thousand “wood settlements” mainly in remote districts of the European North, Siberia, and Far East with four million residents are left without a livelihood.
The pattern of depletion is stimulated by extremely low payments for forest exploration rights (forest tax). For example, standing wood has a token price of not more than one dollar for one cubic meter. That is about 2 to 5 percent of the commercial value of round lumber. As a result, the State has a lack of money for an efficient forest service. In 1999 the payment for forest exploration rights was about 15 percent of the total costs of the Federal Service of Forestry.
The present pattern of forestry leads both to the total destruction of the last remaining ancient forests and to ecological disturbance of the forest zone (water balance, swamping, soil decay, biodiversity decrease).
The whole state timber industry is unprofitable. Also, life in timber settlements is socially unstable due to a decrease of earnings and unemployment.
For the last decade, no government decrees for radical change of the situation and for stable forest exploitation have been adopted. The Forest Code of the Russian Federation requires timber owners to carry on multiple-purpose and sustainable forestry while promoting biological diversity. This requirement is not fulfilled because of the absence of appropriate laws. Even the existing nature protection legislation on forestry and forest exploration is not observed. For example, the Law “On Ecological Assessment” adopted in 1995 requires an ecological assessment of “schemes of protection and use of water, forest, land, and other nature resources,” including organization and management projects for forestry and felling. Nevertheless, most projects are realized without any ecological assessment. Conservation of species under special protection is usually not addressed because these species are not identified within the scope of forest husbandry and planning. Forest husbandry, the base for forestry planning and management, is aimed entirely at accounting for timber resources.
“The Principles of Determination of Woodcutting Areas…” adopted in 1987 are still in force. They provide “a level of major harvest and regeneration felling for 20 to 30 years.” Economically inaccessible woods are included into production reserves. As a result, forests located near roads in populated regions are subject to more intense cutting.
The full use of woodcutting areas is impossible in the majority of regions due to a lack of economically accessible forest resources. Enterprises often try to solve this problem by disregarding ecological limits including those provided by legislation.
“Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Management of Russian Forests” adopted in 1998 does not have parameters of sustainable forest management and does not provide for any change in the present forest management system.