Before the new law, Russia’s forest policy was a remnant of the Soviet Era, focusing heavily on maximizing economic returns and conventional forestry practices. With 38 million hectares of FSC certified forest in Russia, some certified companies were running into problems because they were balancing economic, social and environmental interests, in contradiction with a formal state policy requiring maximum economic output.
Throughout 2012 and 2013, a high-level working group, including the Forest Stewardship Council, worked to modernize Russia’s forest policy. The new law creates enabling conditions for FSC certification to grow. For example, the policy allows for the following “innovations,” which were not fully “legal” in Russia, but emerged and developed in FSC certified operations:
Public involvement in forest planning.
Using forest management to mimic natural processes and protect ecological values and functions.
Adding the concept of “Heritage Forests” into planning, including management to protect intact forest landscapes.
New methods to calculate Annual Allowable Cut based on the premise of sustainable yield.
Harmonizing Russian forest policy with other international standards.
Many of the factors above are central to FSC certification, and a direct response to the growth of FSC in Russia.
Since FSC began operating in the country in 2000, it has brought many new ideas to Russian forest management, including biodiversity conservation, ecosystem-based management, High Conservation Value Forests and the respecting the rights of local and indigenous peoples.
Prior to the new regulation, some FSC-certified companies in some regions were forced to pay fines because they balanced the concepts above with official policies requiring revenue maximization, although this practice was limited.
“This is an important role for FSC,” said Andrei Ptichnikov, Director of FSC’s Regional Office for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), as Russia and other former Soviet states are known. “This is a major advance for Russian forest policy, and it creates the conditions for responsible forest management to flourish in the country. In many ways the new policy mirrors FSC standards, which will protect Russian forests, helping the wildlife and people who depend on them,” he added.