2012 / 08 / 20

Old growth forests excluded from the leasehold of Kostomuksha Development Company.

In August 2012 Federal Arbitration Court of North-West District upheld the decision of the Arbitration Court of Karelia and declared invalid the forest tenancy agreement of OOO Kostomuksha Development Company for the forest plots within the protective zone of Kostomuksha Strict Nature Reserve. n January 2011the company had signed the long-term agreement with regional Ministry of natural resources and ecology intending to launch a priority investment project of wood production and processing.

The Prosecutor’s office of Karelia had challenged the deal stating that the agreement contravened the requirements of Federal law, as the leased areas are the part of the strict nature reserve protective zone, and also they appeared to be the key habitat of rare lichen species Lobaria pulmonaria enlisted in Red Data Book of Russian Federation. Forest harvesting would destroy the key habitats of this species and affect forest communities inside the nature reserve. Besides, the disputed areas adjoin the state border between Russia and Finland, and the company did not obtain permission from Frontier officials for commercial activities there.

As a result the Arbitration court declared the deal invalid and obliged the company to stop its activity in the area. This case is precedential for the region: supervising officials and the court took the side of forest conservationists, despite the fact that the area had been allotted for a priority investment project.

By now in Russia about 25% of forest areas escaped industrial loggings and preserved their biodiversity. In Karelia less than 15% of forests can be considered old growth. All these communities are protected by lows (Federal laws “On Environmental Protection”, “On Special Protected Nature Areas”, Forest Code of RF) and within voluntary ecological policy of private companies.

All the old growth forest mapped in Karelia before 2007 had been included into actual Land Use Plan, with a status of planned Special Protected Natural Areas (SPNA). Their total area exceeds 1.5 million hectares. Of them 200 thousand hectares are being voluntarily preserved by their tenants, that aim to avoid law infringements.

Still, in the recent years some small and often unprofessional firms try to get forest plots within intact forests for logging purposes. Such practice is totally incompatible with modern sustainable forest management, and in some cases it’s illegal. The case of Kostomuksha Development Company demonstrates that these attempts could be stopped even if a project has a status of priority investment.

Old growth forests are an important part of natural heritage of our region, and they should be conserved just like cultural heritage is being conserved. This fact is acknowledged by both administration and society.

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