FLEG II provides informational and methodological support to the movement.
During the final stage of the national youth forest contest “Podrost” on May 18-21, 2015 in the Tver region of Russia, FLEG II experts met with the heads of youth forestries from all over the country and agreed to cooperate.
School Forestries: the Past and the Present
The Russian national school forestry movement started in one forestry of the Bryansk region when it created a school-based Forest Patrol. In 1967, the Ministry of Forestry and the Ministry of Education of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and the All-Russian Society of Nature Conservation developed and approved the Statute of School Forestries. In 1985, there were over 6 thousand Russian school forestries that involved over 350 thousand children.
In the 90s, the movement encountered serious difficulties due to economic hardships experienced by the country. The number and activities of school forestries drastically decreased. The revival of the movement began in 2004, when annual youth contests were launched – both national and international ones. On April 16, 2012, the Federal Forestry Agency approved the federal program for the development of the school forestry movement.
Besides practical work (planting trees, gathering data on forests, preventing wildfires), school forestries motivate young people to get professional forest education.
“However, till today, this important work has been mostly driven by enthusiasm alone. The current legislation doesn't support these activities”, says Alexey Grigoryev, FLEG II consultant from World Bank. None of the existing 26 “main functions” of the Federal Forestry Agency include direct work with schoolchildren and support for the school forestry movement. The situation is similar when it comes to the functions of government agencies in the regions of Russia.
Most of the experience accumulated in the Soviet times is not used today due to the loss of continuity and lack of cooperation between different school forestries. A more active exchange of information and experience is needed, including the use of opportunities provided by the Internet. However, only 28% of the websites of state forest agencies in the Russian regions have a special page on school forestries.
FLEG II Initiative
To solve these problems, FLEG II experts are suggesting compiling a guide, “School Forestries in the Russian Federation”. Its goal is to create a source of basic data on the history of the movement, its achievements, problems and challenges, as well as successful examples. This information will be used to develop the movement, foster the exchange of the experience, provide informational support to the forestries.
Another important goal of the Guide is to foster discussion of the challenges faced by school forestries, including those existing on the national level.
Cooperation on the Local Level
Tverskaya Oblast, the region of Russia that hosted the National Podrost Contest in 2015, is the largest oblast (regional division) of Central District of Russia, with over 5 million hectares of forests and over 3 million cubic meters of annual forest production.
FLEG II and the Ministry of Forestry of Tverskaya Oblast, as well as heads of school forestries, agreed to cooperate to prepare the Guide and improve the website dedicated to the movement. This experience can be further replicated by other regions of Russia.
School Forestries and Wildfire Prevention
FLEG II believes that besides the traditional activities of school forestries, such as scientific research, they can play an important role in preventing forest fires.
Poor fire safety is one of the main reasons for wildfires. School children often take part in grass burning that sometimes leads to forest fires. Instead, they can make a significant contribution to raising awereness about fire safety, both that of other children and of adults.
“If children come home from school and tell their parents how they visited a forestry, what they learned about grass fires and forest fires, it will raise awareness much more efficiently than the standard official warnings and signs”, says Alexey Grigoryev.
FLEG II consultants also discussed the possibility of cooperation with another important partner, Aerial Forest Protection Service, which is already actively working with school children to prevent fires.