Silence Has Been Broken – Harvesters Disturb the Wildlife Breeding Period in Ukraine

Bogomaz Conservation Photography / WWF Ukraine
A young coniferous forest
Bogomaz Conservation Photography / WWF Ukraine
January 22, 2022

The ‘period of silence’ is the time of the year when wild animals breed and it is prohibited to carry out activities that are a source of noise and disturbance in animal breeding sites, such as fireworks, use of small motor vessels, rallies or sanitary cuts of trees. In Ukraine, that period is set from 1 April to 15 June and applies to all forests, whether they are FSC certified or not.

Unfortunately, the legislation is not strictly adhered to by forest managers in Ukraine, and sanitary felling operations are undertaken in Ukraine’s forests. Sanitary felling is removal of trees that died or were damaged as a result of pests, diseases, wind or fire. Regular felling, however, is still allowed at this time. The contradictions in the laws around silence period are part of the reason causing infringements.

As the most trusted tool for responsible forest management, FSC must make sure that its system of certification reinforces and complements national laws in the countries where it operates. Therefore, FSC must ensure that the period of silence in Ukraine is adhered to in FSC-certified areas. Thanks to publicly available data, FSC Ukraine recently came into possession of evidence that some FSC certificate holders have broken the law and at the same time - the FSC standards.

FSC has escalated this evidence to the relevant certification bodies at the national and international level as well as ASI. FSC has instructed them to investigate these probable breaches immediately, and to take strong actions should the breaches be confirmed. This has in turn led to ten certificates being suspended. Other certificate holders breaching the rules risk the same consequences. The suspension of certificate means that the certificate holder cannot make any FSC claims on sales after the date of the suspension.  

Despite the challenges and inconsistencies posed by the national regulations, most FSC certificate holders strictly follow the rules. In an attempt to strengthen enforcement of law and governance, FSC has initiated dialogues with Ukrainian authorities, forestry enterprises, and civil society stakeholders to revise and align the national forest policies, with the aim of removing such inconsistencies and contradictions.

These multi-stakeholder, decision-making initiatives called “Forest Dialogues” and “Ukrainian Forest Platform” offer support in developing solutions through open conversations between different parties that have an interest and relevance in forest policy formulation. The goal is to find a way forward that can be broadly accepted by all relevant parties: environmental NGOs, wood-working companies as well as authorities.

The dialogues will pave the way for Ukraine to develop an improved forest governance framework and to better enforce its forestry legislation, including the one related to sanitary logging. Although it is a process that will take time given the complexities and perspectives involved, FSC’s leadership in Ukraine clearly demonstrates that our mission goes beyond certification of forests in Ukraine.  Ultimately, FSC has an important and positive role to play in helping societies come together to agree on the longer-term vision and value of forests in their countries.

If you want to learn more about the shortcomings of the regulation banning sanitary cuttings during the “period of silence” in Law № 322 , read the FSC Ukraine analytical report on ‘Compliance on the legislation requirements regarding the ‘period of silence’ in forestry’.