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National Park for a million

In the valley of the Bikin River, a national park with a size of more than 1 million hectares

National Park for a million

The Governor of Primorye, Vladimir Miklushevsky, announced that a national park of more than a million hectares is being created in the Bikin River valley. At the same time, almost two-thirds of the land will be allotted for the traditional occupations of the indigenous small-numbered peoples of the region. About 600 representatives of small indigenous peoples of Primorye live in this area, whose main occupation is hunting for fur animals and fishing.

In the Bikin valley, the taiga has been preserved, which has long been claimed by large timber companies. The creation of the park means that the state has prioritized the interests of local residents. The implementation of the EastRussia project is commented on by the well-known seaside ecologist, winner of the UN Hero of the Forest Prize, Anatoly Lebedev, who himself put a lot of effort into preserving the Ussuri taiga.

- Anatoly Vasilievich, something happened that no one believed: the status of the national park will be preserved from deforestation of the mountainous areas of Sikhote-Alin.

- Everyone who really cares about the fate of the "seaside Amazon" - Bikin, have been waiting for this for a quarter of a century. They waited, then going out with weapons against the lumberjacks on the mountain passes, then finding hope, then making endless petitions in defense of the virgin taiga.

Bikin was lucky that he was home not only for Udege, but also for the tiger. Putin himself personally patronizes us.

I would like to sincerely thank Director of the Amur branch of WWF Yuri Darman for all the efforts he and his team have undertaken to substantiate this project both in the corridors of power and in the communities of the indigenous inhabitants of these places.

- Representatives of the Udege communities have long demanded the inviolability of their hunting grounds, but they usually paid little attention to their interests when it came to the development of the timber industry in Primorye. What outweighed the scales?

- Joint work of ecologists and the public. When Pavel Sulyandziga and I were developing the first timid prototype of a special sparing forest management regime for Bikin, taking into account the interests of the aborigines, we were asked again: “How many forests are there - 1,5 million hectares, for 1,5 thousand people? This is a thousand hectares for each for nothing, when we are huddled here each on six dacha acres. "

During these years, the Udege pinned great hopes on their distinguished countrymen, brothers Sulyandzig, Pavel and Rodion, who made a brilliant Russian and international career. But Paul, entering the UN Permanent Forum on Aboriginal Affairs, quickly realized that the problems of the Udege are the same as those of other Aboriginal people in different countries, and it is not easy to defend them. Great representatives of Australian Aborigines, American and Canadian Indians, leaders of many forest tribes of the Amazon and Southeast Asia put their lives on the struggle for the rights of indigenous peoples.

Moreover, it turned out that the small peoples of Russia within the USSR did not know many of the problems that poisoned the lives of the aborigines in other countries. Realizing the social vulnerability of these communities, the state simply gave them everything they needed for a quiet life, buying out their products, and no one thought that at the same time they were being weaned from being full-fledged citizens and surviving on their own. At the time of the widespread Americanization of Russian ideology in the 90s, a special scientific term was borrowed for the Soviet model of caring for aborigines and their culture - "paternalism", which meant something like overprotectiveness. With an inevitable negative connotation. But it is worth remembering that this approach to both people and their territory, firstly, took into account the interests of the majority, and not only the elites, and was provided with real state and popular control, including environmental control.

- In Primorye there was already an experience of creating the Udege Legend national park, but this project showed the local population that the forest is protected not only from lumberjacks or poachers, but also from them. What changed?

- The experience of managing such territories has appeared. Personally, I believe that the provocative campaign against the Udege Legend National Park, created in 2007, was fanned by the timber industry. The Bikin Udege saw how difficult the process of establishing a national park in the neighboring Krasnoarmeisky district was. Moreover, the leaders of the Udege community refused to support the idea of ​​creating a national park throughout Bikin. The logic of some members of the community is simple: while this is our rent and there is our director, the main law for us is the experience of our ancestors, which never allowed us to harm our native nursery nature. And an official will come as the director of the park, and freedom and traditional culture will end. They won't let the indigenous people either hunt or fish, as they didn't in the neighboring "Udege Legend" on Bolshaya Ussurka, but they will open the gates to elite poachers. Local Udege people complained that they were not allowed to pick mushrooms or prepare firewood.

It seemed to the older generation of Udege that if the taiga fed them well before, it would feed them now, in the era of business and democracy. In 2009, the "Tigr" community received a lease of forests in the walnut-producing zone of middle Bikin. None of the Udege hunters was even interested in who made this lease for them. It seemed to them that justice had fallen from the sky, when in fact the money for the rent was allocated by the German government as part of a climate project for environmentalists from WWF. They also did not think about who was protecting their forests from the timber merchants who were trying to reach Bikin “with thinning”.

- So all the same, local people will have an opportunity to use forest resources?

- Problems can be solved, but not speculated on them. It is the Bikin project that opens up completely new opportunities and models of territory management for both ecologists and aborigines - it is not without reason that it is considered a pilot project. First of all, because it will raise to the rank of law the real consideration of the interests of the indigenous population when creating a protected natural area, will form a balanced system of protection of all its values ​​- socio-cultural, ecological, geopolitical and economic. To this end, the national Aboriginal Council, headed by a chairman at the rank of deputy director of the park, who is elected by the entire community, should play a decisive role in the management of the park.

Along with this, the Regulation on the Park provides for a clear zoning of the territory, taking into account the actual status of its various sites. 260 thousand hectares at the very watersheds in the north and south are allocated to a strict protected zone, 109 thousand hectares - to a special protection zone, where only excursions along certain routes are allowed. About the same amount is allocated by the designers to the recreational zone along the river valleys, where it is allowed to engage in amateur hunting and fishing, organized tourism and procurement of taiga gifts for their needs. The most significant part of the territory - 674 thousand hectares, or 72% - is set aside for the zone of traditional nature use, where local hunters retain all their rights and fishing opportunities, simply by renewing lease agreements. For the Tigr community, the current tenant of the middle Bikin, the project retains the right to harvest 14 cubic meters of timber for its own needs. And all local residents of the four villages and their families retain the right to freely visit the park's territory, wherever they actually live.

It is very important to add that the size of the once established zones of the park will not be subject to change, no matter how anyone wants and no matter how familiar it may be for some regions of Russia, to the detriment of environmental objectives. On the other hand, there is hope that for a number of similar protected areas of the Far East and Siberia located on aboriginal lands, this model and the changes in the law initiated by it will help resolve a number of sore conflicts between the administrations of the protected areas and local nomads and hunters. Undoubtedly, the described format of the park can still undergo a number of deformations when passing through the State Duma, which skillfully blocks reasonable initiatives for the development of the country and its regions, if they do not contain loopholes for the oligarchs to enrich. All hope is for those who set the stage for the process - for the presidential administration. If only these people had enough will not to ruin the long-suffering Bikin project in the light of heavy global concerns.
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