WWF and IKEA fight illegal logging in the Russian Far East
Illegal logging is a serious problem in the Russian Far East, and is estimated to account for 50 per cent of all timber harvested in the region. Money from poached timber contributes to corruption in state forest management, and also creates unfavorable conditions for responsible forest business.
Compared with two other regions of the Russian Far East — Primorskii and Khabarovskii krais, where illegal harvesting of timber remains an urgent problem — Evreiskaya Autonomous Oblast no longer suffers from large-scale illegal logging. This is due to timely intervention by the regional authorities as well as the activities of the antipoaching Sobol brigade, which has been working since January 2003 under the Natural Resources Department of Evreiskaya Autonomous Oblast. The brigade focuses on controlling illegal logging and protecting rare flora species in the province, which borders China.
This is good news for the province's broadleaf deciduous Korean pine forests — the last-remaining in the Russian Far East. These forests, which had survived wide-scale commercial harvesting during the Soviet period, were under threat from illegal logging. The forests are linked to the survival of the critically endangered Amur (or Siberian) tiger. Although the last Amur tiger inhabiting the province was killed 15 years ago, there is a real hope that the species will return to its native forests from neighbouring territories.
Of the 300 inspectors working in the State Forest Service of Evreiskaya Autonomous Oblast, the six Sobol inspectors were responsible for 25 per cent of all reports of violations against nature conservation legislation over the past year. The Sobol inspectors revealed 34 cases of such violations, including illegal cutting of 4,400 cubic metres of forest wood, worth an estimated RUR11.5 million (US$0.4 million) in damage.
The brigade's field raids during 2003 resulted in 25 people and legal entities being called to administrative responsibility; six trucks being detained with illegally cut timber; seven criminal cases being started; 3.3 tons of illegally harvested cedar nuts being confiscated; and four illegal bases of cedar-nut harvesting being eliminated.
The Sobol brigade also revealed corruption in the State Forest Service. As a result, a court found the head of the Federal Forest Service Department of Evreiskaya Autonomous Oblast guilty of power abuse.
"The brigade has been operating for only a year, but the results are already impressive," said Goran Sundberg, IKEA Wood Procurement Coordinator, who recently spent four days in the forests of the Russian Far East. "We saw that the inspectors are very highly skilled, and also very polite with the people they check. This is one sign of high professionalism."
The regional administration and Natural Resources Department of Evreiskaya Autonomous Oblast have recognized the work of the Sobol brigade as being very effective and productive, and consider the brigade as an important nature conservation force for the province.
The WWF-IKEA partnership is the first of its kind in the Russian Far East. Supported by the Evreiskaya Autonomous Oblast authorities, the partnership will continue its antipoaching work and also enlarge forest conservation activities. The partnership also aims to provide transparency to regional forest business and timber supplies from Evreiskaya Autonomous Oblast.
For further information:
Press Officer, Forest Programme, WWF-Russia Far Eastern Branch
Tel: +7 4232 406651