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Forestry Code in Russia: to rent but not to own
September 28, 2006 17:32

The Committee of Natural Resources of the State Duma will consider a bill covering modifications in the Forestry Code. A new variant of the Code is being worked out at the moment at the second reading. According to the civil servants, among the countries possessing vast woodlands Russia will remain the only one, which forest areas will stay in the ownership of the state.

The proprietary rights to forestry lands will belong to the federal government as before, whereas full power to manage these woods will be devolved upon the regional and municipal administration. But along with the full power the regions will get a range of problems, says the analyst of a consulting company Lesprom Pavel Artemiev.

Currently the federal government operates all management functions. It is taken to be that regions should exercise only control, observation and monitoring. So finding new financial sources to support the forest management will be up to them, and it is not so easy, as it seems, especially amid sparsely wooded regions. It would be justly, if along with the forest administration rights regions could get compensation for wood resources usage, says the expert.

Russia declined the idea of private property on woods. The variant of the Forestry Code that was accepted at the first reading suggested renting of timberland for a term of 99 years. The concept is similar to that of private property, says Pavel Artemiev. But the variant of the Forest Code projected for the second reading mentions the maximum rent period: 49 years.

Now lease terms of wood lots do not exceed 3-5 years in the majority of cases. Nevertheless, the growing stock maturity period in Russia is about 70-80, and sometimes up to 90 years. That is the exact time the whole cycle takes - from planting the seedling to cutting down industrial wood. And this is the reason why big woodworking companies are interested in passing the variant with the lease term of 99 years.

One of the main points being discussed now is wood lot shifting from one category to another. It will help to extend the opportunities of logging at the expense of that plots where wood exploitation is prohibited. All Russian woods are divided into three categories. The first one is reserved land, the second is timberland, and the third is commercial forest. However, on the whole, Russia logs three times less than possible.

The new Forestry Code suggests new rating: protection forests and commercial forests. Forests will be classified by the authorized federal agency; the state reserves this right to itself. Meanwhile, the new variant of the Russian Forestry Code is not like any of those other countries with developed wood industry use. For instance, national forests occupy much smaller area than private ones. 54% woodlands belong to thousands of private owners. About one third of woods is national property. Big companies have control over 10% of woods. The owners can allow woodworking companies cut over at particular wood lots. These mostly small plots about 2 ha are given for not more than 2 years.

However, in another woody country, Canada, unlike Finland, almost all the woods are in state ownership, to be more precise - in regional ownership. And these are the provinces that operate nearly all forest sectors. On the whole, 77% of all forest areas belong to the provinces, 16% - to the Federal government and only 7% - to private owners.

There are other variants of dealing with forestland in different countries. Russian politicians will have to learn more about foreign experiences concerning work with wood lots. It will probably result in new Russian Forestry Code.


Olga Pletneva


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