New landscape reserve established in Russian Arkhangelsk region after 17 years of advocacy

Posted on 02 October 2019

The secured area will protect 300,000 hectares of rapidly disappearing Northern taiga, the last large array of intact forests in Europe.
In a historic move, a new protected reserve was created this week in the Russian taiga. The Regional Dvina-Pinega Landscape Reserve will help protect 300,000 hectares of intact forests, one of the last large expanses of pristine primeval forest in Europe and home to iconic species such as the wild forest reindeer. The announcement comes after 17 years of advocacy by WWF-Russia and other environmental NGOs.

The new reserve is located between the Northern Dvina and Pinega rivers in north-west Russia. The forests in this region are rapidly disappearing, with experts estimating that Russia could lose them all in about 80 years if they are not protected. The intact forests are critical for maintaining the ecological balance of the region as they regulate the climate, absorb greenhouse gases and release oxygen, protect the headstreams, and are home for many animals, plants and species, including the wild forest reindeer which is included in the IUCN Red Data Book.

"An important part of this process included WWF-Russia organizing interdisciplinary expeditions, after which a project of ecological and economic justification of the reserve establishment was drafted," said Andrey Shchegolev, WWF-Russia’s Forest Programme Director. "The negotiations with the local timber companies turned out to be the most difficult as the territory of the future reserve was leased by seven regional companies. The designation of borders was a challenging process but  we managed to find a solution that would allow local companies in the area to continue operations and preserve jobs for locals while protecting the most ecologically valuable part of the intact forest from logging.

"The establishment of this reserve is a historic event. And for WWF-Russia, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, it is the best gift we could have asked for." 

Credit: Igor Shpilenok / WWF-Russia

For local communities, this taiga is an important source of livelihood as a hunting, fishing and gathering place. The new protected area status of this forest zone will ensure that these communities get to enjoy these benefits for generations to come. Only intensive activities, like industrial logging, are not permitted in the reserve area.

The establishment of the reserve was preceded by significant field efforts, including the identification of flora and fauna and rare species; as well as designing the project and coordinating the borders with the timber industry and authorities. Implementation of sustainable forest management practices in the region required long-term efforts and cooperation of all stakeholders. 

"Today is a day of paramount importance, when we make a balanced decision to establish the Dvina-Pinega nature reserve where we have been working together for many years. I thank everyone who has taken part in the work – WWF-Russia, Greenpeace, who showed perseverance that helped reach a compromise decision. We thank a lot the forest companies who are aware of the importance of this work. It is crucial that today all participants in this process understand that only by joining forces we can do everything necessary to ensure that the natural system survives and performs its most important function in conserving the unique diversity of nature that we have inherited,” said Igor Orlov, Governor of Arkhangelsk Region.

Credit: Igor Shpilenok / WWF-Russia
WWF-Russia is grateful to all the stakeholders for their active participation in the dialogue and search for a compromise that addresses environmental, social and economic aspects, and emphasizes that further cooperation of businesses, environmental organizations and authorities will be required to preserve the status of the reserve and the balance of the interests in the future. A significant contribution will be the Dvinsky Forest Landscape Stewardship Initiative, to be launched by WWF-Russia in 2020, which will take into account the landscape approach for the integrated development of the territories. This will draw on international support from the  Living European Rivers and the Bankable Water Solutions, a WWF initiative that aims to support and finance solutions for the world’s most biodiverse landscapes.

History of the reserve establishment
Scientists from the Institute of Ecological Problems of the North of the Ural Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences first highlighted the ecological value of this territory in the early 2000s. From 2003 to 2009, WWF-Russia organized several expeditions to the Dvina-Pinega watershed. Scientists, forestry specialists, ecologists from Arkhangelsk, Moscow and St. Petersburg took part to study the area comprehensively. In 2008, the reserve was officially included in the Forest Plan of Arkhangelsk Region, and in 2011 it was included into the regional Territorial Planning Scheme.

In 2013, the reserve establishment project was successfully passed and was approved by the State Ecological Expertise. The negotiations between the environmental organizations, including WWF-Russia and Greenpeace, and regional timber companies to agree upon the borders of the reserve lasted for six years. Based on a balance of environmental, social and economic interests, the FSC voluntary forest certification was a powerful tool in helping finding a compromise. Finally, in April 2018, all the stakeholders reached a compromise which resulted in the signing of an agreement outlining the borders of the reserve.

"Fruitful dialogue between environmental organizations and companies on the creation of the Dvina-Pinega Reserve and the conservation of this unique northern taiga has become possible thanks to the FSC voluntary forest certification," said Nikolay Shmatkov, Director of FSC Russia. "As part of the implementation of the certification standard, timber companies must take into account the opinion of environmental organizations, scientists and conserve intact forest ecosystems. For us, the decision to create a reserve is also an important step on the way to agree on a mechanism for managing environmentally valuable natural resources within the framework of FSC certification throughout the country." 

In 2018-2019, additional studies were carried out, and the updated ecological and economic justification passed the state ecological expertise and approval in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation. On October 1, 2019, the government of Arkhangelsk Region adopted the reserve establishment resolution.

During this multi-year project, the work of WWF-Russia to establish the Dvina-Pinega reserve was supported by a number of individual donors, including Andrey Kartashov and corporate partners, such as IKEA, under the global WWF-IKEA Partnership. IKEA does not have forest leases in the area but supports WWF-Russia’s work on forest conservation with the purpose to go beyond their own supply chain needs.

“IKEA is committed to promoting sustainable forest management beyond its supply chain. This is what we call becoming forest positive. Our partnership with WWF is a good example when our efforts to make responsible forestry an industry norm goes way beyond our supply chain. An important effort of our work with WWF in Russia has been to support the development of a legal framework of how Intact Forest Landscapes can be managed and protected in a sustainable way considering economic, social and environmental interests. This has been reflected in the concept of 'national heritage'," said Mikhail Tarasov, Global Forestry manager at IKEA. "We are welcoming the decision of the government to create protected areas in the most environmentally valuable forests. This helps protect biodiversity and brings clarity to the companies working with forest management." 
Regional Dvina-Pinega Landscape Reserve
© WWF Russia

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