2012 / 12 / 19

Question of Reserving Karelia’s Valuable Forests for SPNAs Remains Open

The government of Karelia still needs to reserve valuable timberlands for the creation of the Specially Protected Natural Areas (SPNAs) that have been included in the regional land use plan. This point was made by Alexander Markovsky, director of The Karelia Regional Nature Conservancy SPOK, while addressing the December 18 meeting at the republic’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology, where the problems of forest development and nature conservation were discussed.According to Markovsky, reserving valuable forests for creating SPNAs will avoid conflicts between the forest industry and conservationists, which over the past year have become particularly acute in Karelia. The ecologist reiterated that the value of the forests that have been recommended for protection in the land use plan has been confirmed by many years of research by Russian and foreign scientists and nature conservation organizations.

“Our initiative concerns an area of approximately one million hectares, a significant part of which consists of forests where there have been no commercial operations,” Markovsky noted. “Where are the planned SPNAs located? More than 400,000 hectares are not leased lands. These are areas that can be reserved without any detriment to existing timber companies. Approximately 300,000 hectares have been placed under a voluntary moratorium on logging by their leaseholders. And more than 300,000 additional hectares have been leased without any agreements for protecting the environment. However, if we go into these planned Specially Protected Natural Areas, the endangerment of red book species may lead to continual conflict. But the prosecutor’s office and the court are currently stopping even the implementation of investment plans, as was the case with the Kostomuksha Development Company.

The Karelia Forest Portal announced that the meeting participants were unable to reach a consensus on the need to reserve valuable forests for SPNAs. However, as representatives of the forest industry emphasized, the unresolved issue of the planned SPNAs hampers the acquisition of raw materials in Karelia by those timber companies that have chain-of-custody certificates.

Dmitry Zuev, a representative of the Russian Forest Alliance, noted at the meeting that “it is in the interest of timber companies operating in foreign markets to keep our certification. A Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certificate means that if our leased tracts contain SPNAs that have been recognized by independent nature conservation organizations as valuable areas, then we are obligated to preserve these areas and exclude them from commercial use. There are only two options for us: either ask the government authorities to scientifically prove that a certain area is not valuable or that it is a valuable area requiring protection and, as such, is excluded from the lease agreement. If we don’t resolve this issue, then we risk losing our certification.”

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