Stakeholders strive to multiply solutions for Russian forests

Inside perspective on the First Russian MAG Meeting

Forests in Russia are a resource of strategic significance, and in many regions the forest sector traditionally plays critical role in local economics. It is, for instance, true for our case study region, Voskresensky subregion of Nizhegorodsky region. With 75% of the subregion covered in forests, there are more than 50 forest processing plants there, 10 of which are crucial in this field of national industry. Eco-tourism is also well-developed, with two main tourist attractions – Svetloyar lake natural monument and Rusenikhinskoye settlement site ancient monument. Also, close to the case study, there is the only natural park of Nizhegorodsky region, Voskresenskoye Povetluzhye.

At the end of September, 2018, a first meeting of stakeholders for the Russian case study took place right in its area, in the grounds of “Grey Horse” equestrian club. The reasoning behind it was mostly based on convenience factor, for most of stakeholders invited were from nearby area. A round table gathered together local municipality members, forest administration officials, employees of the national park and forest lands’ tenants, as well as other local residents, all united by their concern about problems of forest and forest industry in particular.

During the discussions, quite a number of issues were mentioned and taken into account, but still the main topic of the day was a problem of multipurpose forest use. This stems from current Russian forest law, that allows renting a forest plot for only one purpose at once, along with the possibility for different tenants to rent the same plot, each for their own use, that often leads to conflicts and inefficiency in the consumption of the forest’s ecosystem services.

All of the stakeholders agreed that something needs to be done with the situation and several possible innovation mechanisms were suggested. However, other problems, such as regrettably short maximum lease terms of forest plots, were also the subject of discussions, and every participant had something to add, so that at the end, a framework for a future innovation action was sure to contain the ways of dealing with those obstacles as well.

For example, the need for markets creation for regulating forest ecosystem services was stated repeatedly as the best possible solution for forest tenants, as it would motivate them to preserve such services. Additional suggestions included increasing the number of possible ways of forest use (because for now, ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration are not even mentioned in forest law) and improving the overall state of the environment in forest regions.

Apprehensions and hopes alike were voiced during the conversation, but at the end of the meeting, when the time came to fill the questionnaires, everyone expressed their gratitude for the invitation to the first meeting, and  their high hopes for the future of this innovation project – hopes that we are so willing to justify.

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