FSC Russia Acts to Combat Illegal Salvage Logging in the Country

FSC / Milan Reška
Upwards shot of tree in forest in spring
FSC / Milan Reška
December 8, 2020

Growing concerns over illegal salvage logging in the Russian Federation prompted FSC Russia to launch a study to assess the risks of illegal timber – especially timber obtained illegally through salvage logging – entering FSC supply chains.

Illegal logging is a serious problem recognised by authorities in Russia due to its devastating impacts on the environment, economy, and local communities. 
Illegal salvage logging is one of the most prevalent activities for obtaining illegal timber in the country, where 6,800 cases of illegal logging took place only in the first half of 2020, according to the Federal Forestry Agency. 

Salvage logging, which means the extraordinary harvesting of damaged trees, can occur legally under certain conditions. For example in situations following storms or fires in order to recover their commercial value, to prevent the outbreak of insect pests, or to remove hazardous working conditions. It becomes problematic when companies obtain their permit illegally or carry out illegal logging activities. FSC certification requires salvage logging to be duly recorded and to be demonstrably in compliance with relevant harvesting regulations.

Despite the measures taken by the Russian government to combat this issue, illegal salvage logging remains a rampant problem across the country and a great concern for FSC. Hence, FSC Russia decided to launch a comprehensive research project to measure the likelihood and risks of illegal timber obtained through salvage logging, from entering FSC’s supply chains. 

The study will analyze the occurrence of salvage logging in FSC-certified forests and assess the amount of salvaged timber used by FSC certificate holders. FSC will consult certification bodies and collect additional input from experts in the field - if needed - to develop special measures for preventing timber obtained illegally through salvage logging, from entering the FSC system. The study will also draw policy-related conclusions by analyzing loopholes in legislations and law enforcement – if any.

Cases of illegal salvage logging highlighted by NGOs and experts, and the reports released by WWF Russia in 2019 and 2020, have made more apparent the pressing need for credible research into the possibility of having timber obtained illegally through salvage logging in FSC’s supply chains in Russia.

The study is supported by FSC International and responsible timber companies. 

FSC Russia welcomes input from civil society activists on controversial cases where FSC certificate holders are allegedly associated with salvage logging - even if they lack proper justification, or cases where a certificate holder carried out logging activities with serious violations of legal provisions. FSC has a response mechanism for such signals in place. Please contact FSC Russia Director Nikolay Shmatkov at n.shmatkov@fsc.org.

What is salvage logging?

Salvage logging, also sometimes called sanitation logging, is a harvest of trees in forest stands that have been destroyed or damaged by wind, fires, pests and other natural disturbances to improve forest health. In many cases, it is important to cut down infected, damaged or dead trees or all trees if the stand’s resilience is lost and to recover the forest ability to provide important products and services to humans (e.g. protection of soils and water). Salvage logging may prevent the diseases or pests from spreading to nearby healthy trees and also reduce the threat of future forest fires. The legal provisions for salvage logging in Russia is a Forest Pathology Statement that contains detailed justification and is approved by regional authorities in charge of forest. As shown in research by WWF Russia, there are high risks of corruption associated with preparation of Forest Pathology Statements. This may result in unjustified salvage logging in protected and other high conservation value forests.  

About FSC

FSC (Forest Stewardship Council®) — a global not-for-profit organization that sets the standards for what is a responsibly managed forest, both environmentally and socially. 
The responsible forest management aims to ensure the legality of logging and compliance with high environmental and social requirements, including special conservation of biological diversity on harvest areas, protection of high conservation value forests, and respect for the interests of local people and Indigenous Peoples, etc.

Russia has the largest area of FSC-certified forests. As of December 1, 2020, globally 221.5 million hectares were certified according to FSC, of which 56.5 million hectares in Russia.