The Forest Code and NGOs’ Suggestions for Its Improvement

The new Forest Code of the Russian Federation was approved in December 2006 and came into force January 1, 2007. Immediately it became clear that it needs to be improved and amended. A lot of suggestions to improve it, including the ones originated from NGOs, were provided at the early stages of the new Forest Code development. However, almost none of them were considered.  The Forest Code has been amended several times already, however, most of the amendments were just of an editorial character.

In 2009 the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation was delegated by the Government of Russia with a task to amend the Forest Code and the related laws and regulations. However, the concept of the Forest Code and its key positions had to be not changed.

Russian NGOs established a Working Group – which included experts from Greenpeace, WWF Russia, the Biodiversity Conservation Center, the Russian Bird Conservation Union and others – which developed a number of suggestions  to improve the Forest Code. These suggestions were provided to federal authorities. These suggestions include the ones on the scope of forest legislation, public involvement into the forest management, strengthening protective forests conservation, High Conservation Value Forests preservation and many others. Today this list of suggestions is the most concise NGOs’ vision of improvement to be made in the Forest Code and relevant laws and regulations.    

After the catastrophic forest fires in the European part of Russia in 2010   WWF Russia has repeatedly approached the Russian State Duma, the President and the Federal Forestry Agency with a package of suggestions for immediate improvement of the Forest Code and other relevant laws and regulations. A few of these proposals were considered and included into amended version of the Forest Code which was approved in December, 2010. However the Forest Code is still very far from being acceptable and has to be further improved. For example, there is no definition of “forest” in the Forest Code, so the focus of the forest legislation is unclear. The legal status of former collective farms’ forests and field protection forest zones is also unclear. That cannot help preventing illegal logging in these forests and manage wild fires there. Some important measures to manage agricultural fires near forested lands are not addressed by the legislation. Moreover, some new amendments to the Forest Code  open new opportunities for logging in protective forests to build new electric lines and roads, and develop mining operations. There are still no effective mechanisms to involve public into forest management. The forest rangers system is not fully re-established.  

Further improvement of the Russian forest legislation is needed to ensure sustainable forest management for the best long-term interests of people of Russia. WWF Russia is open for a dialogue to improve the Forest Code and other relevant laws and regulations.  

For more information please contact Nikolay Shmatkov, the Forest Policy Projects Coordinator, WWF Russia at nshmatkov@wwf.ru