Russia is home to more than one-fifth of the world’s forest areas. According to the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 Russia, also officially known as the Russian Federation, has around 815 million hectares of forest and other wooded land, which constitutes to 49.8% of the total land area. Around 795 million hectares are primary (33,5%) or otherwise naturally regenerated forest (64.1%), and the remaining part of 20 million hectares is planted forest. The full 100% of the forest area the land is publicly owned.
The Russian landscape is highly diverse, including polar deserts, arctic and sub-arctic tundra, boreal and semi-tundra larch forests, boreal and temperate coniferous forests, temperate broadleaf and mixed forests, forest-steppe and steppe (temperate grasslands, savannahs, and shrub-lands), semi-deserts and deserts. Russian boreal forests (known in Russia as the taiga) represent the largest forested region on Earth (approximately 12 million km2), larger than the Amazon. These forests have relatively few tree species, and are composed mainly of birch, pine, spruce, fir, with some deciduous species. Mixed in among the forests are bogs, fens, marshes, shallow lakes, rivers and wetlands, which hold vast amounts of water. They contain more than 55 per cent of the world’s conifers, and 11 per cent of the world’s biomass. (WWF)
Russia’s boreal region includes several important ecoregions. Among these is the Eastern-Siberian Taiga, which contains the largest expanse of untouched boreal forest in the world. Russia’s largest populations of brown bear, moose, wolf, red fox, reindeer, and wolverine can be found in this region.
Many indigenous and local people in Russia’s less developed regions rely heavily on the boreal forest for timber harvesting, and non-timber forest product collection (e.g. berries, mushrooms, medicinal plants), traditional agriculture (e.g. grazing, hay making), and hunting. Almost all of the 45 officially registered indigenous nationalities depend on the use of forest and other wild natural resources (tundra, marine, freshwater) for their subsistence.
According to FAO, the forested area has been growing slightly, with 0.03% per year, mainly due to natural expansion, over de last 25 years. The main pressure on Russian forests is caused by timber extraction and other forestry activities. Demand for resources in world markets, such as timber in China and Southeast Asia, and pulp in Europe, is increasingly threatening Russian forests. Forest fires are also a major threat to the region. The forest loss due to fire ranges from one to three million hectares per year. Siberian forests are particularly at risk. (WWF Russia).
Russia has more than 12,000 national, regional, and local protected areas, covering 200 million hectares or 11.9 percent of the country. Federally managed protected areas, including 101 strict nature reserves (zapovedniks),40 national parks, and 69 federal sanctuaries or wildlife refuges (zakazniks), cover 54 million hectares or about 3 percent of the country’s territory. (WWF, 2009). In addition to these protected areas, Russia has more than 276 million hectares of protected forest (such as water protection zones, cedar nuts using zones etc), 271.5 million hectares of reserve forest located in economically inaccessible territories and many protected forest sites within exploitable forest. The share of protected forests is flucuating from 3 to 60%, depending on the particular region and/or forest management unit. All of these categories of forests have different protection regimes and clear cutting is not allowed in most of them.
Production and export
According to the data of FAOSTAT the industry of Russia produced in 2014 about 203 million m3 of logs, which was primarily used in the domestic industry. About 10 % of the logs was directly exported. Russia is still one of the world largest exporters of softwood. More than half of the sawn wood, veneer and plywood produced in Russia is exported.
The Russian Federation is one of the largest producers and exporters of industrial roundwood in the world. The country also exports significant volumes of sawnwood, plywood and pulp and paper. While the Russian State (government) is the owner of forest lands and forest resources (timber and non-timber), the Russian forest industry is almost completely privatized.
China has rapidly emerged as the world’s largest importer of wood products, with Russia by far its most important supplier. China’s sawnwood imports from Russia are rising rapidly, however, Russia remains primarily a roundwood exporter to China, especially in the form of coniferous logs. Two major drivers are behind the emergence of Russia as China’s most important wood supply source: price and the similarity of species used. (WWF, 2007)
Although forests occupy over half of the land of the country, the role of the forestry sector is limited. The share of the forest sector in the gross domestic product is only 1.3 percent, in industrial production, 3.7 percent; in employment, 1 percent; and in export, revenue 2.4 percent. (FAO, 2012).
