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Forest in the Far Eastern Federal District: it’s impossible to count
In Russia, there is still no accurate centralized information on available forest resources in the Far East
The Far East is the leader in forest smuggling in Russia, while the volume of illegal logging is impossible to establish. The country does not have accurate centralized data on high-quality forest management; for most of the macroregion, it has not been carried out for many decades.
How many forests are there in the forest?
Openness and reliability of information on accessible forest resources, on which the prospects for forestry activity depend, is one of the most pressing issues of the industry, say public figures and politicians, representatives of the executive branch and business.
“Today we see that this information is not, and it is scattered. A variety of government bases provide completely different data. As for information on forest management, for the most part these are documents 10-15-20 years old, which does not allow worthy planning of any business. And we won’t be able to manage these resources effectively until we have a single information space, ”said Nikolai Nikolaev, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Natural Resources, Property and Land Relations.
According to him, this state of affairs plays into the hands of only the shadow business. Representatives of the forest business agree with this.
“Forest inventory information today is the main source of quantitative and qualitative data on forest resources. It is critically important that the forest inventory materials are relevant (carried out no more than ten years ago) and accurate, since economic measures in the forest area and the effectiveness of forest management depend on this. Unfortunately, now in Russia these indicators are low, and businesses have to bear the costs of forest management, performing the state function, ”says Alexander Protchenko, head of the Forest Management department at Sveza.
This situation is typical for the whole country, and for the Far East in particular. Not so long ago, the head of the forest department of Greenpeace Russia, Alexei Yaroshenko, said that official information on the stocks of Far Eastern timber (according to Rosleskhoz for 2019, in the Far Eastern Federal District, on average, they amounted to 74 cubic meters per hectare - approx. Ed.) Is deliberately unreliable, since high-quality forest management most of the region has not been carried out for many decades.
He notes that the Far East is a territory initially rich in forest resources, depleted by decades of predatory forest management and catastrophic forest fires. According to Yaroshenko, if we continue to use the territory suitable for forest use, increasing volumes of harvesting and not investing in intensive forest cultivation and protection from fires, then valuable productive forests will be finished within the next decade.
The ecologist points out that the methodological base is becoming obsolete. For example, the estimated cutting area is determined according to old algorithms prepared in due time for other natural and economic conditions.
In order to rectify the situation, Roslesinforg Federal State Budgetary Institution (subordinate to the Federal Forestry Agency) is developing a new work technology based on an automated taxation procedure based on statistics from the state forest inventory and automation of the interpretation of satellite imagery.
“Modern digital technologies are being actively introduced, which allow high-quality work to be carried out in large areas using automated processing and analysis of Earth remote sensing data using machine learning. To increase efficiency, criteria and a zoning scheme for forest lands for forest management purposes have been developed for the intensity of forest use and forest management. This will improve the quality of information about forests, optimize the costs of production and support for work in the zone of intensive forest management, ”EastRussia was told in the Federal Forestry Agency.
The introduction of new methods should reduce the time for providing relevant data by several times. According to the agency’s plans, the relevance of information about forests in the zone of their active use will be brought up to 90% over the next ten years.
The log was at stake
At the same time, within the framework of the Digital Government Administration project of the Digital Economy national program, Rosleskhoz developed the concept of the Digital Forest electronic platform. The mechanisms for its implementation are now being actively discussed at various venues, including with State Duma deputies, since innovation will require changes in forest legislation.
“We approach it a little more broadly, because information on forests in itself is half the battle, without the practical application of this information, the system will not be completely effective, and its creation will probably not be justified enough,” says the deputy director of the state department policy and regulation in the field of forest resources and hunting economy of the Ministry of Natural Resources Roman Rudakov. - Therefore, we proceed more from the fact that this information should be consistent with the mechanisms for providing forest plots for use, should enable a potential forest user to not only receive information about the territories that he wanted to use, but also give him the right to exercise, in fact, get these sites. "
The official agrees that the future information resource should be correlated with existing databases, for example, with the Unified Automated System for Accounting of Wood and Transactions with It (Les-EGAIS). Otherwise, there are two sources of information that relate to the legality of logging.
