FSC is failing to protect Russia’s intact forest landscapes

Road adjacent to large clearcut inside Dvinsky Forest (IFL) in the Solombabales (Boretskaya) concession area. 06/01/2012 © Greenpeace

As one of the main contributors to our latest report on the role that the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has been playing in the destruction of some of Russia’s last intact forest landscapes, I must respond to FSC’s statement.

For many years I have worked for Greenpeace in Russia, figuring out the best ways to map and protect my country’s vast forests, and I was in this role long before FSC came on the scene. Since FSC came to Russia my colleagues and I have had extensive involvement with them, so I believe that I am qualified to respond to FSC’s strong disagreement with our conclusion that “FSC’s ability to transform and deliver well managed forests in this region of Russia has so far failed”, and particularly its ability to protect Russia’s remaining intact forest landscapes (IFLs).

FSC’s failure to transform forestry to responsible management in Russia was putting Greenpeace Russia’s credibility at risk. So, while Greenpeace still chooses to remain an FSC member in other countries because the respective offices feel that their participation is or could still have an impact on FSC’s performance and/or policy and standards, Greenpeace in Russia does not, and we believe that we can have more impact on FSC from the outside.

Greenpeace Russia has in the past contributed much to the practical work of protecting IFLs. Greenpeace Russia pioneered the concept of IFLs and the importance of protecting them. But, our experience of participating in the formal standard setting procedures, which are far too slow and ineffective, has eroded our belief in the FSC system. Russia’s national standard is good enough, but in many cases is not followed. Greenpeace played a big role in the development of the first Russian FSC standard, but it has so far failed to deliver on IFL protection and responsible forest use.

FSC claims that FSC certification is the only effective tool to protect intact forest landscapes in managed forests in Russia. In fact, there were logging moratoria in Russia long before FSC – the result of a market campaign by Greenpeace and a coalition of NGOs. Also, before an FSC presence in Russia, old-growth logging moratoria for Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) and some smaller areas of old-growth forests had already been established by companies including Stora-Enso, UPM Kummene and Svetogorsk pulp and paper mill.

A decade ago there was very limited certification in Russia, but there was strong market pressure from NGOs and stakeholders. Now, with an established FSC presence in Russia, FSC may make it easier to open the door to company dialogue. But, FSC’s claim that ‘the Dvinsky Forest region is an example for effective stakeholder engagement processes that have resulted in strong and lasting solutions for threatened forest species and ecosystems’ is misleading.

While FSC may have initially helped to facilitate some moratoria agreements in the region, our study shows that if forests continue to be mismanaged and logging continues to occur at the same rate, the existing set aside IFL areas and beyond will eventually be destroyed.

We stand strongly behind our report and our claim that FSC is certifying the destruction of Russia’s last remaining intact forest landscapes. Our report shows that rather than helping to protect IFL’s, FSC certification has not stopped companies logging unsustainably – taking much more timber than the forests can regenerate, and large-scale clearcuts are still taking place.

My Greenpeace colleagues and I will be presenting a motion at FSC’s General Assembly in September, calling on FSC and members to take urgent action to protect and stop IFL’s being destroyed in other regions, as they have been in Russia. This is a matter of urgency for the protection of the world’s last remaining wild intact forests landscapes, as well as for FSC’s credibility.

Alexey Yaroshenko is a Senior Forest campaigner at Greenpeace Russia.

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