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Illegal logging

In general wide illegal logging we can separate 3 main situations:

  • Pure criminal activities (logging without official permissions, timber theft, falsification of documents, financial crimes, usage of the violence against local peoples, outrageous law violation by authorities and corruption).
  • Mass public illegal activity in forest by poor peoples, looking for satisfaction of their basic needs food and fuel (forest encroachment and forest land conversion for agriculture usage, poaching).
  • Lack of law enforcement.

In fight with pure criminal activities in forestry sector leadership must belong to the State.. NGOs can provide assistance, and only in some cases, when state is heavily deteriorated (as Cambodia or Indonesia) NGOs can take the initiative.

Mass public violation of the forest regulations can be resolved only after solution of the poverty problem. It need extensive programs, covered more wide issues as illegal logging or general forest management. Again, it is mainly area of State structures responsibility, where NGOs must play secondary, supplementary role. But in some case, when state structures are heavily deteriorated, NGOs again can be forced to take leadership role. (Cameroon, Eritrea, Peru).

In case lack of law enforcement, NGOs will take leading role,. due to the lack of incentives within administration to fulfill of its duty, or conflict of the interest. This problem is very important for Russia, due to the well know outrageous corruption of the Russian bureaucracy. It coincide with last negative changes in forestry management, when Ministry of natural resources is responsible for forest management, nature protection, and in the same time manages actually the largest system of the logging enterprises (leskhozes).

Illegal forest activity - Russian situation review

Pure criminal activities

There are very different assessments of the scale pure criminal activity in Russian forestry sector. According official statement it dont exceed 1% of the annual logging level. According some NGOs assessments (Greenpeace, WWF) it can reach 20-30% and in some case even more.

Official assessments obviously represent underestimation, based on registered level of the forest crimes. NGOs assessments are more close to the reality. There are some most heavy criminal regions (Caucasus, Far East and Southern Siberia), export destinations (Turkey, China) and type of the forest products (valuable hardwoods), where portion of the illegal timber can reach more than 50-70 %. Keeping in mind financial violations, linked with Russian forestry sector, pure legal timber from Russia is exception than general rule.

Main obstacle to this problem solution is general criminal situation in Russian state, starting from top high governmental officials.

Mass public illegal activity
In case of Russia obvious heavy example of such type activity is poaching. Illegal logging for satisfaction of the local needs is serious in some regions, but compare to the scale of legal and pure criminal logging is not so important.

Lack of law enforcement
There are at least two areas of the lack of law enforcement. It is absence of the Environmental Impact Statement and outdated Forest Management Plans.

Environmental Impact Assessment Due to the different reasons most (at least 80-90%) of the Forest Management Plans (including logging plans) dont have EIS. It is obvious violation of the Russian Nature Protection Law. But in the same time there are some regions (for example Nizhny Novgorod) where thanks to the active environmental NGOs and progressive administration such EIS exist.

Outdated Forest Management Plans Due to the general deterioration of the state forest management system, in many case forest management plans, which was developed for 10 years period now are outdated, and strictly speaking, now valid. Apart from formal concerns outdated forest management plans (some of them can be 15-20 years old) give wrong estimation of the Allowable Annual Cut level and dont fit in to the Forest management plans demands of the new Laws adopted in last decade. In some regions such outdated forest management can cover up to half of the all forests.

Inapropriate forest activity in Russian context

Due to the rigid anti environmental position of the forest management authorities and heavy degradation this system in last 2 years many internationally accepted demands in area of sustainable forest management are not reflected in Russian legislation. Violation of this demand according Russian legislation is not illegal. But it is obviously inappropriate, and in some case is strongly considered by business community.

One of the most serious example is situation with intact forests. There are some another similar issues:

  • protection of the rare and endangered species habitats;
  • transparency;
  • presence of the independent effective and transparent inspection.
  • In 1999 Russia exported about 29 million m3 of raw timber, and in round wood Russia exports more than a half of timber logged both legally and with violations of the existing legislation. Considerable income from the forest export stimulates forest felling both legal and illegal. The majority of companies buying wood from Russia either don't take interest in or prefer not to think about the origin of timber they buy, because they think that it really matters only in Russia Abroad all timber, even stolen, becomes legally clean. That's why it doesn't seem possible to solve the problem of illegal forest felling operations until both buyers and sellers of forest products close the illegally logged timber from entering the market.

    Read more about Illegal logging in Russia:

    Survey of Illegal Forest Felling Activities in Russia (forms and methods of illegal cuttings) by Alexey Morozov. - M.: Greenpeace Russia, 2000.

    Plundering Russia's Far Eastern Taiga: Illegal Logging, Corruption, and Trade. - Friends of the Earth Japan, 2000
    This file is 923 Kb (PDF) and 47 pages. To download the report from the FoE-Japan Web-site, right click here

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