Environmentalists appealed to the President of the Russian Federation to return the law on protected forests for revision
Official letters were sent to the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation and the Council of the Federation when yesterday, on December 19, Federal Law No. 140177-7 ‘On amendments to the Forest Code of the Russian Federation and certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation in terms of improving the legal regulation of relations related to the conservation of forests in forest lands and other categories’ was adopted by the State Duma in the third reading and was submitted to the Council of the Federation.
Experts draw attention to the fact that the adopted law directly contradicts the order of the President of the Russian Federation, in the execution of which it was developed, and carries a high risk of loss of a significant part of the protected forests and the emergence of social conflicts. The order of the President of the Russian Federation № PR-1037 dated May 7, 2013 (paragraph 8 of sub-paragraph "в" of paragraph 1) provided for amendments to the legislation of the Russian Federation to improve the legal protection of the protected forests, the total area of which in Russia is 283 million hectares, including '... the establishment of legal regimes of these forests and forest areas, excluding the conduct in these forests and in these sites of industrial logging and their lease for purposes of logging."
However, the adopted law does not actually restrict logging in the protected, but also creates legal opportunities and prerequisites for a significant reduction in the area of the protected forests themselves by about 50 million hectares, i.e. by 18% of their current area. Moreover, the list of the justifications for carrying out clear cutting in the protected forests just keeps extending, as continuous sanitary logging in water protection zones is allowed.
In fact, additional restrictions on logging are imposed only for one of the 17 categories of the protected forests, i.e. nut-bearing zones, which occupy an area of 10.3 million hectares, or 3.7% of the total area of the protected forests. In this case, the requirements of the law are too strict as any harvesting of wood, including for the needs of the local communities, is prohibited. Given the fact that some rural communities are located inside the nut-bearing zones, the inability to harvest even firewood for heating will lead to acute social conflicts. A detailed analysis of the changes introduced by the law for each category of protected forests was prepared by WWF-Russia and sent to the President of the Russian Federation and the Council of the Federation with the official letters.
‘The main problem part of the new law is the new criteria for classifying forest areas as ‘spawning protected forest zones’. This category of the protected forests was created to conserve bank areas of water bodies where spawning migrations and spawning of valuable fish species take place. Under the new law, the size of such forest zones is reduced from 1 km to 50-200 meters. As a result, the total area of spawning protected forest zones will decrease more than tenfold, which will jeopardize the degradation of the spawning grounds of the Pacific salmon, Atlantic salmon, sturgeon, whitefish, and other valuable fish species. Thus, the new law is a direct threat to the food security of the country and the conservation of aquatic biological resources in general,’ says Nikolay Shmatkov, WWF-Russia Forest Program Director.
Yesterday, WWF-Russia has already reported on the environmental and economic consequences of the new law for the fisheries industry. Previously, numerous appeals of WWF-Russia to the deputies of the State Duma and the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia with the requirement after the first reading to discuss the draft law with scientists, public organizations and the Public Council under the Federal Agency for fisheries were ignored. As a result, the draft law was adopted in the second reading on December 18 and less than a day later in the final third reading.