At the end of February, a new concept of the federal law draft “Forest Code of the Russian Federation”, developed by the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), was presented at the meeting of the Expert Advisory Board on Forestry at the Federation Council. The main problem of new concept is abstracting from key provisions of the Basic Principles of State Policy on the use, conservation, protection and regeneration of forests in the Russian Federation (hereinafter referred to as the national forest policy - NFP). The provisions of NFP are aimed at developing not only the forestry, but also the entire forest complex as a whole. Natalia Pinyagina, Director for mutual relations with state authorities of Arkhangelsk PPM JSC, mentioned this position in her speech at the relevant council.
According to her, the Forest Code should include a mechanism to ensure the achievement of the main goals of NFP - the growth of the gross domestic product with environmental and social requirements and state restrictions, which is generated by large timber companies.
Now, the RAS Concept proposes to consider forestry as the branch of material production that provides all the needs of society for forest products, while the forestry complex produces the main types of wood products. In this regard, the concept should include not only the forestry, but also the forest complex as a single cooperative system, including forestry and timber industries.
As Natalia Pinyagina noted, the authors of the Concept associated most of the problems that caused forest degradation and forest raw material resources quality deterioration with the allegedly ineffective activities of forest areas lessees, which goes beyond the bounds of common sense. "The main type of forest use is wood procurement, and in this situation it is very important to classify forest users depending on the extent of timber harvesting," emphasized the APPM's speaker. "Major lessees represented by the leading forestry corporations not only make a prevailing contribution to the sectoral GDP, but they are also the most socially and environmentally responsible group, the same cannot be said about the small lessees. It is large vertically-integrated companies that build forestry roads in the woodland holding areas, actively assist reforestation, and protect forest planting from fires, pests and diseases."
In addition, most forestry corporations supply forest products to the environmentally sensitive foreign markets where customers require certification. International organizations certify only environmentally responsible forest users who prove not only the legal origin of the wood, but also employ technologies that have low impact on the forest ecosystem. Thus, according to the representative of APPM, the accusations against lessees of causing harm to the biodiversity of forests are unfounded, far from reality.
Natalia Pinyagina also pointed out that there is a number of negative aspects in the existing Russian forestry legislation. She attributed the lack of a clear status of the timber industry to them, which "has hung between the two adjacent fields of the forestry complex", according to her. The authors of the Concept proposed that timber harvesting had to be attributed to the forestry, however, business representatives could not agree with this provision either. Indeed, timber harvesting is the first technological conversion in the vertical chain for production of added-value wood conversion products at the forestry corporations. Often, timber industry enterprises are like a workshop, an integral part of the consolidated assets of the vertically-integrated companies. "Well, how can this be separated, set apart timber industry enterprises from the general cooperative structure of the companies and transferred to the state forestry organizations? That's just utopia!" summed up the representative of APPM.
Natalia Pinyagina didn’t find it reasonable to transfer all the functions of forest fund ownership and management, as well as regulation of forest relations to the level of constituent units of the Russian Federation. According to her words, large timber corporations are mostly interregional in nature. They include enterprises located in various republics, territories and regions that implement large-scale investment projects for the development of production.
The Concept does not contain any provision on public-private partnership, because lessees are ready to build wood-transport roads together with the state, to create seed centers and nurseries for growing young plants, to make forest regeneration. Business is ready to finance this activity but it is important that the state compensate at least part of expenses incurred.
The Concept declares the need to attract large investments into the development of forestry and its transferring to self-sufficiency. However, the document doesn’t give a clear mechanism that can provide an increase of the industry investment attractiveness. Natalia Pinyagina proposed to return to the mechanism of forest concessions, which were widely used in the 1920-s. They were often created in the form of joint ventures with the state with a ratio of 50%:50%, and were engaged in forestry activities, creation of forest transport infrastructure, logging, sawmilling and other timber processing.
Arkhangelsk PPM offers its own package of amendments to the Concept of the new edition of the Forest Code, including: adding the state support for large and responsible forest users who comprehensively ensure the implementation of NFP goals, increasing the efficiency of the forest complex as a whole; increasing the lease time of woodlots to 99 years; decreasing the export of raw forest only through customs tariff regulation taking into account the market situation and local peculiarities, instead of its complete ban in the forest law. “It is proposed to approach the problem of old-growth forest territories by not assigning this category of forests to the wild nature, as recommended in the Concept”, - Natalia Pinyagina emphasized. – “It is worth following the example of Finland and making landscape zoning at the state’s expense, in order to separate especially valuable sections of the forest fund and to transfer them to the category of specially protected natural reservations or closed woods; and to bring into production the rest of the forest fund subject to agreement with environmental organizations. Moreover, Russia has a good example - the experience of creating the Dvinsko-Pinezhsky reserve in the Arkhangelsk region. ”