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Illegal logging in Russia: knowledge of scale is of vital importance for effective decision-making

December 13, 2013

How much timber is logged illegally in Russia? No one knows the exact scale of the problem. The EU-funded forestry project ENPI East FLEG II has brought together leading experts to look at ways to assess the volume of illegal logging in Russia at both federal and regional levels.
Earlier this week in Moscow, a working group of programme experts for the development of a methodology for an assessment of the scale of illegal logging held its first meeting, highlighting the limited knowledge in this area. 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, a FLEG press release said.
Individual trees, with the most valuable timber, are frequently the targets of illegal loggers. 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 in Russian legislation, the lack of a uniform system for timber measurement and reporting, the absence of an official system for control of timber trade, and the lack of transparency in uses of forests. Corruption in law enforcement and forest control is also a major factor.
“Lacking accurate and trustworthy information on illegal logging is one of the major challenges that affect forest management and law,” said Nikolay Shmatkov, Forest Policy Projects Coordinator: “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.”
The €9 million ENPI FLEG II programme deepens reforms in forestry policy, and legal and administrative matters in the sector while carrying out pilot projects, and addressing forest fire and climate issues. It builds upon the achievements of its predecessor, ENPI FLEG I programme. (EU Neighbourhood Info)
Read more
Press release
ENPI FLEG II – Website
EU Neighbourhood Info Centre – FLEG II fiche and news   

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