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WWF is Concerned About Illegal Salvage Logging in Russia

10 december 2020
WWF-Russia supposes that there is a very high risk that wood obtained from salvage (sanitary) logging in Russia may be harvested with gross violations of the requirements of the current legislation, and calls on state authorities and forest companies to strengthen control over salvage logging.

Salvage (sanitary) logging means wood harvesting in dead or damaged forests, that is, a measure aimed at preventing the spread of pests. However, in practice, salvage logging in Russia is often used only as a mechanism to bypass various prohibitions and restrictions on logging, including those in protected areas.  In fact, under the guise of salvage logging healthy trees are cut down, the permitted volumes or methods of harvesting are violated, that as a result damages both forest ecosystems, and country budget.

«This quasi-legal salvage logging causes significant environmental damage, as it usually affects forests of the highest conservation value and leads to deterioration of forest health and degradation. It also leads to economic losses, since the fee for this type of logging is significantly lower than for logging for the purpose of wood harvesting, and undermines the prestige of authorities responsible for protecting forests from pests and diseases, and the entire Russian forest sector. In the fulfillment of the instruction from the President of Russia on decriminalization of timber industry in Russia, it’s essential to accord special priority to this issue, as without solving of this problem it’s impossible to ensure legality of timber trade,” says Konstantin Kobyakov, WWF-Russia’s Forest Program expert on HCVF.

Salvage logging accounts for about 1/7 of the total recorded volume of wood harvested annually in Russia. According to the official statistics, for the period from 2009 to 2018 (inclusive), selective and clear-cut salvage logging amounted to an average of 28.7 million cubic meters of wood per year, with an average total volume of harvesting for the same period of 200.5 million cubic meters per year. Wood harvested during salvage logging, with rare exceptions, is purchased by consumers and exporters on the same basis as wood from any other logging operations. In fact, it goes to those companies that strive to be law-abiding and responsible, for example, acting within the framework of voluntary forest certification and international legislation on combating illegal logging.

“The WWF-Russia’s experience gained in the Russian regions confirms  that the main reason to conduct salvage logging is precisely the need to harvest wood in those forests or in those ways that are normally unacceptable for such forests, for instance, due to legal restrictions. Even if all permits for salvage logging are issued correctly, field inspections often reveal gross violations of the Russian legislation. There are cases when salvage logging is carried out conscientiously and efficiently, but it is not a common practice,” explains Konstantin Kobyakov, WWF-Russia’s Forest Program expert on HCVF.

Healthy trees planned for salvage logging
(c) WWF-Russia

WWF-Russia has been revealing violations during salvage logging for many years: WWF’s experts together with regional NGOs and activists arrange field inspections, and perform analysis of Forest Pathology Inspection Acts. Thus, in Irkutsk Region, up to 80% of acts of forest pathology examination were canceled on WWF-Russia’s requests [123], and WWF field inspections in the Russian Far East, Altai Region and the Russian Caucasus confirmed numerous violations as early as during logging [1, 2, 3].

Not only environmentalists are concerned about this problem. The big number of criminalized salvage logging is also admitted by law enforcement agencies: among the reasons for high-profile criminal cases, made known to public by investigative authorities, unjustified salvage logging consistently occupies one of the first places.

WWF-Russia calls on state authorities, forest companies and voluntary forest certification organizations, including FSC, to make every effort to promptly and completely eliminate the practice of using salvage logging for any other purpose, except for the actual prevention of pest outbreaks and diseases of the forest and the felling of dead trees. Before developing and implementing the measures that will minimize the risk of illegal wood from salvage logging entering chains of custody, WWF-Russia recommends that FSC-certified companies either implement their own measures to control legality, or completely abandon the use of wood obtained during salvage logging.

The measures on FSC system improvements proposed by WWF-Russia were presented and placed for discussion with stakeholders at Boreal Forest Platform webinar on December, 10. The Boreal Forest Platform is WWF-Russia’s dialogue platform for promotion sustainable forest management in Russia.

Learn more about WWF-Russia’s position on illegal salvage logging and measures proposed to solve this problem: https://wwf.ru/en/about/positions/salvage-logging/

Headline and preview photos: (c) WWF-Russia

For additional information please contact
Forest Program communication coordinator
Project coordinator of High Conservation Value Forests