2011 / 12 / 23

Court Upholds Kostomuksha Nature Reserve’s Protected Zone.

On December 23, 2011, the Arbitrazh Court of Karelia upheld a suit brought by the republic’s Public Prosecutor and declared invalid a contract to lease timberland near the Kostomuksha State Scientific Nature Reserve that was signed in January 2011 between the republic’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology and OOO Kostomuksha Development Company. According to the contract, some of the forests near the national border, including the protected zone of the Kostomuksha State Scientific Nature Reserve, were leased to the company. As the Karelia public prosecutor noted, clearcutting is forbidden in the protected area of the nature reserve, and commercial operations near the national border are allowed only with permission from the border authorities, and such permission had not been obtained when the leasing contract was signed.

The case should have been heard several months ago, but in June, the Arbitrazh Court of Karelia ruled to suspend the proceedings until the entry into force of the verdict in another suit—OOO  Kostomuksha Development Company vs. the Border Administration of the FSB RF (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) for the Republic of Karelia—in which the leasing company contested the Karelia border guards’ refusal to permit commercial operations by the company on timberland in the border area. In June, after the court rejected the leasing company’s claims, OOO Kostomuksha Development Company appealed the decision of the Arbitrazh Court of Karelia in the Thirteenth Arbitrazh Appellate Court of St. Petersburg, which upheld the Karelian court’s verdict. This allowed the Arbitrazh Court of Karelia to resume proceedings in the suit brought by the republic’s Office of the Public Prosecutor asking that the deal between the Karelia Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology and OOO Kostomuksha Development Company be declared invalid.

The controversy over the Karelia officials’ issuing a logging lease for the protected area of the Kostomuksha State Scientific Nature Reserve flared up at the beginning of March 2011 after the nature reserve’s director, Sergei Tarkhov, appealed to federal and republic authorities to not allow clearcutting in valuable forests. The Border Administration of the FSB RF for the Republic of Karelia also has expressed its concern over OOO Kostomuksha Development Company’s plans to start logging in the immediate vicinity of the national border. Later, former Karelia Public Prosecutor German Shtadler ordered an investigation into the legality of the improperly concluded contract and suspended logging operations until the investigation has been completed.

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