Lake Baikal Area Under Sway of Illegal Loggers

Lake Baikal Area Under Sway of Illegal Loggers


Federal Agency for Forestry Affairs (Rosleskhoz) officially stated: the vast majority of cases of forest theft happened in the Irkutsk region located in southeastern Siberia in the basins of the Angara, Lena, and Nizhnyaya Tunguska rivers. In the last two years, the damage from the theft of logged timber there reached almost 40 billion rubles ($ 610,664,000.)

Siberia and the Far East are known as "forestry" regions of Russia. The Krasnoyarsk territory and Irkutsk region alone account for about a fifth of commercial timber reserves -- from the theoretical point of view. It is not ruled out this has not been so for a long time, if one recalls the sweeping forest fires and illegal felling of timber. According to the government of the Irkutsk region, the damage from timber theft reached almost 40 billion rubles ($ 610,664,000) in the last two years. The region’s official revenues from the timber industry are many times smaller.

"Inspection of the commission of the Federal Forestry Agency revealed violations in the process of doing forest sanitation,” says Teymur Magomedov, deputy prime minister of the Irkutsk region. “The area of illegal logging has reached 36,500 ha.”

At the end of January, Sergey Anoprienko, the head of the Federal Forestry Agency, announced the scale of the disaster: 70 to 80 percent of illegal felling happens exactly in the Irkutsk region. While the timber is harvested in 41 regions of Russia.

In order to see the scope of timber theft, it is enough to look through the official documents of the regional prosecutor's office.

January 2020: an individual was convicted for theft of 1 million rubles ($ 15298.1); a case on damage of 33 million rubles ($ 504,837.3) was initiated; a case on felling of cedar wood was instituted; another case on cedar wood; a case on failed bribing of the police by an illegal logger; a case on abuse of authority by officials of the regional forestry agency.

February: court convicted a person who cut 3 million rubles ($ 45894.3) worth of taiga, a boreal forest or snow forest; a lease agreement on sanitary felling on a forest plot was terminated, as there was suspicion over its inconsistency.

And this is just the beginning of the year…

Sanitary felling is carried out under special control. Earlier, it was repeatedly said that last years the malefactors got a chance to log commercial timber under the pretext of its infestation with pests. Certainly, this was done in league with officials, who were required to drop a signature on permission for the felling. At the same time, recent inspections showed that almost a half of sanitary felling, conducted in the Irkutsk region for the last three years, was mandated without any good reason. At present, the most flagrant cases are being investigated. Criminal cases for 103 million rubles ($ 1,575,704.3) were initiated in the Taishet districtand for 47 million rubles ($ 719,010.7), in the Slyudyanka district of the Irkutsk region. Sergey Sheverda, the former regional minister of forestry, who is suspected of involvement in felling in the state nature reserve Tukolon, is in custody for a long time. The damage there amounted to 748 million rubles ($ 11,442,978.8.)

After Igor Kobzev's appointment to the position of acting governor of the region, a new strategy to clear the industry of corruption. The former management of the timber industry complex drove it to the point where the entire function of local forestry enterprises was reduced to selling timber to entrepreneurs. It was done under the veil of the same sanitary felling. "In fact, our forestry sector has forgotten how to work properly and is no longer able to ensure an effective protection and reproduction of the forests," states Dmitry Petrenev, acting forestry minister of the Irkutsk region. Currently, the main tasks are to liquidate debts of the regional timber industry, which have reached 650 million rubles ($ 994,376.5), and to prioritize reforestation.

Undoubtedly, in the near future, all attention of federal watchdogs will be focused on the Irkutsk region. "A while back, Rosleskhoz actually blocked all reasonable instructions by Yury Trutnev, President Putin’s plenipotentiary representative in the Far-Eastern federal district, as regards Far Eastern forests and declared that they will solve all problems through the example of the Irkutsk region,” Evgeny Schwartz, director of the environmental protection policy of WWF in Russia, told “Today, the new head of the Federal Agency for Forestry is trying to "get rid of" the inheritance of Ivan Valentik, at the same time using his own previous decisions. Valentik protected deputy governor Sheverda from dismissal and arrest for several months – at least, this is the opinion of some State Duma deputies. When Valentik was dismissed, Sheverda was removed from the post as well. So what will happen next with the lauded initiatives against forest devastation in the Irkutsk region? Chances are they will be declared Rosleskhoz chief Anoprienko's achievements.”