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Now Intact Forest Landscapes in Russia Can Be Preserved as National Forest Heritage Sites

25 april 2018

New Forest Management Instruction providing the legislative background for the creation of the National Forest Heritage Sites within Intact Forest Landscapes was enacted by the Order of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation.

New Forest Management Instruction will come into force on the 4th of May, 2018. It approves the mechanism of the National Forest Heritage Sites creation as an additional type of protected forest sites. This initiative was proposed and promoting by WWF-Russia since 2012. New conservation status could be granted to the forest sites with high scientific, historical, cultural or religious value and Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs).

“Building up legal framework for the National Forest Heritage Sites in Russia is highly appreciated by WWF-Russia. New legal status is ideal to preserve lots of forests sites in our country and WWF-Russia has already identified most suitable areas in Northwestern Russia and Russian Caucasus. Many timber companies were looking forward this legislative opportunity as well. Lots of environmentally responsible forest sector companies have already signed voluntary moratorium agreements and logging bans on their leased forests, but until now it was impossible to grant official special conservation status to these forest lands to exclude them from annual allowable cut, so they had to continue to pay rent. At the moment the total area of all forest lands under moratorium agreements – the most evident territories to become first Natural Forest Heritage Sites in Russia – accounts for 2 million hectares,” said Evgeny Shvarts, WWF-Russia Director of Conservation Policy.

(c) Oleg Kabalik / WWF-Russia

The National Forest Heritage concept was proposed by WWF-Russia and Public Council at Rosleskhoz (Federal Forestry Agency of Russia) in 2012 as an additional and more economy efficient option in comparison with establishment of conventional PAs. This new opportunity could be used by forest companies, environmental NGOs and forest sector public authorities for granting protected status to valuable forests, for example within FSC. Since its presentation, National Forest Heritage concept has traveled a long way – it was included into the Russian National Forest Policy in 2013 and became the subject of countless discussions on the meetings of the Public Council at Rosleskhoz. However, until the last moment Russia has no legal mechanism for National Forest Heritage Sites establishment. The new Forest Management Instruction solves this problem.

WWF-Russia stresses that it’s essential to grant conservation status to IFLs – large forests landscapes not significantly affected by anthropogenic disturbance. These landscapes have high conservation value as these forests help to conserve rich biodiversity and considered as enough sustainable to maintain high level of biodiversity forever. WWF-Russia’s research determined critical and continuing IFL loss in Russia. Without effective conservation they could totally disappear in commercial logging zones within nearest decades. It’s important to note that the National Forest Heritage status lays an embargo on commercial logging only, it doesn’t require any restrictions for hunting, fishing, ecotourism and non-timber forest products usage that could cause local communities discontent. 

Over the years WWF-Russia works at Intact forest landscapes conservation, granting official status of protected areas to these territories and identifying of pilot forest areas that could be acknowledged as first National Forest Heritage sites – this complex and complicated work is supported, among others, by Mondi Group and WWF-IKEA Partnership on Forests.  

Headline photo: (c) Yuri Sochnev / WWF-Russia