Recent developments in Ukraine since the Euromaidan movement and signing of the Association Agreement with the EU have opened new and significant opportunities for the reform of the forestry sector and for better addressing conservation challenges. Due to the political and economic impact of the Association Agreement signed by Ukraine and the EU, innovation and more efficient dissemination of knowledge on sustainable forest management is essential to reform the Ukrainian forestry sector, which needs to be more closer to the EU management principles. This should be accomplished through substantial improvement of forest management guidance for the spectrum of forest areas. The opportunity includes also improvement of sustainable forestry management practices for enhanced protection of the country’s globally important virgin and other high conservation value forests through the development of appropriate legislative acts.
June 6-10, 2016 Ukrainian forest experts have visited Polish National Forest Holding "State Forests" (pol. Państwowe Gospodarstwo Leśne "Lasy Państwowe") within the regional directorates of state forests in Lublin (regions of Small Podlasie and Lublin Upland) and Krosno (Bieszczady of Carpathian regions). The visit was conducted under the "ENPI East FLEG II" program and was greatly supported by the foresters of both countries.
The Ukrainian delegation was comprised of representatives of State Forest Resource Agency, experts from regional departments of Ternopil, Khmelnytsky, Poltava, and Kyiv regions, including representatives from the Ukrainian Forest Breeding and Forestry Innovation and Analytical centers, Institute of Ecology of the Carpathians NAS of Ukraine, WWF specialist, and the Ukrainian National Forestry University.
The purpose of the meetings was to introduce Ukrainian forestry sector authorities to the Polish sustainable forest management principles in practice.
Poland and Ukraine experienced similar economic and political development. Both have large reformation experience, and comparable forest management history. In addition, the amount of forest resources, are very similar to the forested regions of the countries (see more statistics on Polish forests: http://www.lasy.gov.pl/informacje/publikacje/in-english/forests-in-poland).
Visitors learned about the administrative structure of the current forestry state organization model in Poland: its size, functions, financing sources, planning and control in forestry; construction of forest roads; organization of broad ecological and professional post education systems, which contributes to predominantly positive community confidence in the forestry. In addition, numerous private conversations within the colleagues provoked discussions on how Poles are overcoming negative phenomena of non-sustainable forest, illegal logging and poaching practices.
The trip started with an introduction at the Janovskie Forests Environmental Education Center with presentations of statistics and discussing the current condition of the forests in Poland and the Forest District "Janów Lubelski" in particular.
"It is gratifying that through such meetings we can share our experiences and discuss how to improve sustainable forest management practices in our neighboring countries," - Henrik Razevski Head of the Forest District said during his opening remarks.
Through the entire trip Polish colleagues made every effort to explain the whole complex of forest and hunting management in different climatic regions of Poland. They provided a detailed review of the operation of the Janovskie Forests Environmental Education Center, Education and Recreation Center Cisna, Forest Promotional Complex "Birczanskie Forest " and "Bieszczadzkie Forest "; Districts: Janów Lubelski, Gościeradów, Oleszyce, Bircza, Cisna, Baligród, Lutowiska, Stuposiany part of the Bieszczady and Bialowieza national parks.
Polish forestry model
Poland began to form its modern forestry management model in the late 80's - early 90’s, which incorporates private business in provision of the forest service activities. The legal basis for starting the reform was adopted in 1991 with the Law on Forests (http://www.lasy.gov.pl/informacje/publikacje/in-english/the-act-on-forests/view), which outlined that "Forests constituting Treasury property are under the administration and management of the Lasy Państwowe (State Forests) National Forest Holding, hereinafter referred to as “the State Forests”. In 1994, the Council of Ministers adopted the Regulation which outlines the principles of financial management in the State Forests. The main element of the law is that the organization does not have a typical legal personality (pay less taxes), but is financially independent and self-sufficient (not supported by the budget) in order to protect, sustainably use, and increase forest resources for the benefit of the people in the country.
