Head of Federal Forestry Agency — to regions: ''The withdrawal of part of forestry powers will lighten your load''
The agency is dissatisfied with the effectiveness of ''forestry authorities'' in the regions of the Volga Federal District and threatens criminal cases for unjustified sanitary felling
''The control on the 'two-key' principle should completely exclude unjustified sanitary felling, which is replacing illegal loggers,'' head of the Federal Forestry Agency (Rosleskhoz) Ivan Valentik warned the heads of forestry of 14 subjects of the Volga Federal District that gathered at the annual meeting in Kazan on 8 February. For the sake of forest preservation, the ministry of natural resources and ecology of the Russian Federation proposes to leave to the regions only forest protection, and to give the functions of forest supervision to the federation, adding forest management to their authority. Before announcing the redistribution of powers, Valentik pleased the foresters with a pleasant surprise: this year they will have the opportunity to buy not only new cars, but also GPS-trackers — at a total of 3 billion rubles. Read the details in the report of Realnoe Vremya.
Regions do not save forests from fires
The official week ended on 8 February with a long-hour meeting of the Federal Forestry Agency with representatives of 14 subjects of the Volga Federal District, where they listened to the results of their work in the field of protection and regeneration of forests. Today, the forest fund of the Volga region totals 30 million hectares, and although it is not as rich in high-quality commercial timber as, for example, Siberia and the Far East, nevertheless, the Volga forest lands are subject to illegal logging, fires, bacteriological diseases and need care and control no less than other wooded regions.
With the adoption of the Forest code in 2007, the powers of the Russian Federation and the subjects in the field of forest protection were distributed mainly in favour of the latter: the regions were obliged not only to control their safety, but also to engage in forest management and restoration. To summarize how regions cope with delegated to them authority, in Kazan on 8 February there arrived Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation — Head of Federal Forestry Agency Ivan Valentik.
Before the meeting, Tatarstan Prime Minister Aleksey Pesoshin arranged a trip to important sites that provide protection and regeneration of forests. First of all, the head of the federal agency was shown the fire-chemical station in the village of Vysokaya Gora, which can extinguish a fire in a short time. By the way, this year there has been not a single forest fire in Tatarstan, while in other regions — Bashkiria, Udmurtia, Mari El — forests burned more than once.
From forest — to the city hall
Having visited the forest areas of Tatarstan, Ivan Valentik admitted that ''he has received energy of the territory," so he was ready ''to talk succinctly about the issues and to make claims'' to the performance of the forest authority. But in the beginning the head of Rosleskhoz took a positive note. He said that the federal project Forest Conservation became part of the national project Ecology with funding of 150 billion rubles until 2024. However, this amount includes not only federal, but also regional and private funds. In the near future, the regions will learn about budget projects for the distribution of subsidies for the implementation of forest obligations.
''We are close to bringing the volume of financing of the regions to achieve our goals,'' he said. For the first time the federal budget provides funds for the renewal of the fleet of forestry and forest fire equipment. According to Valentik, over 20 billion rubles have been allocated for this purpose. In the previous time, 455 million rubles were allocated for the purchase of equipment to extinguish fires — this was in 2014. The surprise of Rosleshoz is also in the fact that the regions will independently dispose these funds, on the basis of their own needs. ''Previously, subsidies were issued with an order of a single supplier,'' the head of the agency reminded (i.e. it was possible to buy from one supplier — editor's note). ''This time we have chosen the other way: the subjects themselves will determine the necessary list of equipment and machines needed to execute powers,'' he said.
Though, it couldn't do without recommendations. Ivan Valentik warned that priority should be given to domestic equipment. ''For the first time in the structure of forestry expenditures, the costs for forest patrol equipment and machines are provided — 0,5 billion for the current year and so every year. Foresters will have the opportunity to buy not only UAZ and VAZ cars, but also trackers, navigators, GLONASS receivers — any tools,'' the head of Rosleskhoz continued to delight the ears of the foresters.
''The facts are being analyzed and will be transferred to law enforcement agencies''
In response, Valentik expects the foresters to strengthen the control. The main risk for preservation of forests Rosleskhoz sees in unreasonable prescription for sanitary felling of a healthy forest, which is replacing illegal loggers. Alexander Ornatsky told about the egregious situation in Penza Oblast, where the mechanism to prescribe to cut down a healthy forest was put on systematic basis, after which criminal cases were initiated.
''Sanitary felling has become a way of avoiding responsibility: on the one hand, there are permits for felling, on the other, a healthy forest is destroyed,'' Ivan Valentik drew attention to the severity of the problem. ''The struggle with the unreasonable prescription of forest management is an area of special control,'' he said.
According to Valentik, there is a need to work professionally for forest pathologists. On the other hand, the ''two-key'' control system should completely exclude unjustified sanitary cuttings. Currently, Roslesozashchita has accumulated serious materials on the prescriptions of such cuttings in the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. ''From the pen of the same officials there are acts directly in the three forest districts — there are such facts. They are being analyzed and will be transferred to law enforcement agencies,'' Valentik warned. ''Dear colleagues, as a preventive measure: I ask you to take this topic as seriously as possible.''
The head of Rosleshoz also criticized the regions for the failure to carry out the plan for rental income from forests. With the task of 6,2 billion rubles, the foresters lacked 5 per cent to 175 million rubles. Valentik saw this as a vicious practice, when the regions ''hold'' cutting areas for future investors. ''They keep 5 million cubic metres of wood for the construction of a pulp and paper mill, although it is not even projected,'' he reprimanded the local authorities.
Hectare for hectare: who is going to pay for a decrease of forests
Valentik said that in 2019 the conditions for the use of forest are to tighten. It is about the law on compensatory reforestation, under which any user is obliged to compensate for the felled forest, regardless of whether he laid a pipeline or cut down trees for the sale of commercial timber. The principle of ''hectare for hectare'' is introduced, said the head of the forest agency.
The federal authorities have also settled the issue of preservation of urban forests. ''For the first time the norm on inadmissibility of reducing the area of urban forests has been established. At the level of the law, a ban on its cutting is introduced and it can not be brought under the 'forest park zone,'' said Valentik. In addition, the issue how to deal with forests in rural areas has also been resolved. ''This is tens of millions of hectares, which are no longer agricultural land, and not forest. They were in an intermediate position,'' he said. The decision, according to the head of Rosleskhoz, is the following: either they are to be recognized as agricultural land and put into circulation, or these areas will be recognized as forest and included in the forest fund.
Forests go under the control of the Federal Forestry Agency
Moving on the immediate subject of the meeting, the head of Rosleskhoz said that next year ''the legal construction of powers execution in the forestry sector'' will change — the federation intends to withdraw from the regions the powers for the management of forests.
''This year we expect to submit to the State Duma a draft law on the transfer of powers on forest management to the federal level,'' said Valentik. We have the support of all bodies of the executive power. This will allow to reach a guaranteed 10-year cycle of forest management. There are sources of financing. Removing part of your forest powers will lighten your load.''
Demonstrating dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of the fight against forest fires and illegal loggers, the feds take over the control powers. ''The law on the division of forest protection and forest supervision will be adopted in order to counter the illegal turnover of wood. The concept is the following: the forest service will be maintained at the level of subjects, and forest control will be centralized at the highest level,'' concluded the head of Rosleskhoz.