It is expected that the Digital Forest platform will bring together the best technological developments, summarize data from existing forestry information systems and related departments.
“The prototype of the cartographic component of this system has already been implemented by the Roslesinforg Federal State Budgetary Institution in the form of an interactive map of the Forests of Russia, where for the first time at the federal level information on leased forest plots is combined and visualized on a cartographic web resource. Today, the map displays data from statistical reporting forms of the state forest register, data on illegal logging, on reserves and much more, ”the Rosleskhoz press service said.
Forest managers are only happy with the advent of digitalization. However, nowadays enterprises only use digitized forest maps and electronic taxation descriptions in a targeted manner. Only affluent companies can afford this.
“Those companies that have the resources to buy ready-made digital maps and databases from Roslesinforg or create information systems on their own have completely switched to digital, which is probably less expensive, but more laborious. For the rest of the tenant-loggers, it is either too expensive or the staff does not have the competencies for high-quality digitization, ”said Alexander Protchenko, representative of Sveza, to EastRussia.
In his opinion, the Digital Forest project has a chance to change the situation: make digital maps available, increase the relevance and accuracy of forest data, make the dialogue between business and government more substantive, based on real information about resources, and facilitate the selection of sites for new projects . “Now in some regions the process is carried out“ manually ”: for the investor they provide paper extracts from the register of forest plots with forest blocks free from rent. Document preparation is becoming a long and inefficient process. When free sites are presented on an interactive map, selecting a resource base for investment projects will become easier and faster, ”said the manager.
A look from space
In 2017, after legislative changes, information on the availability of accessible areas for forest management was also able to be published on their Internet resources by state authorities of the regions and municipal self-government, which also required the development of approaches to digitalization. In the Far East, the Khabarovsk Territory turned out to be the most advanced in this matter, having developed its solution based on the Kedr satellite forest monitoring system. The latter initially served mainly to combat the black lumberjacks. By the way, according to the Accounts Chamber, in 2018 the Khabarovsk Territory accounted for 3,9% of the total damage from illegal logging in Russia, which is less than a number of other forest regions of the country.
With the participation of the Regional Ministry of Information Technology and Communications, various documents were digitized, ranging from forest inventory materials, which are usually stored on paper tablets in forestries, to forest declarations, forest development projects, and lease agreements. The integrated system was based on an algorithm for automatically comparing satellite images that are taken at a certain interval. Using them with high accuracy online you can understand where the forest cover has changed.
“They outlined the outlines of forest areas where timber harvesting should be lawful. In accordance with this, we can analyze how intensively the economic activity is conducted, whether it goes beyond the framework of the declaration, etc., ”the ministry explained. - After that, we analyzed all the legislation, made a kind of robot that in a few seconds decides to accept or not a forest declaration, does the forest management project comply with the forestry regulations. The system compares whether logging is allowed in this area. ”
It is expected that the experience of the Khabarovsk Territory will be extended to other regions of the Far East. In addition, it can be taken into account when creating the regional portal Lesvostok.RF in 2020, the work on which is under the auspices of the Ministry for the Development of the Far East with the involvement of the Development Fund for the Far East and the Arctic (FRDV). It is assumed that the Internet service will consist of several blocks, including an open interactive map on which the investor will be able to select the forest of interest to him, and send an application for transfer of the cutting area for use to the authorized body through electronic document management. An online trading platform is also provided for the distribution of rights to use forest plots through an auction, which, according to the initiators of the project, will exclude closed and non-transparent mechanisms for allocating plots, and the terms for their provision will be reduced by three times.
EastRussia FRDV informed that it is planned to use modern technologies for forest monitoring and assessment, automated aerial photograph analysis, electronic accounting and workflow in creating the web resource, but refrained from detailed comments.
As Rosleskhoz was informed, according to the results of the experiment to create the Lesvostok.RF portal, the optimal way to implement this service throughout Russia will be determined. In turn, the Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Natural Resources Nikolai Nikolaev believes that the development of the timber industry of the Far East cannot be considered in isolation from other forest regions, since the measures taken in one form or another affect the industry as a whole.