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Progressing sustainable forestry in Russia


FSC ROUNDTABLE AND FIELD WORKSHOP IN ARKHANGELSK OBLAST, OCTOBER 11-12, 2016


In Arkhangelsk, with the support of the Boreal Forest Platform, a round table dedicated to “New requirements of the FSC certification in relation to intact forest landscapes and their implementation” and a field workshop were held.

In Russia, the FSC national standard is currently being developed. It requires that timber industry observe some specific indicators of intact forest landscapes (IFL) allocated within lease areas to meet the requirements of the voluntary forest certification system.

The innovation is now being improved. The developers welcome all stakeholders to take part in this process and are open to any constructive suggestions. In this regard, the round table brought together a wide range of experts, including timber industries, representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forest Industry of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Arkhangelsk Regional Assembly of Deputies, science, environmental organizations, and FSC. The participants came from Komi, Karelia, Arkhangelsk and Arkhangelsk Oblast, Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Finland.

The main recommendations of the participants included in the final resolution of the event were recorded upon the dialogue and discussions. In the coming days it will be submitted to the Federal Forestry Agency, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and to FSC Russia, and will be published on the Boreal Forest Platform website.

In addition, the event included a field visit to Kholmogorskoye forestry of Arkhangelsk Oblast, where the participants witnessed the reforestation efficiency in the areas of indigenous forest harvesting held in the 1970s. The reforestation activities in the sites followed competing technological schemes and clearly demonstrated that even in the North, the intensive forest management methods can be applied.

The presentations of the participants can be found here.

Recommendations the participants of the round table

October 11, 2016, Arkhangelsk

The round table was dedicated to the implementation of the new requirements of the FSC certification in relation to IFL. The issues of interpretation and practical implementation of the new FSC requirements in relation to IFL in the North-West of Russia were discussed, which were reflected in Motion 65 of FSC General Assembly, the new draft of the National FSC Standard and the new controlled wood standard (FSC Requirements for Sourcing Controlled Wood FSC-STD-40-005 V3-0 EN). The discussion was attended by 46 persons (the list of the participants is attached to resolution).

The roundtable participants noted that the new FSC requirements, based on the need to save up to 80% of intact forest landscapes (Motion 65 General Assembly FSC), face difficulties of practical implementation not only in Russia but also in such countries as Canada, Brazil, and some countries in tropical Africa. It was stressed that Motion 65 is not a direct demand, since the direct requirements are formulated in the national standard. The first draft of the National FSC FM Standard for Russia has been prepared and is being discussed. It provides three options for IFL conservation, i.e. 80%, 50% and 30% (depending on the company’s efforts to ensure long-term IFL conservation and to implement the best FM practices to maintain biodiversity and forest environment in the IFL areas involved in the development) of the total IFL area within the boundaries of the certified forest area.

 

It was noted that the new FSC requirements regarding IFL certification are not a defensive measure related to Russian timber exports because of the voluntary nature of the forest certification according to the FSC scheme. However, the inability of individual enterprises to comply with these requirements may result in the loss of the certificate, the necessity of looking for new sale markets, which in its turn can lead to negative socio-economic consequences.

The certification according to the FSC scheme can guarantee for consumers in environmentally sensitive markets the environmental and social responsibility of the companies. The public authorities and management should be interested in its development as a stimulation factor for the Russian forest export. The most constructive solution to the problem of IFL conservation in the lease areas of the certified companies is to maintain the most valuable pieces in the form of specially protected natural areas (SPNA) or areas with another status (for example, National Forest Heritage areas), which excludes the possibility of timber harvesting, which will allow the businesses to comply with Motion 65. This requires support on part of state authorities and controlling bodies.

The round table participants stressed that as an alternative to logging in IFL it is necessary to develop intensive forest management in already developed forests. However, the lack of incentives was noted for long-term investments into costly activities to grow economically valuable plants with the payback period of several decades, for example competent thinning in young stands.

The participants noted that in order to find compromises regarding IFL conservation, the following steps are necessary:

On the part of public authorities and management:

– assigning a specific legislative status to the most valuable IFL, especially those affecting stakeholder interests. One possibility is assigning the status of National Forest Heritage sites or of a SPNA;

– More active participation of the public authorities in negotiations on finding a compromise between the IFL preservation and use, especially in terms of SPNA establishment;

– Prompt compromises on such sensitive areas as the interfluve between the Northern Dvina and the Pinega in Arkhangelsk Oblast. In particular, the formation of a working group with the participation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forest Industry of Arkhangelsk Oblast, FMU lessees and public organizations on the establishment of the landscape reserve of regional value “Verhneyulovsky”;

– Inclusion of the Verkhneyulovsky nature reserve establishment in the ‘SPNA Year’ action plan;

– Development of government incentives for intensive forest plantations, including efficient reforestation and timely and quality thinning in young stands;

– More active work of the Commission on the harmonization of the requirements of the normative base of forest management and certification in the framework of the Public Council of the Federal Forestry Agency.