Administrative reform of the forestry sector in Poland gradually led to the repositioning of physical activity workforce outside of the state forest organization, forming new private forestry service labour market. Thus, the employment in the State Forests decreased from 120 thousand in 1988 - to over 25 thousand in 2015. This move caused increase not only in competition between former state workers but also responsibility, as well as potential incomes. Nowadays the first rung on the ladder in the state forestry system is a forester assistant, whose role is just to control the forestry activities. Consequently there are twice as much of workers that working now in outsourced forest services: timber harvesting, planting, and forest protection.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that the State Forests created an out-of-control system in the forestry sector. The organization took a multibillion-dollar loan from the World Bank in 90’s just to provide credit to its former employees for the purchase of necessary up-to-date tools and machinery, raising productivity in the field and ensuring an acceptable level of nature and labour safety during logging and other forestry activities. (photo: Introduction to the logging process and others contract work in the forest (Janów Lubelski Forest District))
Main income of the forestry is coming from selling of wood (88,5% of its revenue in total for the State Forests in 2015) due to which forest protection and other forestry related activities are conducted (annually about 38 million cubic meters of round timber is sold, which worth almost 2 billion €). If the funds needed to cover the costs of planned forestry work are not enough – such financing is done through the relevant applications to Directorate General from so-called “Forest Fund” (to which all forest districts must deduct some percentage (for example in 2016 – 14%) from the sale of wood). There is also exist a joint amortization scheme between state forestry districts within the regional directorates to accumulate more financial resources to build capital facilities or forest roads in the territory of just one of them.
In Poland, forest owners obliged to pay so-called Forest Tax (the rate is set as an equivalent of the value of a fixed amount of wood per 1 ha (http://irbis-nbuv.gov.ua/.../ape_2014_6_45.pdf). In 2015, the State Forests paid near 40 mln. € (a little over 2% of its revenue or near 20% of its net profit) (http://www.european-foresters.org/docs/meetings/gcm/State%20Forests-Poland.pdf). In addition, since 2016 the State Forests are about to transfer 2% of the value of the wood selling to the state budget every year.
A typical Forest District pays annually the taxes and fees including VAT, forestry tax, income tax from individuals, PFRON contributions, property tax, agricultural tax, as well as the fees for the perpetual usufruct of land. The payment for a Forest District could be less than 10% of its revenue (as an example look in https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286891785).
The core of the present forestry model is the one introduced in 2004 Competitive Procedure of Materials and Contract Services (http://www.oecd.org/poland/39645964.pdf). Consequently, today the announcement about the tender and information about the winner can be found on a website (http://bip.lasy.gov.pl/pl/bip). The selection procedure includes publishing an ad with all the necessary technical, financial and legal information; accepting written proposals (at least 2), open competition within the selection criteria published in advance (there are different levels of details depending on the financial value of the contract); and, publication of the winning proposal. Such level of public measures reduced corruption risks significantly and increased the confidence of the forestry industry on the business market.
About 85% of all the harvested timber is sold through the online auctions also: www.e-drewno.pl. About 70% of which is for sale to large companies with a positive history of cooperation and 30% is for sale to all other companies. The big slots are reserved for selling via contracts based on the next year harvesting plans on the last year month based on last year's auction prices. Sale of unique quality wood is also conducted through the online auctions: www.e-drewno.pl. About 12% of the remaining timber is for the retail sales mainly for the locals, and about another 3% – for the own needs of the State Forests or for sales on auctions. All necessary information relating to the selling procedure available at: http://drewno.zilp.lasy.gov.pl/drewno. The forest district could charge a client 5% penalty for not buying in time contracted previously wood. The wood is marked by special tags and is sold aside the forest road or on the forest courtyard (shop). The auction sold timber is allowed to be transported away only after 100% prepayment and then the seller can print a transportation document for the buyer. Otherwise, a seller (an employee) is held reliable for the payment.
All forest activities are performed in accordance with the forest inventory and planning design activities for 10 years. Such work is done by 12 regional forest inventory organizations (Bureaus for Forest Management and Geodesy) which are subordinated to “the State Forests" and by 2 similar private organizations. The contract is awarded on a competitive basis. Each year an annual forestry management plan is approved for forestry, forest district, regional, and national level. Each year reports are completed. Every five years, the national management conducts a comprehensive audit of all local institutions.
Comparing two administration systems in short
Today, the state subordinated National Forest Holding "the State Forests" and the State Agency of Forest Resources of Ukraine are managing about the same amount of forest land (nearly 7 million hectares). Management structure also is very similar in their administration scheme (General Directorate in Poland - State Agency of Forest Resources in Ukraine; Regional Directorate (17) - Regional Forestry and Hunting Administration (24 + National Committee of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea for Forestry and Hunting); “nadlisnytstvo” (430) – state forestry enterprises (313); forestry unit – forestry unit; research and production facilities).
Trip experience in growing seedlings
In 2014, in Poland were planted 48,537 ha of forests in all ownership categories. For this foresters had the productive area of forest nurseries of 2,104 ha in total, where annually near 800 million of seedlings are grown.
The Ukrainian experts expressed particular interest in the experience in seed practice and genetic purity of main tree species populations, growing plants in containers in a controlled environment. The delegation screened in detail the production of seedlings in Gościeradów and Oleszyce forest districts special manufacturing facilities.
