- CHALLENGES IN 2014
Absence of effective management system, absence of transparency, and qualitative legal system are the main problems in the forest management sector, which are the reasons of social dissatisfaction with the actions of forest officers.
The biggest challenges were:
Merging of economic and supervisory functions in the system of the State Agency of Forest Resources of Ukraine (SAFRU). Authorities that prescribe logging and supervise its accuracy (the Production Association “Ukrderzhlisproekt” and state specialized forest protection enterprises) are under management of SAFRU and financially depend on forest enterprises. For this reason, they can prescribe unnecessary sanitary and forest regeneration cutting because it is the financial interest of SAFRU. Such biased actions are signs of corruption and sources of indignation in the society.
Contradictory legal documents that regulate logging. Absence of a single document that standardizes performance of all types of forest cutting in Ukraine (currently we have four such documents) leads to misapplications and manipulations with the prescriptions of logging.
Absence of supervising in environmental and law enforcement authorities. The State Environmental Inspectorate ineffectively performed its supervision functions, without revealing violations. Unqualified work of the Police and Prosecution Service caused the absence of punishment even for serious facts of violation.
Absence of transparency and publicity in SAFRU work. There were no open data about the conditions of the forest resources in Ukraine, about planned and performed logging. Materials of forest management projects and maps were classified “for official use only” that made effective control impossible.
Logging in the forests that are valuable for conservation, absence of biodiversity preservation, and refusal of forest officers to establish new or enlarge existing national parks. Forest enterprises refused to approve the establishment of new protected areas and performed intensive logging in the existing protected areas. Rare species are not discovered and are not taken into account while performing forest activity. The total percentage of land with protective status in Ukraine was 5 %, while in the EU countries it reaches 15-20 %.
- SUCCESS OF THE 2014-2018 REFORM
Infallible success is access to information. Currently, felling permits register, plans of sanitary cuts, forest maps, and other materials, necessary for public supervision, are open to the public.
Change of the Sanitary forest regulations. There was prohibited clear cut logging in a number of protected areas. At the same time, these regulations have many disadvantages and complicate forest management activity for clean-living forest officers.
Change of the Law of Ukraine «On protected areas fund» and change of the «Forest Code of Ukraine» that introduced a concept of virgin forests and measures on their protection. At the same time, the real identification of virgin forests is not preformed yet.
The reform of state service created conditions for holding the transparent competition to fill the vacancies of SAFRU administration. Nevertheless, this reform was, in fact, ignored, and these competitions are not held.
3. NEXT STEPS OF THE REFORM
By Ordinance of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to transfer the Production Association “Ukrderzhlisproekt” and state specialized forest protection enterprises under the authority of the Ministry of Environment of Ukraine and to envisage their budgetary funding. This will provide independence of their actions from SAFRU interests.
To freeze forest regeneration cutting by Ordinance of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and to oblige SAFRU and the Ministry of Environment within three months to develop the single document regulating all types of forest cutting in Ukraine and ensure proper public participation in this process. Later this document needs to be adopted by Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.
To hold a series of trainings on violations in the forest industry for police officers and prosecution officers. To make investigations of environmental crimeі one of the priorities in work of these two authorities. Environmental safety is a significant part of the national safety.
To instruct SAFRU to approve the establishment of new national parks – Kholodny Yar (Cherkasy oblast), Chorny lis (Kirovohrad oblast), Dniprovsko-Teterivsky (Kyiv oblast), Nadsluchanska Shweitsariya (Rivne oblast) and to approve the enlargement of existing national parks – Verkhovynsky (Ivano-Frankivsk oblast), Cheremosky and Vyzhnytsky (Chernivtsi oblast), Dermansko-Ostrozky (Rivne oblast).
To cancel the land tax, which forest users are obliged to pay to local communities.
To provide budget funding for noncommercial forests.
Stakeholders in this process are: state authorities, environmental NGOs, activists, protected areas workers and forest officers, the Ministry of Environment and National Resources of Ukraine, local authorities, tourists, mass media, local people.
4. COST OF NON-DOING
Overexploitation of forests will cause the degradation of ecosystem services and significant budget losses in the future. Absence of powerful and biodiversity rich forest cover will lead to natural disasters, and the pressure from reconstruction will be put on local and state budgets. Thus, it is better to prevent the threat than to combat its consequences.
In case of absence of the budget fundng for noncommercial forests and saving the land tax (which forest enterprises are obliged to pay since January 1, 2020), forest enterprises will be forced to increase the volume of logging in order to pay the relevant taxes.
In case of absence of unified logging regulations and absence of separation of the supervisory and economic functions of SAFRU, forest officers will further manipulate with the prescription of different logging types, including logging in protected areas. This will affect negatively both biodiversity preservation and Ukraine’s reputation in the world.
5. IMPACT OF THE PROPOSED CHANGE FOR EACH CITIZEN AS A «FINAL CONSUMER» OF REFORMS
Sustainable forest management and establishment of new protected areas will improve living conditions of people through the improvement of environment. This will also save hundreds of millions of UAH on the infrastructure reconstruction after natural disasters and on the medical treatment of population because of polluted atmosphere and water. Besides, this will give an opportunity for tourism to develop, thanks to the preservation of unique natural territories. Finally, sustainable forest management will guarantee Ukrainian people the presence of renewable timber source in the future.