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Valuable Russian forests logged under the guise of salvage

06 december 2016
Today, the largest nature conservation organizations of Russia signed a joint statement demanding a thorough inspection of the legality of salvage logging.

Experts believe that forest users are increasingly looking for loopholes in the legislation and gaps in law enforcement to log timber in protective and other valuable forests. Such loopholes include salvage (sanitation) logging and thinning, which in practice have nothing to do with maintaining the forest health, says the joint statement of WWF-Russia and Greenpeace Russia.

About ⅙ of all registered annual volume of timber produced in Russia is harvested by salvage logging. According to the data of the Russian unified cross-sectoral informational and statistical system, around 32.1 million cubic meters of timber was harvested by selection and clearcut salvage logging annually from 2011 to 2016, while the overall volume of registered timber production in the same period was 197.8 million cubic meters per year. Field studies of areas affected by such logging are often not conducted.

Environmentalists believe that more and more often, under the guise of thinning and salvage logging, valuable tree species are illegally logged. In particular, the Siberian pine is logged in the Altai, and in the Russian Far East, such loggings take place in the habitat of the Amur tiger, threatening its habitats. This problem was described in-depth in WWF-Russia’s December overview, “Practice of thinning and salvage cuttings in the Russian Far East: legal cover for illegal logging”.

Therefore, WWF-Russia and Greenpeace Russia are calling for all responsible forest users to abandon the practice of unjustified and illegal assignation and implementation of salvage logging, and for all responsible consumers and timber processing companies to avoid purchasing timber produced by salvage loggings without a thorough field inspection of their legality.

“This is a Russia-wide problem, which has affected a lot of Russian forest regions to various degrees,” says WWF-Russia Forest Program director Nikolay Shmatkov.  “Unfortunately, illegal assignation and implementation of salvage logging have recently become a widespread phenomenon. WWF is calling for responsible consumers to either fully stop buying such timber or to thoroughly monitor its legality.”

Experts warn that the situation may continue to aggravate in the coming years because of the draft law prepared by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia, which removes restrictions on clearcut salvage logging in water protective zones and forests of the central ecological zone of the Baikal Natural Area (UNESCO Heritage Site).

The full text of the joint statement of WWF-Russia and Greenpeace Russia and recent records of illegal salvage loggings discovered by WWF in the Caucasus and the Altai Republic are attached (in Russian).



Low-quality salvage logging in the Leningrad region, view from above
© Natalya Maksimova