Forest Watch: citizen action to stop illegal logging in Ukraine
In the past year, 70 volunteers from the Lviv and Kyiv regions have been trained to identify illegal activities in the forests, where to report these violations and how to react quickly. They have been backed up by the forest experts from WWF in Ukraine, who have undertaken over 20 field inspections and numerous consultations with the volunteers.
Activists and many independent experts believe that illegal logging and other illegal activities are quite common in Ukraine due to the poor enforcement of forest legislation. In the Carpathian region, illegal logging has become a serious threat both to forest ecosystems and unique wildlife as well as associated ecosystem goods and services. Forest policy has become a focus of significant controversy and public attention.
Forest Watch has become a center for expertise on forest crimes and a major communication platform for activists and volunteers who are concerned about illegal logging. Even logging companies, forest and park authorities have publicly acknowledged the efficiency and benefits of Forest Watch, whose mission is to bridge the gap between foresters and the public to promote sustainable forestry and stronger protection of forest with high conservation values.
Priority for monitoring by Forest Watch volunteers is given to protected areas. In January 2017, the Forest Watch team was alerted by a resident of a small village near Lviv. The village borders on a protected area with beech forests called Zavadivsky Zakaznyk. The Lviv Forestry State Enterprise, which is responsible for the forest area, conducts both clear and selective tree cutting. Forest Watch experts monitored all permits and logging plans for 2017 and found some inconsistencies. Experts and volunteers discovered that Lviv Forestry is not only cutting primarily the oldest trees but also twice as much wood stock as planned, most of which is claimed to be for firewood. After proving the irregularities, the forestry unit agreed to re-measure one of the plots that was planned for cutting in 2017.