How much timber is logged illegally in Russia? No one knows the exact volumes. The ENPI East Countries FLEG II team has brought leading experts together to start developing a methodology to assess the volume of illegal logging in Russia at the federal and regional levels.
On December 10, 2013, in Moscow, the first meeting of a working group of experts of the ENPI East FLEG II Program for the development of a methodology on illegal logging volume assessment was held. The problem of limited knowledge in this area is demonstrated by both objective and subjective challenges. It is extremely difficult to identify illegal loggers and irresponsible ‘legal’ forest companies in vast forests, and even satellite imagery does not help much as it can only identify illegal clear cuts over a certain size. Individual trees, with the most valuable timber, are frequently the target of illegal loggers. Also, as is well illustrated in the case study developed by the WWF’s Amur Branch (http://www.wwf.ru/resources/publ/book/776), in some regions large volumes of illegal timber are harvested by ‘legal’, registered forest companies who do not respect approved logging practices in the course of selective and/or sanitation logging, when the best and the most valuable trees are logged instead of those that are poorly formed and damaged by pests and diseases.
There are also challenges related to: the vague definition of illegal logging recently introduced into Russian legislation; the lack of a uniform and officially approved system for timber measurement and reporting; the absence of an official system for the control of timber trade; and the lack of transparency in current and planned uses of forests, including the data on felling sites, felling volumes and species. Corruption in law enforcement and forest control is also a major factor.
It is highly problematic to identify all cases of illegal logging in Russian forests in the near future, so WWF have developed and tested an indirect method of calculating illegal logging volumes: the ‘balance’ method is based on comparing timber volumes permitted for harvesting with factually produced, consumed and traded timber. This method, tested as early as 2006 (http://www.wwf.ru/resources/publ/book/209), has proved effective in determining illegally harvested volumes of Mongolian oak in the Russian Far East (http://www.wwf.ru/resources/publ/book/776). However, when used for any timber products (and especially for those produced for domestic market and subsistence use), this method has to be based on accurate and available statistical data on logging volumes, volumes of timber produced, and volumes of various timber products produced and consumed.
When the future methodology for calculating illegal logging volumes was discussed by participants of the meeting, large discrepancies between official and alternative data on illegal logging were indicated, and it was also noted that the lack of transparency and the low quality of existent statistical information on timber harvesting, timber trade and production are going to be the major challenges. The work on developing the methodology will continue.
“Lacking accurate and trustworthy information on illegal logging is one of the major challenges that affect forest management and law: usually official data on illegal logging underestimates the scale of the problem, and this underestimation subsequently results in insufficient funding for forest rangers, a lack of willingness to invest in the approval and enforcement of the long-awaited law on round timber trade and a lack in development of the official system for timber trade control for civil society. WWF believes that open source publication on planned and on-going logging, including schematic maps of felling sites locations, species composition and allocated volumes to be logged, would help local people and civil society activists to address illegal logging,” said Nikolay Shmatkov, Forest Policy Projects Coordinator.
The workshop was organized as part of the EU funded Program "EUROPEAN NEIGHBORHOOD AND PARTNERSHIP INSTRUMENT EAST COUNTRIES FOREST LAW ENFORCEMENT AND GOVERNANCE II PROGRAM" (ENPI EAST COUNTRIES FLEG II PROGRAM).
For additional information please contact:
ENPI East FLEG II Program, Russia PCT
The Forest Policy Projects Coordinator, WWF Russia
tel: +7 (495) 727-09-39,
tel/fax: +7 (495) 727-09-38,