WWF: strengths and weaknesses of Russia's forest strategy
This document also addresses the provisions of the regulatory legal acts that determine the state long-term policy regarding the forest industry, in particular, the goals established by the "Fundamentals of state policy in the field of use, protection, and reproduction of forests in the Russian Federation for the period up to 2030", which were approved exactly five years ago, on September 26.
The Fundamentals set the following forest industry development goals:
- in the economic sphere it is efficient management of the forest sector and increase of the relevant gross domestic product based on market demand;
- in the environmental sphere it is a favorable environment for citizens and the conservation of the biosphere role of the Russian forests;
- in the social sphere it is the growth of the living standards of the citizens dependent on forests, and sustainable socio-economic development of forest areas.
Despite of the fact that before the expiration of the Fundamentals in 2030 there is still time left, you can already do some intermediate evaluation. To date, many of the initiatives enshrined in the Fundamentals are already being implemented, for example, the intensive forestry model has left the field of production experiments and has become a reality for several Russian leading forest companies. However, despite the general positive trend in the implementation of the Fundamentals, there are a number of significant shortcomings. Since 2013, experts from WWF-Russia and other Russian environmental organizations have repeatedly drawn the attention of the authorities to the fact that due to the crisis of forest supply in the country, the provisions of the Fundamentals regarding the creation of the National Forest Heritage – the forest fund that is not subject to economic development, have not yet found actual application.
"Despite numerous proposals since 2013, no objects of National Forest Heritage have yet appeared in Russia. As a result, intact forest areas and landscapes (IFA and IFL) in fact remain the main source of wood for many large companies. Moreover, the new Strategy approved by the Prime Minister provides for the development of such intact, pristine forests, which will lead to their degradation, as well as exacerbate the forest resources crisis and the associated socio-economic conflicts in some regions," comments Nikolay Shmatkov, WWF-Russia Forest Program Director.
WWF-Russia is concerned about the critical environmental and future shortcomings of the country's forest fund in the implementation of the Foundations, as well as the weak, according to expert estimates, level of elaboration of the proposed solutions of the forest sector problems in the new Strategy.
In the field of forestry, the aim of the Strategy is to achieve sustainable forest management, innovative and effective development of forest use, conservation, and reproduction. At the same time, despite the recognition of a number of reforestation problems, namely, competent thinning in young forests, the Strategy does not offer any detailed and effective solutions to this major problem in the forest sector. Moreover, the national project "Ecology", which has recently caused a strong criticism of environmental experts and is now under consideration in the State Duma, also does not stipulate the need for mandatory thinning in young stands, but is limited to standards for planting in place of logged forests.
"Understanding and recognizing the problems in the forest sector, in particular the lack of thinning in young stands, in the new Strategy is a step towards overcoming the industry crisis. However, it is not enough as now the forest sector needs specific solutions developed based on consultations with the expert community. Firstly, there is a need for legal standards for thinning in young stands in the amount of equal planting, as well as economic incentives created by the state for the implementation of care and protection of long-term investments in improving the forest fund", notes Nikolai Shmatkov. The very need, importance and economic benefit from the forest thinning has been repeatedly highlighted by WWF-Russia and experts of the forest industry. At the 20th St. Petersburg International Forest Industry Forum, which is currently taking place, WWF-Russia experts are moderating a separate section devoted to the effective reforestation in intensive forestry and thinning in young stands.
"Secondly, at the legislative level, it should be allowed to grow forests for commercial purposes on abandoned agricultural lands as this will create additional economic benefits for forest companies and will help get away from the shortage of available raw materials. Thirdly, it is necessary to finally create the first National Forest Heritage site in the country - moreover, this spring relevant legal mechanisms were developed. The implementation of at least these primary tasks will already significantly help improve the effectiveness of the implementation of both the Fundamentals and the Strategy," adds Nikolai Shmatkov.