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POBEDITELI — Soldiers of the Great War

How are Russian forests structured?

The first term You will face studying Russian forest management system is so-called Forest Fund. Originally it just meant all forest and related lands under governmental jurisdiction. Because ALL forests (as far as any other lands and resources) were state owned in former Soviet Union the Forest Fund theoretically just included all Russian forests.

The dominant part of the Forest Fund was (and still is) under management of Russian Federal Forest Service (Rosleskhoz). However, some parts of the Forest Fund were (and still are) managed by other structures and agencies. (Look at “Who owns forest in Russia?” page for more details.) Very often under Forest Fund authorities mean only that part of it, which belongs to Rosleskhoz. In the official forest statistic published in 1995 You may find two different tables with different total figures in columns both entitled “The total area of the Forest Fund lands”. (One figure is about Forest Fund under the Rosleskhoz jurisdiction, another one – about whole Forest Fund area.)

The new Forest Code of 1997 – the main today’s federal level act on forests and forest sector – make the situation more complicated: two categories of forests (forests on defend (military) lands and city forests) were excluded from the Forest Fund but still stayed state owned. The Forest Code introduces the special term for these forests – “Forests Not Belonging to Forest Fund”. (Nice wording. Isn’t it?) So, we have two lands categories where forest may grow in Russia – the Forest Fund and “Forests Not Belonging to Forest Fund”.

However, this situation looked probably too simple for Russian authorities. So, they add into the Forest Code one more type of forests – “tree-bushy vegetation” situated on some other lands categories like town lands, some agricultural lands, Water Fund lands, transportation lands and some others. In general, the “tree-bushy vegetation” includes more often particular trees and small tree groups rather then large forest areas.

This just adds mess to Russian forest system because different pieces of forest on the same type of lands may belongs to different categories. For example, the "tree-bushy vegetation" in towns (trees around houses, along streets etc.) is different from "city forests" (which are usually represented by large city parks), which belong to “Forests Not Belonging to Forest Fund“. Also in agricultural lands you could find both Forest Fund forests (the largest part of them) and some “tree-bushy vegetation“. The reasons to classifying particular forest as one of the categories are mainly historical or sometimes just random.

For us two specific features of the “tree-bushy vegetation“ are important.

First, this is the only forest category today in Russia, which officially may be private (as much as there is at all possible to speak about private lands in Russia). At least the Forest Code tells that agricultural lands, where the “tree-bushy vegetation” may grow on, also include “gardens” and “personal agriculture” lands. Both terms in Russia usually mean small pieces of land given to citizens. (This is in practice the only well working formal mechanism, which may be regarded as private land ownership. In general private ownership does not work in most cases in Russia but this is the theme for special story.)

The second important thing we have to know is that “tree-bushy vegetation“ still stays out of any official statistic. All general figures about Russian forests you may found concern Forest Fund and “Forests Not Belonging to Forest Fund“. So, the official figure of 763.5 millions hectares does not include the “tree-bushy vegetation“. In fact nobody knows about how much “tree-bushy vegetation“ exist in Russia. We can just generally estimate that this is a minor figure comparing to other forests. However, “minor” in Russian conditions may mean tens of millions hectares.

At the same time, 763.5 millions hectares is NOT equal to Forest Fund area + “Forests Not Belonging to Forest Fund“ area. All area of the Forest Fund (as far as “Forests Not Belonging to Forest Fund“) is divided in so-called Forest Lands and Non-Forest Lands. Non-Forest Lands include bogs, water, roads, agricultural lands and other areas inside the Forest Fund, which are not covered by forest and even not supposed for that by regulations. According the last official statistic available for the 1st January of 1993, the Non-Forest Lands occupy 294.3 millions hectares of 1,180.9 millions hectares total Forest Fund area. (That time, before the new Forest Code, the “Forests Not Belonging to Forest Fund“ category did not exist. That forests were included in the Forest Fund).

Do you think the rest of the Forest Fund – the Forest Lands – means areas covered by forests? No. It just mean the areas where forest should grow according official Russian forestry concept. The Forest Lands also are divided in two categories – “Lands Covered by Forest” (or “Stoked Lands”) and “Lands Non-Covered by Forest” (or “Unstoked Lands”) (but they are still Forest Lands). What is the difference between “Forest Lands Non-Covered by Forest” and “Non-Forest Lands”? – could You ask. According official concept, Non-Forest Lands are not supposed for growing forests at all, but all Forest Lands are. In other words, Forest Lands mean lands for growing forest. The concept supposes that all Forest Lands should be forested (converted to “Lands Covered by Forest”) as much as possible. The “Lands Non-Covered by Forest” are regarded as temporary unforested areas, where forest should be restored in natural or artificial way.

To be more correct we have say that in 1993 statistic two more categories are separated inside the Forest Lands – forest plantations, which are still to young to be formally transferred to Lands Covered by Forest (in center of European Russia these are all plantations under 8 years; older plantations are included into Lands Covered by Forest) and special areas for planting seedlings – 1-2 years old trees, which will be later planted into plantations. Probably the formal reason to separate these two categories was that both of them do not supposed to be covered by forest but also serve for reforestation.

According the today’s regulations both above discussed categories are included back into the Forest Lands Non-Covered by Forest. Other Non-Covered by Forest Lands with one exclusion are united into the so-called Reforestation Fund, which includes logged areas, burned areas, areas affected by pest outbreaks and some others. So, new regulation stressed that young plantations and seedlings planting areas are not supposed to reforestation.

One more category of Lands Non-Covered by Forest, according to today’s regulations, is excluded from Reforestation Fund – the so-called "Natural Rare-Standing Trees Areas”. That means the territories with low-density tree stand, which can not be classified as forest according official definitions based on density, officially supposed, can not be denser because of natural conditions. It is, however, unclear what is the difference in this case between that type of Forest Lands and Non-Forest Lands. Also good question is how natural these "Natural Rare-Standing Trees Areas” are.

So, now we can understand official figures about Russian forests. Let’s take a look !

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