Most common production species in Russia are: (FAO, 2012)
- Pine (Pinus spp.)
- Spruce (Picea spp.)
- Fir (Abies nephrolippis)
- Larch (Larix spp.)
- Siberian pine (Pinus siberica – often mis-translated as Siberian cedar)
- Oak (Quercus spp.)
- Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
- Birch (Betula spp.)
- Aspen (Populus tremula)
- Ash (Fraxinus spp.)
- Elm (Ulmus spp.)
- Linden (Tilia spp.)
As a result of the Chernobyl accident in 1986, tens of thousands of hectares of forests have experienced massive radioactive contamination, in different gradations (or zones), located in the immediate vicinity of the Chernobyl and stretching approximately two kilometers west of the station. These were mainly single-crop plantings of Scotch pine (Pinus silvestris). Because of the very long half-life of the elements concerned, this situation will continue for the foreseeable future. There is no realistic means of cleaning the area. Indeed, forests are probably one of the best ways of ‘storing’ the radioactive contamination, to minimize further damage. A small area is completely inaccessible except to those carrying out carefully monitored and protected scientific research, and much larger areas have controlled access. Local authorities have acquired expertise and developed strategies for handling the situation.
Sources of information
- FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015.
- FAO (2012) The Russian Federation Forest Sector – Outlook study to 2030.
- ITC (International Trade Centre) calculations based on UN Comtrade statistics
- Fordaq - timber trade network
- WhatWood – news and analytics on the Russian forest industry
- World Port Source - Map of ports in Russia with container liner service.
- WWF Russia
- WWF (2007) The Russian-Chinese timber trade: Export, Supply chains, Consumption, and Illegal logging
- WWF (2009) NATIONAL PROTECTED AREAS OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
- The Red Forest http://www.nuclearflower.com/zone/zone08.html
Till the end of 2011, Russia, did not have its forest policy document. In the end of November 2011 the Public Ecological Council of the Federal Forest Agency approved the start of the Russian Forest Policy development through a participatory process together with interested government bodies, NGOs and the forest private sector.
The Russian Forest Code (04.12.2006 №200 FZ - Federal Law) has been adopted in December 2006. The code includes requirements on harvesting and commercialization of logs, in terms of documentation, measuring, marking, registry and transport.
The main supervisory body is the Federal Forestry Agency, which as of May 2012 reports to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology (Ukaz Prezidenta, 2012). The sphere of competence of the Federal Forestry Agency includes: (1) control and supervision in the area of forest relations, except for forests in protected areas; (2) rendering public services; and (3) management of state assets in the area of forest relations.(FAO, 2012). Plantation is not a form of forest management widely practiced in Russia.
Federal plenary powers in the area of forest relations at the regional level are implemented through forestry departments in eight federal districts and the 83 federal subjects of the Russian Federation. Those plenary powers, such as validation of forest plans, concession of forest parcels, organization of wood auctions, maintenance of state forest register and monitoring, are implemented by state structures within the bodies of executive power of the subjects of the Russian Federation. At the field level, the structures are represented by forestry districts (lesnichestvo). (FAO, 2012).
The huge size of the country, implying significant areas and traveling distances make law enforcement difficult in Russia. The government forest satellite monitoring of illegal logging is conducting on annual basis by the State Forest inventory agency (“Roslesinforg”) based on government contract.
WWF-Russia is developing a satellite forest monitoring system,called KEDR, which is still in a pilot stage. In June 2016, experts of Federal Forestry Agency (Rosleskhoz) gave a positive assessment to the results of field testing of the forest monitoring system, introduced in the Russian Far East. Both methods are in practice only used in the context of ‘illegal logging’, while monitoring would suggest a broader use.
There is no privately owned forest in Russia - all forests are state-owned. Companies are entitled to utilize the forest resources of the state. Forests are licensed as concessions and distributed to companies for the purpose of timber harvesting for a period of 10 to 49 years. Short-term use of forests (for the purpose of timber harvesting) is also possible for organizations and citizens and is agreed directly with local authorities. (source: CNRA, 2010).
A forest rent agreement has been concluded between the Owner (Forest Management Division) and the Forest User (Renter) and approved by the State Registration, through wood auctions.
