Russia is home to more than one-fifth of the world’s forest areas. According to the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 and official Rosleskhoz data, Russia, also officially known as the Russian Federation (RF), has around 11.47 million km2 of forest land and other wooded land, which constitutes 49.8% of the total land area of Russia. The area of the forest land actually covered by forests is 7,95 million km2 (Russian Government, 2020). Around 33.5% of the total forested area is composed of primary forests, 64.1% of otherwise naturally regenerated forests, and the remaining 2.4% of planted forest. 100% of the Russian forest 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.
With 7,7 million km2, the Russian boreal forests (also known in Russia as the taiga) represent 67% of Russia’s total forest land (Forest of the World and Russia, 2001) and is the largest forested region on Earth (larger than the Amazon). These forests have relatively few tree species, and they are composed mainly of birch, pine, spruce, and fir, along with some other deciduous species. Mixed-in among the forests are bogs, fens, marshes, shallow lakes, rivers and wetlands, which hold vast amounts of water. These forests contain more than 55% of the world’s conifers, and 11% of the world’s biomass. (WWF)
Russia’s boreal region also includes several important eco-regions. 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 also be found in this region.
Many indigenous and local people in Russia’s less developed regions rely heavily on the 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 the FAO, the forested area has been growing slowly, by 0.03% per year, mainly due to natural expansion, over the 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 12,850 national, regional, and local protected areas, covering 200 million hectares or 11.9% of the country. Federally-managed protected areas, including 109 strict nature reserves (zapovedniks), 63 national parks, 61 federal sanctuaries or wildlife refuges (zakazniks) and 84 natural reserve sites (natural monuments), cover 66 million hectares or about 3.9% of the country’s territory. (Transparent world, 2014; OOPT, 2019). In addition to these protected areas, Russia has over 281 million hectares of protected forest (such as water protection zones, cedar nuts using zones etc.), 268 million hectares of reserve forest located in economically inaccessible territories, and many protected forest sites within exploitable forests. The share of protected forests is fluctuating 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, in most of them, clear cutting is not allowed.
Production and export
According to FEDSTAT data, the industry of Russia produced in 2017 about 212 million m3 of logs, which was primarily used by the local industry while 19,4 million m3 (roughly 10%) of the logs were exported directly. Russia is still one of the world’s largest exporters of softwood. More than half of the sawnwood, veneer and plywood produced in Russia is exported.
The Russian Federation is also one of the largest producers and exporters of industrial roundwood in the world, and 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 nowadays almost completely privatized.
China has rapidly emerged as the world’s largest importer of wood products, with Russia by far its most important supplier. While China’s sawnwood imports from Russia raised rapidly until 2018 (while it decreased slightly in 2019, according to Customs data), Russia has remained primarily (though decreasingly) an exporter of roundwood to China, especially in the form of coniferous logs. Two major drivers were 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 country’s land, the economic role of the forestry sector for Russia is limited. The share of the forest sector in the GDP (gross domestic product) is only 1.3%; in industrial production, 3.7%; in employment, 1%; and in export revenue, 2.4%. (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.)
According to Ministry of Civil Defense data for 2016, the forest area affected by radioactive contamination at different levels in Russia, as a result of the Chernobyl accident of 1986, is about 1 mlllion ha. These forests spread over 12 regions, but the largest areas of polluted forest (with about 600 thousand ha) are located in the Bryanskaya, Kaluzhskaya, Tulskaya and Orlovskaya regions, East of the nuclear power plant (Forest management plans per regions for 2018-2029).
The Government decree No.1008 dd. 25.12.1992 provides that all uses of forest resources including timber harvesting, are prohibited in the area of radioactive contamination. It also regulates issues related with radioactivity control and monitoring. The Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters is responsible for these functions.
Sources of information
- FAO (2012) The Russian Federation Forest Sector – Outlook study to 2030
- FAO (2015) Global Forest Resources Assessment
- Fordaq (timber trade network)
- Forest of the World and Russia (V.Strakhov, A. Pisarenko, V. Borisov, 2001)
- ITC (International Trade Centre), calculations based on UN Comtrade statistics
- Ministry of Civil Defense of the RF
- Ministry of natural resources of the Russian Federation
- OOPT (2019) Website on protected areas in Russia
- Russian Government (2020) Statistics
- The Red Forest
- Transparent world 2014
- WhatWood - News and analytics on the Russian forest industry
- World Port Source - Map of ports in Russia with container liner service.
- WWF (2007) The Russian-Chinese timber trade: Export, Supply chains, Consumption, and Illegal logging
- WWF (2009) National Protected Areas of the Russian Federation
- WWF Russia
Until 2011, Russia did not have a common forest policy document, and its forest policy was only formalized through a set of different concepts, government programs and legislation. At the end of November 2011, the Public Ecological Council of the Federal Forest Agency (FFA) approved the development of the Russian Forest Policy through a participatory process together with interested government bodies, NGOs and the forest private sector.