New things in hunting
Hunting in the forests was also the focus of the visitors, particularly in the context of current reformation discussions under the FLEG II proposals in Ukraine (http://www.fleg.org.ua/news/911). Poland has sufficient numbers of large mammals in Europe. Ukraine also wants to increase its own game as it has significant natural capacity (see a comparison chart: http://www.enpi-fleg.org/news/fleg-ii-workshop-on-international-experience-and-development-of-hunting-in-ukraine/). In Poland, the size of annual hunting value and general game size within the same hunting grounds are based on annually approved plans and long-term hunting ground plans, which are designed in accordance with a special decree number #1646 of November 13, 2007 issued by the Ministry of the Environment (http://www.pila.pzlow.pl/prawolow/rozp_ministra13_11_2007.pdf).
The annual hunting plan is prepared for the period from 1 April to 31 March of the next year. Information that needs to be included in the plan should consist of: general data, data concerning the development of the territory of hunting grounds and game breeding, information about the game sale prices in the region, numbers and types of hunted animals. The document also states cases where annual plan can be changed.
Polish colleagues shared their experiences on the latest accounting methods of the forest animals using thermal aeroimaging equipment to screen the hunting grounds. Also the specifics of limits use planning and law enforcement practices on forest lands were shared (more about the Polish experience in hunting economy can be found at: http://www.enpi-fleg.org/...).
Nature protection activities in forests
The environmental protection activities in the forests of Poland include many different aspects, among which an early diagnosis of threats having a negative impact on forests, control measures against insects and fungi diseases, other management specifics on protected areas of different rank and status.
Knowledge of natural processes and constant overview of the state of forest environments allow foresters to plan and conduct preventive active forestry measures to protect forests from massive infections.
"I would like to emphasize that during our trip we have seen many good examples on how to conduct active protection measures for stopping further destruction of forests – the forestry activities included the removal of infected by diseases and insects trees using the selective and small gaps cutting methods. Also a good example is that at the same time foresters add new species that naturally should be presented in a particular stand type. Then, the stands become visually more stable" – says the assistant professor of ecology from the Ukrainian National Forestry University Mykola Chernyavsky. Then he continues: “It is important that in the strictly protected forest (reserves) all dead trees remain standing or just felled and untouched if they pose danger for general public (near the roads for example). That means dead trees stimulating greater biodiversity evolution. In small quantities, this will serve good for the protection of forests in longer run."
“It was very interesting to see the spatial combination of different types of protected areas. They included reserves with absolute protection, Natura 2000 areas with differentiated and limited activities, other environmental and nature protection areas, as well as the territories of managed forests, all in a kind of a mosaic structure. Similarly, it should be noted that measures of reforestation are scientifically justified and based on environmental grounds, great attention is paid to the stands recovery that are close to native, and logging is carried out mainly in selective way” – added to the conversation Olexander Kagalo, head of the Department of Nature Ecosystems Protection of the Institute of Ecology of the Carpathians NAS of Ukraine and at the same time FLEG II Forestry Consultant on “Improving the regulatory guidelines for forest management in protected areas of Ukraine”.
The statistics show that in Poland the Forest Districts have big portion of protected areas that ranges from 20% to 60% of their size, totaling up to 40% of all forests managed under the State Forests administration, which covers near 2.8 million hectares. The foresters protect habitats and the population of species on the established sites. In general, approximately 20% of Poland territory is occupied by «Natura 2000" sites, most of which are forested. The Natura 2000 network consists of two types of areas: Special Protection Areas for birds (SPAs) established for wild birds protection and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) protecting habitats, plant and animal species.
Overall, such territorial organization of forests mainly corresponds with the existing Ukrainian scheme. Also the scientists propose to adopt the large forestry landscape value areas approach, where similar integrated management is carried based on the sustainable forestry activities (http://wwf.panda.org/uk/wwf_ukraine_ukr/other_regions/fleg_ii/).
Particular interest on the part of the Ukrainian visitors in the experience of such a topic was due to the implementation of a number of environmental analytical projects in Ukraine under the program “ENPI East FLEG II” aimed at improving Ukrainian legislation in the context of the “Association Agreement with the European Union”. Following analyzes were prepared under these projects: "Development of the key legislation documents for the biodiversity protection in forests: adaptation of the Ukrainian law to the EU requirements" (http://www.enpi-fleg.org/docs/...) and " Analyze special protection natural areas law framework and develop proposals for harmonization of framework between Ukraine and EU" (http://www.enpi-fleg.org/docs/...).
