Russian language English   15 May 2012, 18:14
13.01.2012, 12:10

The right way to the forest

The right way to the forest

National forest policy discussions started in Russia

National forest policy will secure sustainable forest management including effective forest fire protection. This was announced by the Deputy Head of Rosleskhoz Alexander Panfilov at the roundtable meeting “Condition of Forest Ecosystems and Regeneration of Forests Damaged by Fires” that took place at the Chamber of Commerce (CC) of the RF. The event was organized by the CC Committee for Nature Use and Ecology together with Rosleskhoz and the World Bank, and it summoned officials from several specialized federal ministries and agencies, regional forest managers as well as representatives of nature protection organizations.

Pellets from burnt forests

It was noted at the roundtable meeting that one of the key factors contributing to the spread of illegal forest use was forest fires. According to the representative of the World Bank in Russia Maria Smetanina, uncontrolled forest fires do not only cause direct damage to forest resources, but also ruin proper forest use patterns. One of the reasons for that is lack of norms regulating timely harvesting of burnt timber and subsequent rehabilitation of forest ecosystems.

Participants of the meeting at the CC had to admit that the current policy of using burnt forests is to a large extent an evidence of disorder and lack of control by the authorities. On the one hand, due to bureaucratic procrastination and lack of a clear mechanism for accessing the resources of the stands damaged by fires, huge volumes of forest are wasted that can be used during the first years after the fire but lose their merchantability quickly. On the other hand, lack of control makes it tempting to get into arson with the aim to do illegal harvesting. All this requires special scrutiny for taking governmental and public measures for preventing and combating forest fires in the context of overall fighting the spread of illegal harvesting.

As the deputy Head of the Nature Use and Ecology Committee of the Russian CC Yurii Shuvaev highlighted, positive changes had taken place in the management of the sector after the previous hot summer. First of all, in accordance with the decision of the Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin Rosleskhoz developed a Plan of forest regeneration activities in order to alleviate the consequences of forest fires and storms of 2011-2013. The sources of financing are additional subventures from the federal budget in the amount of 1,0 – 1,3 billion RUR annually, resources of regional authorities and forest leasers.

Forest fires are known to have hit 39 subjects of the RF in 2010 on the area of over 2 million ha. Besides, storm winds damaged forests on the area of 291 thousand hectares. In total 361,4 thousand ha are subject to reforestation. Most areas affected by the disaster are located in the European part of Russia, Republic of Buryatia and Tumen region.

Forest pathology survey has already been done on 33,2% of the area burnt in 2010 and on 84% of the wind damaged territory. Sanitary clearcuts covered 23,5% of the recommended are of burnt forests and almost 100% of wind affected stands.

Of course this is not much taking into account that timber is losing its liquidity every year. However, the participants of the roundtable meeting believe that not only authorities should make some efforts but also business. Forest users are waiting for incentives from the government. Deputy Head of the Forest Sector Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade Valerii Prilipov thinks that burnt forests could have been cleared quickly if the country had a well developed domestic market for pellets that are manufactured from low value timber.  However, almost all bioenergy production is targeted at foreign markets, what increases the sales risks for Russian business. “Government-to-business partnership shall be enhanced”, encouraged Valerii Prilipov. “We should establish conditions for developing domestic wood processing and consumption. Then the issue of burnt forests will not be as urgent as it is now”.

No fires in Tatarstan

There is also significant progress in forest fire protection. For the first time ever, subsidies were allocated in the amount of 5 billion RUR for procuring special firefighting machinery. The subsidies were granted under the condition of co-financing with regional budgets. At the same time, the amount of governmental subventures for forest protection against fires increased twofold and made 4,5 billion RUR. The subjects of the RF got 1,8 billion RUR for liquidating the consequences of forest fires. Supplying the regions with modern machines, effective Rosleskhoz management of forest firefighting this year, professionalism of forest smoke jumpers and land services allowed reducing the number of natural fires to a large extent.

We succeeded in reducing the number of fires in 2011 - a record only 20 thousand of them took place (against 33 thousand last year) – and the burnt area (1,5 million ha this year). It was noted at the meeting that the key reason was still human factor. However a lot depends on the efforts of the regions. Thus, despite of the hot summer of 2010, when almost all Volga regions were ablaze, only 99 forest fires were registered in the Republic of Tatarstan on the area of 168 hectares. Nevertheless, the silviculturists of the republic were still not happy with such a result, and they undertook great efforts to suppress fires in the region.

– First of all, we conducted annual headquarter exercise for practicing the interactions among the resources deployed in forest firefighting, - informed the CC the Minister of the Republic of Tatarstan Nail Magdeev. Besides, the republic bought 41 UAZ vehicle and 10 decom spraying tanks ARS-14 at its own expense for land forest patrol.

For detecting forest fires, their prevention and extinguishing, the Ministry of Forestry of the Republic of Tatarstan is establishing a budget-funded facility “Forest Fire Center” that will incorporate 4 (four) firefighting chemical stations of the 3rd type and the regional dispatcher management office.

For preventing forest fires in 2011, fire safety strips were cut at the borders with the forests of the Republic of Marii El, Republic of Udmurtia and Kirov region. Forest firefighting plans were developed for municipalities. Around-the-clock duty service and land patrol along fixed routes were organized for the whole fire hazardous season in all forest-related services.

As a result, no fires were registered in the forests of the republic during the fire hazardous season of 2011, proudly finished Nail Magdeev.

Policy as clue for sustainability

Tatarstan example is rather an exception. Very few regions can boast such a work. Federal Forestry Agency will continue applying major efforts at developing an efficient system for protecting and safeguarding forests all over the territory of the country. According to the Deputy Head of Rosleskhoz Alexander Panfilov, adoption of National forest policy will secure sustainable forest management. 
At the end of the International Year of Forests, it is indispensable to launch a wide discussion of the National forest policy in our country. It should become a momentum for elaborating principal strategic decisions for the forest sector development. National forest policy should define future development of forest legislation, shift towards the intensive forest use model and respective forestry operations. It should contribute to developing optimal models and mechanisms for preventing forest fires started by people and help in combating illegal forest harvesting. It must encourage the development of satellite monitoring of forest conditions and use and secure public participation in forest management.

Participants of the meeting came to the conclusion that drafting and adoption of the basic document in the sector will allow elaborating a comprehensive solution for all key challenges of the forest sector of the economy starting from forest fires and up to deep processing of timber from fire damaged forests.


(translated by V.Mineev) 


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