Russia: Corrupt Primorskii Gov sells 400 logging plots in nut harvest / wildlife reserves

Last week the Forestry Agency of Primorskii Province in south-eastern
Russia auctioned off more than 400 forest plots, covering four
wildlife refuges and five Korean pine nut harvesting zones. The
auction, which for unknown reasons was held two days before the
scheduled date, ignored new regulations on three regional and one
federal wildlife refuge.

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Also ignored were long standing appeals by local people asking to
lease two of the pine nut harvesting zones to collect nuts, medical
and edible plants and conduct responsible hunting, appeals which had
the support of WWF and Ministry of Natur? Resources and Ecology of
Russia. “Unfortunately we cannot prevent tending cutting in protective
forests by simply pointing to the the breaches of the law,” said Denis
Smirnov, forest program coordinator, WWF Russia Amur branch. “Tending
of forest in Primorye has been long a loophole for conducting
large-scale illegal cutting.”

Pavel Sulyandziga, first vice-president of the Association of Indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of Russia, said: “In the village of Krasnyi Yar local aboriginal tribes cannot get permission to cut trees for construction of houses or for firewood. “This is at a time when the Korean pine nut harvesting zone is being prescribed for logging. This zone belongs to us but over 15 years we have not been able to get approval toestablish the territory for traditional nature use.

The auction demonstrates a cynical attitude of authorities to the issues of
aboriginal people.” The areas sold include areas in the Chyornye Skaly
refuge that are habitat for goral – small hoofed animals with a
goat-like appearance that are enlisted in the Russian Red data book.
The Amur “maternity hospital” is in the Tayozhnyi refuge, the Korean
pine stands in five Korean pine nut harvesting zones including one in
the Bikin River.

The federal wildlife refuge Leopardovyi – a key
habitat for the Amur leopard – just established in October 2008, was
withdrawn from sale following an official demand from Yurii Trutnev,
Russia’s Minister of Nature Resources and Ecology, to Sergei Darkin,
Governor of Primorskii Province. WWF-Russia is asking law enforcement
bodies to recognize as invalid the decision of the Forestry Agency to
place orders for forest protection, maintenance, restoration and
tending cutting with the Primorskii Forestry Enterprise in 2009. “We
predict this sale will precipitate a new round of illegal logging in
Primorye and devastate areas important to wildlife and local
indigenous people,” said Smirnov.

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