Life gets easier for responsible loggers in Russia
However, ecologists insist on the transparency of the procedures in order to prevent corruption.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment decided to reduce the list of documents required for export of the valuable wood species Mongolian oak and Manchurian ash. However, WWF experts underline that for the effective functioning of the export control system and to counteract possible corruption it is necessary to ensure the transparency of the procedure for issuing permits.
As a result of the decision the list of documents required to obtain a CITES permit for the export of Mongolian oak and Manchurian ash from the Russian Federation is reduced to three items instead of ten, and responsibility for issuing permits is transferred from Moscow to the Federal Service for Supervision over Natural Resources in the Far Eastern Federal District (Rosprirodnadzor). These changes should make the CITES system efficient, will improve the business climate and remove unnecessary administrative procedures. However environmentalists believe that these first real steps towards the streamlining of the system must be followed by other necessary changes.
“To make the control system fully functioning, logging authorization documents must be fully open to the relevant authorities and the public, and the process of issuing permits should be transparent,' - says Evgeny Lepeshkin, the head of the forest program of WWF-Russia Amur branch. - At present significant amounts of valuable species are harvested illegally due to the lack of a mechanism for comparison of allowed logging volumes with the volumes declared for export. The CITES permit system has real potential to stop illegal loggers and disrupt corrupt schemes, but only if data on logging and export will be publicly available and analyzed”.
As a key measure to increase the transparency of the control system WWF Russia recommends creating and comparative database on allowed logging volumes and exported volumes. WWF has already presented to government authorities and business community a proposed version of such a database, prepared with input from experts in wood tracking. WWF experts note that this approach requires minimal data entry work.
Some background: In March 2014 at the initiative of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment the Mongolian oak and Manchurian ash were included in Annex III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in Endangered Species (CITES). This decision required exporters to provide confirmation of the legal origin of timber to Rosprirodnadzor.
WWF Russia welcomed that decision as an important step in the fight against illegal logging and illegal export of valuable species. In 2013 an analysis conducted by WWF showed that the volume of Mongolian oak logged for export in 2007-2010 exceeded the authorized logging volume by 2-3.5 times. Such large-scale illegal logging threatens traditional natural resource use by local people, leads to depletion of commercial supplies of valuable timber and reduces food resources (acorns) available to wild boars and deer, and consequently, to their predator the endangered Amur tiger.
But, unfortunately, due to the shortcomings of the procedure in the first months of its implementation the CITES permit process lead to sharp declines in export by all companies, legal exporters together with their criminal competitors. WWF Russia and representatives of timber industry in the region expressed concerns about this problem at official meetings on Far Eastern forest sector development in Vladivostok and Khabarovsk.
“Fortunately, the Ministry of Natural Resources has listened to the views of stakeholders in the region and adopted a number of WWF Russia proposals to reform the procedures for issuing export permits under CITES – said Nikolay Shmatkov, the head of WWF Russia Forest Program. - We look forward to further cooperation with government agencies and timber companies to further improve this tool for combating illegal logging and establishing a competitive environment for responsible business.”