The Federal Forestry Agency launched the destruction of protective forests along rivers
WWF-Russia and the Russian branch of Greenpeace are concerned that the Federal Forestry Agency (Rosleskhoz), by its order No. 1497, deprived of the protective status the spawning forest zones along the Volyuga, Veryuga and Padoma rivers in the Ustyansky forest area of Arkhangelsk Region, where many species of fish, including Atlantic salmon, come to spawn. Previously, experts in the field of aquatic biological resources and environmental organizations have been repeatedly warning the authorities about the possible negative consequences of the destruction of spawning forest zones, which would be felt by many citizens, including amateur fishermen, fish businesses and ordinary buyers.
"Clearcuts along the rivers affect their fullness and cleanliness, because they lead to the destruction of the banks and the washing of soil into water. As a result, the habitats and spawning conditions of valuable fish are seriously deteriorated, young fish die, and even the complete disappearance of populations is possible. It was the fate of many spawning rivers in the Northwestern Russia, and about 50 million hectares of forests across the country can suffer soon. This is how many valuable forests along the rivers have lost their protected status, which was abolished in 2019, but have not yet gained a new one. We cannot allow bureaucratic delays and uncoordinated work of departments to deprive the country of valuable forests and fish stocks," says Konstantin Kobyakov, HCVF project coordinator of WWF-Russia Forest program.
"The conversion of spawning forest belts to the category of industrial forests means the removal of all restrictions on forest use, including the clearcuts of forests along river banks with an area of up to 50 hectares, in some cases of up to 75 hectares. But these forests not only preserve spawning grounds, but also serve as the last refuge for many animals, including such rare species as the forest subspecies of reindeer, recently included in the Red Data Book of Russia. If the order of the Federal Forestry Agency, which eliminated spawning forest zones in the Ustyansky district, is not canceled, it may be followed by others, which means that even more valuable forests and rare animals and plants living in them will be under threat of destruction," says Mikhail Kreindlin, protected areas expert of Greenpeace.
We would like to remind that in July 2019, Federal law No. 538-FZ came into force, which jeopardized the future of 50 million hectares of forests that protect the fullness and purity of spawning rivers and lakes. In order to save these forests fr om destruction, WWF-Russia and Greenpeace in June 2019 submitted a petition to the Administration of the President of Russia asking to save the spawning forest zones, which was signed by 163,098 people.
At that time, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment listened to the environmentalists and concerned citizens and decided to protect those valuable forests: the Federal Forestry Agency was instructed to preserve the existing spawning forest zones until the Federal Agency for Fishery establishes new categories of protected areas, such as protected areas of fisheries. Thus, despite changes in the name of protected areas, clearcuts in valuable forests along the banks of rivers and lakes should still remain prohibited. However, the new Federal Forestry Agency order No. 1497 completely contradicts the decision of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Presidential Executive Office.
WWF-Russia and the Russian branch of Greenpeace have asked the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to return the protective status of forests along the Volyuga, Veryuga and Padoma rivers and take control of the situation, in order to immediately give the spawning forest zones throughout the country a new protective status of fisheries protected areas, and ensure their effective protection from logging.
The category of protective forests "spawning forest zones" was created to preserve the coastal zones of rivers and lakes wh ere spawning migrations and spawning of valuable fish species occur.
On July 1, 2019, Federal law No. 538-FZ came into force, which jeopardized the future of 50 million hectares of forests that protect the fullness and purity of spawning rivers and lakes. Under the new law, the size of these forest zones can be reduced from 1 km to 50-200 meters. In fact, by significantly reducing the protected area, the law lifted the ban on clearcuts without any special restrictions on most of the forests along the banks of spawning rivers.
In summer 2019, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment instructed the Federal Forestry Agency to preserve the existing spawning forest zones until the Federal Agency for Fishery establishes new categories of protected areas, such as protected zones of fisheries.
In spring 2020, the environmental organizations became aware that the order of instructed the Federal Forestry Agency No. 1497 "On assignment of forests in the territory of the Ustyansky forestry unit of Arkhangelsk Region as protected forests, industrial forests and the establishment of their borders" dated 27.12.2019 eliminated spawning forest zones in the Ustyansky forestry unit. One part of these spawning zones was assigned to other categories of protected forests; the second part, i.e. the forests along the Volyuga, Veryuga and Padoma rivers on a total area of 15,000 hectares, was completely assigned to industrial forests, with the exception of some negligible water protection zones, and was under threat of continuous logging.
Read more about the position of WWF-Russia and Greenpeace on spawning forest zones and their importance for the conservation of valuable fish species here.