The forest is cut down, the sparks do not fly – Kommersant Newspaper No. 81 (7282) of 05/12/2022

The Ministry of Natural Resources intends to allow spraying in protective forests near settlements and financial facilities. Officials believe such a measure will not allow forest fires to spread to homes and businesses. Russia’s Greenpeace insists that logging near residential areas “will inevitably lead to many social conflicts and provoke a wave of popular outrage.”

The draft amendments to the Forest Code of the Russian Federation were published by the Ministry of Natural Resources for public discussion. According to the document, the department proposes to allow clearing in protective forests adjacent to settlements and financial facilities to create “firefighters”.

Protective forests are of particular value and a special legal regime is established for their use, conservation and protection. For example, these can be forests in specially protected natural areas, urban forests, as well as those that perform protection functions. Now the Forest Code prohibits clean cuts in this area. There are only a few exceptions. In particular, the ban does not apply if it is necessary to carry out rescue operations.

The explanatory note states that the amendments will help protect settlements and economic facilities from the threat of forest fires: “As a rule, protective forests have common borders with settlements, including those threatened by natural fires their. “Some of the forest plantations adjacent to settlements and economic facilities belong to specially protected natural areas and forests that perform the functions of protection of natural and other objects,” the explanatory note notes. “Measures to prevent forest fires related to clearing are prohibited in such forests. At the same time, a set of measures to protect the settlement will be effective only in the case of a full contour of fire dams. “Any remaining sites will underestimate the work done.” The authors of the initiative are convinced that, “unfortunately, there is no alternative to fire barriers”: “The same metal strips will only slightly simplify further firefighting work; in addition, in most cases they can also not be done without cutting technological corridors.”

The document states that “to reduce the risk of abuse” the Ministry of Natural Resources will not completely lift the ban on clearing. According to the amendments, they can only be implemented in the case of “measures to protect settlements and soils that are potentially exposed to the threat of forest fires and other landscape fires”. The decision to carry out such areas will be made by regional or local officials.

The same relaxations have been proposed for specially protected forest areas, which include protected forests and areas along water bodies.

Aleksey Yaroshenko from Greenpeace Russia points out that the forests around the cities are mainly characterized as protective. According to him, the territories that may be affected by this bill represent about 2% of Russian forests. “For city dwellers, these forests are the most important,” notes the ecologist. “If such logging starts en masse in the regions of Russia, it will inevitably lead to many social conflicts and will cause a wave of popular indignation. “People on the ground more often understand that such ‘fire safety’ has a very conditional relation to fire safety, most of the time it just serves as an excuse to cut something close to the transport routes.”

However, according to Mr. Yaroshenko, behind the proposal of the Ministry of Natural Resources “there is no such malicious intention as a widespread myth among officials that a forest next to a settlement poses a greater risk of fire than the treeless area.” “In fact, everything is just the opposite: most landscape fires go to settlements and infrastructure not from forests, but from treeless areas with dry grass, which dries evenly and quickly, burns hot and through which the fire is easily spread by the wind. . “over long distances,” he says.

Anna Vassilieva

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