Tuesday, 05 June 2012
FSC & Forest Management in Russia
Forests are different around the world: they have different characteristics and conservation values. In Russia, as in many countries, the age of a tree or trees is not the single factor which determines whether a forest area is considered to have ‘high conservation value’ (HCVF, a term which was developed by FSC in 1999 to help de-fine forest areas of outstanding and critical importance). The classification of HCVFs is highly dependent on the particular socio-cultural and ecological context. HCVFs are determined following a broad and inclusive stakeholder consultation process. In Russia, this was determined by a group of stakeholders which included Russian NGOs and an equal representation of environmental, economic and social interests. This fair, open process of multi-stakeholder engagement is what makes FSC unique and ensures that its National Standards are robust and locally appropriate.
According to the FSC Russian National Standard, wood may not be harvested from intact forest massives larger than 50,000 ha, and rare and endangered forest ecosystems. The standard also protects so-called "veteran" trees, which are significantly older than the average for the area, by prohibiting their harvesting except in exceptional cases.
Further, according to FSC rules FSC certified companies must follow the precautionary approach when it comes to conservation. Before harvesting wood from an area previously identified (through satellite mapping – a prerequisite to working in a given area) as potentially having high conservation values, they must perform an inventory of the area. If this inventory confirms the presence of high conservation values this area will not be logged.
Independent certification bodies play an important role in the FSC system. These accredited organizations grant FSC certificates to companies that meet FSC’s requirements and evaluate certificate holders like Swedwood on an ongoing basis to ensure that their operations comply with all relevant FSC policies and standards. NepCon, contracted by the Rainforest Alliance to conduct certification evaluations of Swedwood in Russia, performed two audits of Swedwood operations in 2011. Both audits specifically examined the issue of HCVF, and in both cases Swedwood was found to be in compliance with FSC requirements.
Forest legislation in Russia does not recognise high conservation values in commercial forests: it considers all commercial forests as having mainly economic values and allows wood to be harvested without ecological safeguards. In this way, FSC is a crucial tool for forest conservation and responsible management in Russia—one of a number of key safeguards which complement national legislation and protect biodiversity and important species. FSC provides a platform for NGOs and forest managers to refine HCVF mapping and develop alternative management techniques that are both compatible with nature conservation objectives and are cost efficient.
FSC certification in Russia has resulted in the conservation of around 1 million hectares of the most valuable intact forest landscapes and other types of HCVF. This is equivalent to around five national parks in Europe, and is a larger area than the Russian Government has protected in the last five years.