On part of certified forest managers:

– Inventory of the forest fund to assess economic opportunities of meeting the new FSC requirements regarding IFL conservation within the boundaries of the leased forest areas;

– Development and implementation of a qualitative landscape ecological planning for intact forest areas, which cannot be excluded from forest development due to some socio-economic constraints;

– Development by lessees (in cooperation with stakeholders) and implementation of plans for transition to sustainable intensive forestry with the aim of reducing dependence on wood resources from intact forests;

– More active participation of the representatives of the timber industry in the development of the new national FSC FM standard, especially in terms of the new IFL requirements; more active participation in the international activities of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

On part of FSC Russia:

– Ensure that the certified companies, when developing the new version of the national standard, have more active outreach concerning the requirements of Motion 65 and their consequences, and organize regional discussions;

– Develop regional approaches to the IFL conservation involving all stakeholders, including IFL zoning depending on their conservation value;

– Include in the new FSC standard the requirements for drafting and publishing by the lessees of their plans to transition to intensive sustainable forest management in the developed forests with the aim of reducing dependence on wood resources from intact forests.

– Include the requirements for landscape-ecological planning during IFL development as one of the conditions to apply the minimum requirements of the new standard with respect to the proportion of the preserved IFL areas (30%).

– Analyze the situation with timber procurement for the major FSC certified enterprises, set thresholds for the preserved IFL plots, and rank the companies depending on how they are capable of meeting the requirements of the new standard.

 

Interviews

With support from the World Wildlife Fund in the framework of the Boreal Forest Platform, on 11-12 October 2016 in Arkhangelsk, round table “New requirements of the FSC certification in relation to intact forest landscapes and their implementation” was held. We bring to your attention some interviews with the participants and organizers of the event.

Andrey Shchegolev, Head of WWF Russia Arkhangelsk branch:

“Motion 65 of FSC General Assembly shall enter into force from the beginning of 2018. We have one year ahead and we shall use it to jointly develop the national FSC standard, in order to clarify the requirements for the IFL conservation with all the stakeholders. The approach that is proposed in the framework of the new standard, the ‘80-50-30’ principle, is a great opportunity for our region to avoid serious negative consequences caused by the implementation of Motion 65. The key role here will belong not only to the FSC, forest industries and environmental organizations, but to the forest management authorities and the regional administrations. The intact forests must be maintained for long periods, and this is possible only through assigning them a formal ‘protection’ status, which is the prerogative of the executive authorities. And another important point; even if a company refuses from the certification, and tries to refocus its business on some other markets, which are not so environmentally sensitive, it will not relieve it from having to preserve IFL, if it is enshrined in regional instruments on forestry and spatial planning. However, the probability that a company will venture and sacrifice their FSC certificate is, in my opinion, very small, as the economic benefits of the certification are far more significant than any possible costs and losses”.

Denis Popov, Head of Certification and Ecology Dept., JSC “Mondi Syktyvkar”:

“I see no big problems for “Mondi Syktyvkar” to implement the new FSC requirements. This relatively calm situation is the result of years of work. We started with the certification issues over a decade ago, involving a wide range of stakeholders. The results are being regularly examined by the Steering Committee, which included representatives of the Forest Committee of the Komi Republic,  Ministry of Natural Resources of the Komi Republic, the Ministry of Industry of the Komi Republic, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Greenpeace, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC Russia).

Initially, the decision to exclude from the use of already allocated IFL cores was accompanied by an attempt to find some alternative sites with a high proportion of ripe and overripe stands. However, practically all economically accessible forests in the Komi Republic had in fact already been allocated. It was then that “Mondi Syktyvkar” started to take the first steps in the direction of intensifying forestry by building Russia’s first modern private nursery. Now it is obvious that it was very timely. We began to engage in the effective reproduction of forests with the prospect of intermediate use of forests, so the company is now fully ready for wide comprehensive practical application of the intensive model”.

Tatiana Yanitskaya, Deputy Director, FSC Russia:

“We are now in the middle of the process of developing the new national standard, which, in particular, encompasses Motion 65 of FSC General Assembly on the IFL conservation. We are going to review and comment on all proposals received from the stakeholders, but it should be noted that they must comply with the FSC regulatory framework.

It is important that the people who formulate these proposals are connoisseurs. Also it would be useful for all stakeholders to hold in the regions sectoral and cross-sectoral meetings, and events similar to the round table in Arkhangelsk, which brought together the representatives of the businesses, public authorities, key environmental organizations, scientists and public people to discuss emerging issues and develop proposals. The resolution of this meeting is very important for us; the proposals are to be analyzed by the FSC experts “.

