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Алексей Ярошенко, руководитель лесного отдела Гринпис России

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Legality of wood harvested during sanitary (salvage) logging needs thorough verification

Joint statement by WWF Russia and Greenpeace Russia


Sanitary (salvage) logging accounts for about 1/6 of the total volume of wood harvested annually in Russia. According to the Russian State Statistics Service, in the period 2011-2016 sanitary (salvage) logging, both in selective and clearcut form, produced on average 32.1 million cubic meters of wood per year, out of a total annual harvest for the same period of 197.8 million cubic meters.

In theory, sanitary (salvage) logging involves cutting dead or damaged forest stands, usually with the goal of halting the spread of pests and diseases. But in practice, sanitary logging is often used only as a mechanism to get around various prohibitions and restrictions on timber harvesting, especially in protected areas and so-called “protective forests” (riparian buffers, urban green zones, etc.), This results in the exceeding of the permitted logging volume or violation of timber harvesting regulations.

The experience of our organizations in different regions of Russia shows that the main motive for the authorization of sanitary logging is a desire to harvest wood in those forests where that is normally not allowed, including due to legal restrictions. Selective sanitary logging often takes the form of skimming the cream (selecting the most economically valuable timber trees), and often leads to decline in the biological stability and productivity of forest stands, and their degradation. Sanitary clearcuts are often identical to commercial clearcuts, with the only difference being that limitations concerning environmental or social functions of forests are often not taken into consideration. There are cases when sanitary logging has been carried out responsibly and competently, but this is not common practice.

In addition, we have observed cases when large-scale sanitary logging was planned for a long time in advance (before the expiring of official regional forest management plans), and led to dramatic exceeding of the normal annual allowable cut of timber established by forestry regulations.

Russian law enforcement agencies confirm the high level of criminalization of sanitary logging. Abuse of sanitary logging for commercial purposes figures prominently among the most high-profile cases of illegal logging uncovered by the authorities in the past several years.

At the same time, wood harvested as a result of sanitary logging, with rare exceptions, is purchased by consumers and exporters together with wood from any other type of logging. Among its purchasers are processors who strive to be law-abiding and responsible, including those acting within the framework of forest certification and international anti-illegal logging legislation. As a rule, permits for sanitary logging are issued without visible violations, and it is often only during field inspections that gross violations of Russian law are detected.

In the coming years further deterioration of the situation is possible due to a draft federal law prepared by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources that would abandon restrictions on sanitary clearcutting in riparian zones and in forests within the Central ecological zone within Baikal's natural territories (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

We believe that if wood from the Russian Federation was harvested using sanitary logging there is a very great risk that it was harvested with significant violations of national legislation (i.e. illegally).

We also note that the problems of the abuse of sanitary logging (selection of the most economically valuable timber trees rather than sick, damaged or dying trees, with resulting declines in biological stability and stand productivity) are also widely observed during abuse of another sylvicultural practice: so-called “intermediate logging” in mature stands.

These facts should be considered during wood supply audits in the framework of voluntary forest certification (including FSC) and during the confirmation of the legal origin of wood, including within the framework of the European Regulation 995/2010 requirements for wood and the US Lacey Act).

Greenpeace Russia and WWF Russia call on:

all responsible forest managers to strictly avoid the abuse of sanitary logging in violation of national legislation, as well as from conducting forest tending ("intermediate logging") in mature and over-mature forest stands;

all responsible consumers and processors of wood to refuse to purchase wood harvested during sanitary logging and forest tending ("intermediate logging") of mature stands, without the organization of thorough field investigation of their legality.


December 6, 2016

Nikolay Shmatkov, Forest Program Director, WWF Russia

Alexey Yaroshenko, Forest Unit Head, Greenpeace Russia



О необходимости особенно тщательной проверки законности заготавливаемой при санитарно-оздоровительных мероприятиях древесины. Совместное заявление WWF России и Гринпис России (PDF, in Russian)

Legality of wood harvested during sanitary (salvage) logging needs thorough verification. Joint statement by WWF Russia and Greenpeace Russia (PDF, in English)


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