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WWF urges companies to ban wood sourcing from salvage logging in Russia

29 june 2021
This ban is essential to reduce the high risk of illegal wood entering supply chains until strong control measures are in place.

Salvage logging, or wood harvesting in dead or damaged forests, accounts for about one-seventh of the total recorded volume of wood harvested annually in Russia. While salvage logging is permitted and sometimes even encouraged to prevent the spread of diseases, it is often used as a pretext for illegal wood harvesting, as evidenced by data from both law enforcement agencies [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10] and environmental organisations [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. In many cases, there is a very high risk that this wood is obtained illegally and, as such, causing significant environmental damage.   This in turn affects High Conservation Value (HCV) forests, worsens the sanitary condition of forests, leads to economic losses impacting directly the Russia Federation central  budget, and also  represents  a high reputational risk for the entire Russian timber sector.

WWF-Russia has repeatedly called on authorities and companies engaged in forest management to increase and strengthen control over salvage logging. Until the risk of illegal wood from salvage logging entering supply chains has been minimised drastically, WWF-Russia recommends companies to not source nor use wood obtained from salvage logging, and to take additional measures to verify the legality of sanitary wood felling, such as increasing company field audits.

“WWF-Russia’s long-term experience confirms that usually the main reason to conduct salvage logging is precisely the need to harvest wood in those forests or in those ways that do not comply with national or local legislation. Even when all permits for salvage logging are issued correctly, field inspections often reveal serious violations of the Russian legislation. Under the guise of salvage logging, healthy trees are felled, the permitted volumes or methods of harvesting are violated, as a result, damaging forest ecosystems as well as causing serious financial repercussions for the country,” says Andrey Shegolev, WWF-Russia Forest Program Director.

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

According to the official statistics, 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 is purchased by consumers and exporters just like wood from any other logging operations. Thus, it is incumbent upon companies that strive to be law-abiding and sustainable, including those acting within the framework of voluntary forest certification, to ensure illegally and unsustainably harvested wood from salvage logging does not enter their supply chairs.

In 2020, WWF-Russia called on the forest industry and relevant authorities to strengthen control over salvage logging, on the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in Russia  to improve its system of voluntary forest certification, and on forest companies to not source wood obtained during salvage logging. Until adequate and transparent action is taken by all stakeholders, any  wood sourcing from salvage logging should be put on hold. Earlier this year,  IKEA became  the first company to take the decision to temporarily ban the use of sanitary felled wood from the Russian Far East and Siberia until the system is sufficiently strengthened.

“We welcome IKEA’s decision and call on other wood sourcing companies to also temporarily ban the use of such wood as soon as possible.  A temporary ban on sanitary felled wood in Russia is an essential measure, and the quickest route at present for companies to re-gain confidence is that FSC develops and implements an effective procedure of sanitary wood control, supported by the affected and concerned stakeholders. We recommend companies should not resume purchasing until then,“ says Shegolev.

WWF-Russia has been working to address the threat of salvage logging in the country for several years. In collaboration with regional NGOs and activists, WWF’s experts have facilitated field inspections, and performed several analyses of Forest Pathology Inspection Acts. For example, in the Irkutsk Region, up to 80% of acts of forest pathology examinations were cancelled by regional authorities upon WWF-Russia’s requests [123], and WWF-Russia’s field inspections in the Russian Far East, Altai Region and the Russian Caucasus confirmed numerous violations during logging operations  [123].

Learn more about WWF-Russia’s position and measures to fight illegal salvage logging: https://wwf.ru/en/about/positions/salvage-logging/

Headline and preview photos: (c) WWF-Russia.

For additional information please contact
Forest Program communication projects coordinator
Head of Forest Program Office