Nikolay Shmatkov, Director, Forest Program, WWF Russia:

“Voluntary forest certification is an instrument for the stakeholders (environmental organizations, local communities, all the healthy forces) to cooperate with the businesses. It’s a marketing tool. Businesses get some sort of bonuses for the fact that they are certified, for example, are granted access to more profitable markets. For WWF, the certification is the possibility of a productive cooperation with the businesses. Only because of FSC, we are forcing the forest managers to sign moratoria agreement with the aim of preserving the most valuable IFL. Only because of FSC, we urge the responsible forest managers to identify key habitats of rare, threatened, and endangered species in commercial forests and to preserve them. Any business is created in order to bring a profit to its investors, and that is fair.

Any measures for biodiversity conservation and cancellation of logging in intact forest areas mean losses: loss of profits, extra costs; and FSC is the mechanism to prepare the businesses accordingly. In addition, in the long term, the measures to preserve biodiversity and to launch intensive plantations in the developed forests will still give some financial rewards, in the form of plants that are more resistant to adverse factors and in the form of commercial wood grown close to processing centers”.

Alexey Yaroshenko, Head of Forest Department, Greenpeace

“Motion 65 provides a basis for the balance, for decision-making given the long-term environmental, social and economic benefits. More space is given for reaching compromises. But these approaches do not mean that you are allowed to do nothing. Such requirements existed before, but were not paid due attention to, and now they must be met.

The IFL conservation is a necessary condition for the transition to the civilized forestry. While in Russia, the heads at the highest level imply the existence of excessive areas of wild forest and its unlimited use; no one even thinks about reforestation in already developed territories. The current approach at the federal and regional levels implies that we are still rich in forest, that we have a lot of wild taiga, it will be sufficient just to build roads there, harvest, and it will be just enough for everybody. Proceeding from this approach, not only the existing enterprises operate, but the new ones are also being built. In reality, if we protect nothing, for example, like in Arkhangelsk Oblast, the agony of the forest sector may be prolonged for about five years. Maybe under exceptionally good conditions, this period will be ten years, but it is unlikely since most of the forests are still inaccessible”.

Dmitry Capitalinin, Deputy Minister, Head of the Department of Forestry, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forest Industry of Arkhangelsk Oblast:

“SPNAs shall be created not just by request of environmental organizations, even the key and respected, but proceeding first of all from the interests of the local people living close to the candidate sites. As regards the certification, it is known to be voluntary, and it is the responsibility of businesses and the certifying body.

The role of the representatives of the executive power is to prevent any violations of the Russian legislation. And our participation in the discussion of the FSC certification is caused by the fact that we receive relevant requests from the timber industry and representatives of legislative authorities. We are obliged to address them and help solve any emerging issues being impartial and ensuring consideration of all grounded views and opinions”.

Mikhail Kopeikin, Head of Forestry Department, PKP TITAN LLC:

“We got involved in the discussion process related to the innovations and have already formulated our proposals concerning certain principles and criteria of the second draft of the standard. I hope our opinion will be taken into account. We are particularly interested in ‘30, 50 and 80%’ gradation in intact forest landscapes with the conditions provided for each parameter. Anyway, this gradation affects all, even those businesses who claim that they are fine and have no problems. I wonder how it would look geographically, in practice, what impact it will have on the enterprise certification.

For example, the parameter for the conservation of 30% of intact forest landscapes requires that the company should establish an SPNA. But in Russia there is no mechanism to withdraw a lessee from the established SPNA. Even lease payments cannot be compared to the fact that the lessee remains responsible for the sanitary and management condition of the forest, provide fire protection measures, i.e. shall remain responsible for all protection measures. If the forest development plan provides for fire safety measures, for example, making a fire break, constructing fire safety roads, then what shall we do, shall we default on our contractual lease obligations? It is important not to miss the point that every lessee has some contractual lease obligations the default on which can lead to rupture of contractual relationships. Some argue that there has been no precedent in Arkhangelsk Oblast. But no one can rule out such a possibility and it is a real risk for businesses.”

Asiya Zagidullina, project consultant PREREAL:

“The intact forest landscapes in Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Komi Republic represent the last remnants of the indigenous forests of the European North.

In this regard, let me quote Doctor of Biological Sciences O. Smirnova (CEPL RAS), “The global trend, which is clearly manifested in the international instruments, i.e. the need to preserve and facilitate the restoration of natural boreal forests of the Northern hemisphere, is a prerequisite for the implementation of ecosystem functions: maintain a favorable climate and hydrological regime, soil fertility and biodiversity, including populations of rare, threatened, and endangered species.

The scientific studies have shown that the forests subject to harvesting and anthropogenically initiated fires (exceeding historical ranges of natural disturbances) are unable to fully support the above ecosystem functions. Therefore, at the global level we discuss the possibility of restoring the natural forest conditions”.

The basis for such recovery is the conservation of especially valuable IFLs as benchmarks for restoration of anthropogenically modified forests and natural reservoirs of biodiversity. For the effectiveness of such measures it is necessary to establish a unified system incorporating both SPNAs (which preserve, first of all, intact forest landscapes) and the ecological network in commercial forests, providing for the protection of valuable habitats”.

 

© 2019 Boreal forest platform