reforestation of logging sites. Such problems must be addressed comprehensively, taking into account the interests of all stakeholders. At the moment we are just delaying the moment of crisis in the region, both environmental and economic, but given the current approach, it will come sooner or later”, said Andrey Shegolev, the Head of Forest Program of WWF-Russia Barents Branch in Arkhangelsk.
Participants at the meeting supported the position of the experts. They also noted that one of the reasons for the lack of sufficient forest resources in the region outside of the territories reserved for PA by the Forest Plan of Arkhangelsk Region is the extensive forestry model. It was agreed that there is an urgent need for the regional forest sector to transition to an intensive forest management model where logging is balanced with effective reforestation and the planting of economically valuable trees, primarily through competent thinning in young stands. In addition, it was noted that there is great potential to develop a comprehensive forest management approach and develop businesses relating to rural tourism and the collection of berries, mushrooms, and medicinal plants in the forests.
WWF-Russia hopes that the meeting will encourage all the stakeholders to take coordinated and immediate action, which will result in the rapid creation of the reserve, not just on paper, but in reality.
Headline photo: Andrey Shegolev, WWF-Russia