It was helpful to see that the proposals of Ukrainian scientists are in tune with practical principles that have already been implemented within the legal and organizational support of forest management in Poland. In particular, this is related to the combination of absolute conservation measures in space and time with the active measures for the conservation of individual species and their complexes.
Especially visible in this respect was the artificial facilitation of Aesculapius snake population habitat place (Zamenis longissimus (Laurenti 1768)), sometimes even in the secondary anthropogenic ecotopes (career) as seen on the photo in Lutowiska Forest District in The of Regional Directorate of Forests in Krosno Podkarpackie Province.
Forest management in Poland is declared as aimed at saving biodiversity in forests. Today, on the territory of all state forests a comprehensive inventory program is implemented encompassing all existing biotic diversity (habitats, flora and fauna species diversity, micobiota, etc.). The program is carried out by the forest scientific institutions and local foresters, and is financed by the State Forests.
In Ukraine, unfortunately, the situation remains unregulated in terms of financing regulation of forestry research institutes, which affects the scientific support of forest management.
The Conservation of Nature in the State Forests of Poland
The most important form of the nature protection in Poland is a national park, all of which are in direct subordination of the Ministry of Environment. There are 23 national parks at the moment, covering the area of 316,748 ha (1% of the country), among which strictly protected: 67,503 ha (21% of the parks territory), actively protected: 190,323 ha (60% of the parks territory), and landscape protected: 58,922 ha (19% of the parks territory). They were created on the areas that were previously under the management and protection of foresters of the State Forests.
The State Forests are also directly responsible for the nature protection:
Nature Reserves – areas of special natural values, which are of natural origin or in a slightly altered state. Implementation of forest management activities here is highly limited. Currently in Poland there are 1488 reserves, among which, 730 are forests with a total area over 66 thousand ha. They occupy 1.6 percent of the total forest area of the State Forests.
Natural monuments – usually singled out live or mineral individual examples of nature. The most common in the forests are natural monuments of the oldest and largest trees. In 2015, there were more than 10.3 thousand, of which 8.5 thousand are trees.
Landscape parks are created in areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic landscape scenery. In Poland there are 122 regional parks, that occupy 2.5 millions of hectares, of which about 1.3 million hectares – on the area of the State Forests.
Protective zones for certain types of animals (e.g. around bird nests). They can be established according to the legal provisions for preservation of endangered species. Foresters have special responsibility for them.
Ecological areas comprise the remains of ecosystems which are worth of protection and have a significance in maintaining unique gene pools and environment types, such as: natural water basins, field and forest ponds, tree and bush clusters, swamps, peat-bogs, dunes, areas of unused flora, old river-beds, rock outcrops, scarps, gravel-banks and localities of rare or protected species of plants and animals, including places of their seasonal stay or breeding. These ecosystems are generally small in size but are important for biodiversity conservation. Today there are more than 9 thousand.
Species habitats that belong to the most valuable, unique and rare species of flora and fauna. In Poland under the strict and partial protection there are 715 species of plants, 322 species of fungi and 799 of animals, 65 percent of wild flora and fauna are in forests.
The State Forests of Poland also implement its own initiatives for the environmental protection, exercising reintroduction of certain species of animals and plants on the territory where these species became extinct in the past, or where they are endangered (e.g. yew, Sudeten fir, black grouse and others).
General conclusions and proposals for the reformation of the Ukrainian forestry sector
In general, the delegation agreed that such visits are important for the exchange of good practices which helps to improve the economy and environmental security of National Forestiers. At the same time it was concluded that future development of European Forestry will be to provide not just raw timber materials for the industry, but also in maintaining overall positive ecological balance on the continent. This is not possible without the use of scientifically grounded and ecologically oriented measures for the integration and balance of operational and environmental activities.
It was also agreed that the proposal to reform the forestry sector in Ukraine should incorporate the highest possible level of the Polish forestry model experience, especially when many elements are already partially implemented by various institutions of the Ukrainian State Forestry Agency (tender procedure for purchase of materials, electronic wood accounting, partially private contracting system, etc.).
The State Forestry Agency could be transformed into two institutions:
Analysis of received information on Poland’s experience, learning more from the best of Polish reforms in forest sector and considering similar practices at national and regional levels should help to reform the forestry sector and for better addressing conservation challenges in Ukraine. Thus, received experience should help to improve forest management within protected areas and beyond including biodiversity care and local community cooperation. The Polish sustainable approach examples will support efforts on development of “close to nature” forest management legislation for Ukrainian forest protection sites.
Dmytro Karabchuk, PhD,
FLEG II Program activity coordinator in Ukraine for WWF International Danube-Carpathian Programme
P.S. The article is revised by “the State Forests” of Poland