Does the FME have evidence of tenure rights? Are there any disputes by stakeholders regarding how land tenure was obtained? Is there a due process underway or completed to resolving the dispute?
Any FME get forest land lease by the bidding (auction) procedure, designated by the Forest Code and described in details by appropriate regulations. Forest service prepare forest plots for lease and announce auction by official publication on it’s website and in mass media usually a month before. Announcement is based upon key legal document of certain forest division – lesnichestvo and it’s reglament, which includes detailed maps, comprehensive description of forests in it’s borders, their quality, species, status, restrictions and permitted forms of use. Companies submit their applications with required documents and paid advance fee, and come to auction to compete by money. Initial price of the plot is usually stated by the forest service, using basic governmental costs, methodology and forest inventory data. If FME lose, advance is returning back, if win – they pay the difference, appeared as a result of bidding. The key cause for any dispute usually is now that this bidding model is the only way to get both forest lease for long term or right to get short term contract for maintenance (intermediate) logging, although former Code provided also another model – contest with social and municipal priorities. Currently, the stronger competition is, the more company pay for lease, and the less is able to spend for local social needs, which is actually voluntary.
Does the FME have valid permits for harvesting, road infrastructure, maps of its operating boundaries etc? Are they abiding by the regulations and their approved harvesting plans?
As soon as FME win auction, it signs the contract with forest service, usually for 49 years, which is a subject for state registration in special governmental service. On the base of this contract and existing inventory data company sign another contract with specialized project agency, which prepares legally required project of resource use on the lease for 10 years. It is a big basic document with maps, prescribing strategy of moving logging activities over the area, infrastructure (storages, roads, temporary camps, equipment, processing facilities, species to be logged, timetable etc.). This project then should be the subject for environmental expertise and adopted by regional government. Then FME create annual Declaration, which becomes a key permit for logging operations with specific volume of timber, designated species and parts of lease, technology, seasonal and infrastructural details. Unfortunately, declaration is not public document, and is not the permit itself, which may be checked and inspected by any special law enforcement agency or by public any time. FME simply report to forest service division each quarter about implementation of operations, designated by Declaration, and that’s it. None can check how realistic that reports are: inspection may come to check logging site only by any signal about violation.
Are there any reports of illegal logging or conversion inside the concession?
There is a set of reporting tables and forms for annual report on Declaration, which FME submit to the forest service. They include all the cases of registered cases of illegal logging on the leased area. No conversion of forest land status is possible on the lease until it is cancelled by the court or arbitration, since the lease is strongly protected by the status of state registered contract. If there was illegal logging occurred in the lease, it is not possible practically to reduce annual allowable cut volume, since it should require revision of the whole project, which is too serious and costly work. NGOs try to insert this requirement into basic legislation – to revise AAC in accordance to the loss of timber on the lease, occurred by illegal operations or fires, but not succeed. That bring even more lie and unreality into any reporting and give FME opportunities to log more than it is possible and available really on the lease – outside their lease, getting dozen of shady income for bribes and own commercial flexibility.
Is there any evidence of tree species being harvested that are CITES species and should be protected?
It is constantly happening everywhere by different hidden models, that restricted CITES Korean pine use to be logged and sold. Loggers know that any inspection is extremely weak, rare (once in 3 year official inspection of any company is prescribed by Forest Code), low financed and thus corrupt. They know also that it is very easy to get Korean pine in the process of official logging on their lease, and sell it immediately to any Chinese sawmill, which exist in almost every forest town of the South Far East, or timber yard, where it may easy be loaded to the train for China with documents of larch or spruce. After sawmill Korean pine turns as regular boards, whish species does not of any interest for anyone more. Customs officers are either not enough educated to fix all species, or also corrupt and may be bought by some hundreds bucks. Actually, restricted Korean pine might be checked and stopped by police on the road between logging site and timber yard or sawmill, if there is any honest and sustainable checkpoint or patrol of police. But, in the forest area police is the most corrupt system, often involved into organizing illegal logging itself, so there is no hope on police at all. Even if any truck with Korean pine is stopped, owner may easy explain that it was some trees only, which had to be logged unavoidably in the process of creation local trailing path, road or on-site timber storage. If not, and eventually court case is occurred on the ground of appeared document of legal violation, they may pay penalty easy, which will be compensated immediately by the sales of another illegal consignments.