There are different types of harvesting contracts:
- according to requirements specified in the Forestry Regulations of the Forest Management Division
- according to a Project of Forest Use which has passed the State or Municipal Expertise. In this case, the forest User prepares and submits annually a Forest Declaration to the Owner, which is the Forest Management Division, confirming that harvesting is carried out according to the Project of Forest Use. The Project of Forest Use needs to specify the annual allowable cut (AAC) volume, and the average annual harvested volume may not exceed the annual allowable cut volume.
Another procedure for (short term) roundwood harvesting is regulated via a forest stands purchase agreement, that is concluded between the Owner (Forest Management Division) and the Forest User to the period of up to one year. The harvesting is carried out by Forest User according to the requirements specified in Forestry Regulations of the Forest Management Division. The volume of harvested timber may not exceed the volume of harvested timber specified in the forest stands purchase agreement.
In both cases the User has to apply for a Felling permit, which is a set of mandatory documents (e.g., Lease agreement, Project of forest use, Forest declaration). After harvesting activities are finalized, the felling areas are submitted by the Forest User for an inspection by the Forest Management Division (owner), based on sampling and according to the conditions and timeframes specified in forest rent agreement(s).
The forest use report, including volumes of commercial timber specified in felling permits and actual volumes of harvested timber for each felling site, is submitted annually by the Forest User to the Forest Management Division.
The below listed key documents are based on the applicable legislation and are considered to play a key role in demonstrating legal origin. A full list of applicable legislation is accessible from NEPCon.
Processing and Trade
Bans and quota
In 2010, Russia introduced a ban on the logging of Korean Pine (Pinus koraiensis), amongst others. Korean Pine has a crucial importance for the conservation of the Amur tiger.
The new version of the “List of species of trees and shrubs prohibited for timber logging”, which includes the Korean Pine, was approved on Aug. 2, 2010 and is included in the Russian National FSC Standard.
Cites and protected species
The following species are CITES listed:
Taxus cuspidata - Japanese Yew (Appendix II)
Pinus koraiensis – Korean pine (Appendix III)
Fraxinus mandshurica – Manchurian ash (Appendix III)
Quercus mongolica – Mongolian oak (Appendix III)
National action on timber legality
Russia is not in the process of preparing a VPA with the EU.
Third party certification
By the end of 2011, 30 million hectares of Russian forests had been certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme. Currently there are 138 FSC-certificates, covering over 40 million hectares (FSC, 2016).
The Russian National Forest Certification was re-endorsed early 2016, after it had been expired in august 2015. In March 2016: an area of 1,327,774 hectares was certified under the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
Sources of information
- WWF Russia: http://www.wwf.ru/about/what_we_do/forests/forest_politics/eng
- WWF Russia, 2007. VLO Checklist.
- WWF Russia, Magazines on sustainable forest management (in Russian) http://www.wwf.ru/resources/publ/magazines/forest_mag/eng
- CNRA Stakeholder consultation of the FSC Centralized National Risk Assessment: https://ic.fsc.org/en/our-impact/program-areas/controlled-wood-01/controlled-wood-risk-assessments/consultation-on-the-centralized-national-risk-assessment
- FAO, 2012. The Russian Federation Forest Sector – Outlook study to 2030. http://www.fao.org/docrep/016/i3020e/i3020e00.pdf
- FSC Facts and Figures, July 2016. https://ic.fsc.org/en/facts-figures
- PEFC website: http://www.pefc.org/news-a-media/general-sfm-news/2029-russian-national-forest-certification-system-achieves-pefc-re-endorsement PEFC Global Certificates, march 2016. http://www.pefc.org/images/documents/PEFC_Global_Certificates_-_March_2016.pdf
The Minprirody is coordinating and supervising the work of several related agencies, one of them being the Federal Forestry Agency.
- developing and implementing state policy and legal-normative regulation in the field of forest relations
- Controlling and supervising in the field of forest relations
- Providing state services and managing state property in the field of forest relations.
VNIILM is a federal state institution leading in forestry. Main objective of the Institute’s activities is to provide research and development for regulatory, normative and technical, normative-methodological and technological forest management and forest use, conservation, protection and regeneration.
Source: Transparancy International