WWF Russia is launching its 2013 campaign aiming to secure more than 100,000 signatures from Russian citizens to petition for amendments to the current forest legislation. If it will be successful, the petition could restore a better protection for an area twice the size of France, protecting 18 per cent of Russian forests. After 70 years of protection, legislation was changed several times between 2009 and 2010 allowing industrial logging to take place in protected areas.
"The timber resources of Russia’s exploited forests are already exhausted because of over-logging during the Soviet era, illegal logging in recent decades and an unchanged approach in timber harvesting estimation in the last 150 years. This has forced logging companies to search for new sources of commercially valuable timber," says Konstantin Kobyakov, of WWF Russia."The recent changes to the law make these areas a prime target for commercial logging,” he added.
The forests needing protection cover 17 different categories, including water-conservation zones, nut harvesting zones, mountain forests, tundra forests, green zones such as woodland parks, urban forests and spawning zones.
Forest areas located on the waterside of rivers, creeks, lakes or seas, as well as green zones around big cities, even those of Northern Russian cities located on the areas of the tundra-forests, should become "protected forests".
These forests are crucial to assure drinking water, soil fertility, climate stability, clear air, as well as habitat and food for wild animals (such as berries, mushrooms and nuts). These protected forests could also play a role as recreation for city-dwellers and as source of income for rural communities.
According to WWF, these forests are already providing important services, and annoy be scarified to the industrial exploitation. "For 70 years these forests protected us. Now is the time for us to protect them. It is time put again a ban of industrial logging back into the forest legislation,” said Kobyakov.