The Russian Forest Code (04.12.2006 No.200 FZ - Federal Law) was 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 (FFA; Rosleskhoz in Russian), which since May 2012 reports to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology (Ukaz Prezidenta, 2012). The sphere of competence of the FFA includes: (1) control and supervision of forestry issues, except in protected areas; (2) public services; and (3) management of state forest assets (FAO, 2012). Plantation is not a form of forest management widely practiced in Russia.
Federal plenary powers for forest governance 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 areas, organization of wood auctions, maintenance of a 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).
There is no privately-owned forest in Russia - all forests are state-owned. Companies or individuals are entitled to utilize the forest resources of the State. Long-term rights to use the forest resource through commercial harvesting (for e.g. timber) within a particular forest area (Forest management unit - FMU) are allocated to logging companies for a period of 10 to 49 years. Short-term forest use (for e.g. timber harvesting) is also possible for organizations and citizens and is agreed directly with local authorities. (Source: CNRA, 2010).
A Forest lease agreement is concluded between the Regional Forest Agency or Regional Forest Management Division, by delegation of the FFA representing the Russian Government (the “Owner “) and the Forest User (leaseholder), and approved by the State Registration, through wood auctions or, in case of priority investment projects, without auction.
There are different types of harvesting “contracts” (official approvals of logging projects):
- Contract passed with the State or Municipality in the framework of a long-term arrangement, on the basis of a set of three mandatory documents, in three steps. Once the Forest lease agreement (see above) is signed and registered, the Forest User within 6 months must prepare a Forest Use Project (FUP). The Project must among other specify the annual allowable cut (AAC) volume. Following the successful review of the FUP, the Forest User must finally provide an annual Forest Declaration to the Owner. Note: there is no “felling permit" document as such but, once all three documents have been successively reviewed and approved, the Forest User is allowed to start logging operation in the forest.
- Procedure for (short-term) roundwood harvesting, for a period of maximum one year. The Forest User may start harvesting as soon as a Forest stands purchase agreement has been concluded between the Owner and a Forest User. Harvesting must also comply with the regional forestry regulations, and the volume of harvested timber may not exceed the volume specified in the agreement;
- Contract awarded in accordance with requirements specified in the Forestry Regulations of the Regional Forest Management Division, in relation to forestry operations such as sanitary cutting or thinning outside of the leased area.
A minimum stumpage fee is stated in the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No.310 May 22, 2007 (last updated on January 06, 2020). This fee is the starting point in the wood auctions. The final fee (auction fee) may exceed the initial one by several times.
No other taxes, fees or royalties are due.
After harvesting activities have been finalized, the felling areas are submitted by the Forest User for an inspection by the Owner, based on sampling and according to the conditions and timeframes specified in forest rent agreement(s).
The Forest User submits an annual Forest use report to the Owner, which for each felling site includes the volumes of commercial timber specified in the “contract” and the actual volumes of harvested timber. Since 2018 the Forest Users must submit a report about forest use and reforestation activities with photos, videos or remote (satellite) sensing data attached.
Indigenous people’s rights, related to forest resources, are guaranteed by the Federal Law No.82 “On Guaranties of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of Russian Federation”, adopted 30.04.1999.
The set of trade and transport documents shall include:
- Export contract (which should be registered in the Bank of the exporter);
- Product specification;
- Delivery notes or bill of landing;
- Phytosanitary certificate;
- Customs declaration.
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 also accessible from NEPCon’s Russian Timber Risk Profile.
Processing and Trade
Bans and quota
In 2010, Russia introduced a logging ban for the Korean Pine (Pinus koraiensis), amongst others. Korean Pine is of crucial importance for the conservation of the Amur tiger. A new version of the “List of species of trees and shrubs prohibited for timber logging”, which includes the Korean Pine, was also approved on Aug. 2, 2010 and is included in the Russian National FSC Standard.
Cites and protected species
The following species from Russia are CITES listed:
CITES Appendix II:
- Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata)
CITES Appendix III:
- Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis)
- Manchurian ash (Fraxinus mandshurica)
- Mongolian oak (Quercus mongolica)
National action on timber legality
Russia is not considering making a FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU.
Third party certification
Currently, 160 valid FSC certificates are covering over 53,46 million hectares of Russian forests certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme (FSC Facts & Figures, April 2020).
The Russian National Forest Certification scheme was re-endorsed early 2016. As of April 2020, an area of over 31 million hectares was certified under the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC Facts & Figures, April 2020).
Sources of information
- FSC - Stakeholder consultation of the FSC Centralized National Risk Assessment (CNRA)
- FAO (2012), The Russian Federation Forest Sector – Outlook study to 2030
- FSC Russia
- NEPCon - Russia Timber Risk Profile
- FSC - Facts & Figures
- WWF (2010) VLO Checklist
- WWF Russia
- WWF Russia - Magazines on sustainable forest management (in Russian)
- Developing and implementing state policy and legal-normative regulation;
- Controlling and supervising;
- Providing state services and managing state property
It coordinates and supervises the work of several related agencies, one of them being the FFA.
Source: Transparancy International