Precedent-setting moratorium helping protect over a million hectares of intact boreal forest
Posted on 20 April 2018
Russia's boreal forests are home to unique species such as the bears, wolves and the Amur tiger.Boreal forests make up almost a third of the world’s remaining forest cover. Most are found in Russia, where more than 800 million hectares of the country’s forests store more carbon in trees, soil and peat than all tropical and temperate forests combined, and play a critical role in regulating global climate.
Russian boreal forests are also one of the only places where the last remaining herds of some reindeer subspecies and large predators like bears, wolves, lynx and the Amur tiger range free. The life and culture of many local communities is also interwoven with these ancient forest landscapes.
Balancing local economic needs while protecting this forest has been a cornerstone of WWF’s work in Russia’s boreal forests. The WWF-Mondi partnership, which started in 2014, has worked actively in the region to protect Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) and Intact Forest Areas (IFAs) and identify ways to sustainably manage forests.
Global packaging and paper giant, Mondi Group, which manages 2.1 million hectares in Russia’s boreal forest, is making a significant contribution to this through a moratorium on sourcing wood from 1.25 million hectares of strictly protected zones in boreal IFLs and IFAs.
“For too long, many companies have relied and still rely on logging intact forests rather than engaging in responsible management, and unsustainable logging in IFLs presents a huge challenge for boreal forest conservation in Russia,” says Nikolay Shmatkov, Head of WWF-Russia’s Forest Program. “The moratorium is a significant boost for the conservation of these valuable areas and, along with the Russian Boreal Forest Platform on forest management, offers a more sustainable way forward for the entire sector.”
Jointly signed with WWF-Russia and The Silver Taiga Foundation for Sustainable Development, the moratorium reflects Mondi’s commitment not to purchase wood in any form from core areas in IFLs and IFAs in the Republic of Komi or from those in the border territories of the neighbouring Arkhangelsk, Kirov and Perm regions, and to cease purchasing from any supplier found logging in these areas.
The agreement also commits WWF and Silver Taiga to further monitoring and research, and to working with the government to obtain official protection status for IFLs and IFAs.
“This is a unique agreement, the first of its kind”, says Denis Popov, Group Natural Resources Manager at Mondi. “It’s the result of more than ten years’ of collaboration between a wide range of stakeholders – it looks beyond lease site borders and any specific certification standard, and encompasses smaller IFAs as well as IFLs.”
“A critical dimension of the agreement is that it is based on a landscape approach”, says Yuri Pautov, Director, The Silver Taiga Foundation for Sustainable Development. “IFL cores, combining forested river watersheds, are completely protected across a landscape, while responsible logging is permitted alongside conservation in buffer zones as long as it is not detrimental to the overall IFL.”
A precedent-setting business case for the Russian forest sector
While about a third of Russia’s boreal forest is pristine, it is under increasing pressure. A recent survey by WWF-Russia showed 21 million hectares of intact forest – 7.5 per cent of the total IFL area in Russia – were lost to fragmentation through non-natural fires, logging and mining between 2000-2013.
As the largest consumer of timber in this region, Mondi’s rejection of raw material detrimental to intact forests is likely to persuade other buyers to follow suit, making logging in these areas unprofitable for any companies left operating in them.
“Our hope is that other major companies also start sourcing more responsibly,” adds Shmatkov. “We welcome similar logging and purchasing moratoria from anyone committed to sustainability. We only need to transform 25 per cent of purchasing in a region to have a significant effect on the market and help preserve the most valuable areas of intact forest.”
In order to compensate for timber volumes lost through the moratorium, Mondi has been working on sustainable management of secondary forests close to mills together with regional partners within the Russian Boreal Forest Platform launched by WWF-Russia and co-founded by Mondi.
“Mondi is committed about doing business sustainably”, says Popov. “Through our Growing Responsibly model, we’re committed to zero deforestation, ending illegal logging and sourcing wood and fibre only from responsibly managed forests.
“This helps futureproof Mondi’s business and it is an approach that is open to other players in the Russian forest sector,” he adds.
The full text of the moratorium agreement is available on hcvf.ru website – a unique High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) database developed by WWF-Russia which helps forest companies define and conserve IFLs and IFAs in lease areas.
What are IFLs, IFAs and the Landscape Approach?
Intact Forest Landscape (IFL) – a forest territory which contains forest and non-forest ecosystems minimally influenced by human economic activity, with an area of at least 50,000ha and a minimum width of 10km (measured as the diameter of a circle entirely inscribed within the boundaries of the territory).
Intact Forest Area (IFA) or Intact Forest Tract (IFT) – an area less than 50,000ha but greater than 100ha, which exhibits no significant signs of human activity and which developed over the course of many changing generations of forest forming tree species primarily affected by natural processes. The minimum size can vary depending on the region and type of IFA/IFT.
Landscape Approach – an approach which aims to integrate conservation, sustainable use and restoration across a whole landscape mosaic to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services while ensuring room for subsistence and commercial activities. In the boreal forest, this involves the protection of the most valuable, large and non-fragmented IFL cores and their complete exclusion from any type of forestry activity, not only within certified areas but also in the landscape as a whole. In buffer zones, logging is permitted alongside conservation, which is key in regions where forests hold high value and support industry.