On the prospects of forestry on abandoned agricultural lands

In June 2022, the Government of the Russian Federation signed a decree regulating forestry on abandoned agricultural lands. Article about the prospects for forestry on agricultural lands with comments by the president of the Russian Forest association, Olga Kalyuzhnaya. In our material, we summarize the results of a year of work in this area and discuss whether this will be the first step towards the emergence of private forests in the country.

  • The area of unused agricultural land suitable for growing forests is more than 75 million hectares. This is a colossal reserve: abandoned pastures and arable lands, overgrown with forests, are now not used and are not involved in economic turnover.
  • On these lands, it is possible to consistently and effectively work out the mechanism of private ownership of forests, which is widespread in other countries. For example, in Sweden, 82% of the forest fund is privately owned, in Finland - about 68%. In Russia, the topic of distribution of ownership of forest areas between the state and the private sector is one of the most controversial and discussed.

A big step forward in this direction was Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 1509 dated September 21, 2020, which approved the regulation on the specifics of the use, protection, protection, and reproduction of forests located on agricultural lands. The first edition of this document assumed the notification nature of the use of forests on agricultural land. Decree No. 1043 of June 8, 2022 made significant changes to it: now the owner of the site needs to obtain a permit, develop a forest development project, and also submit a forest declaration.

According to the statistics of Rosleskhoz, more than 200 plots of agricultural land were recognized as suitable for forestry during the year. During this time, 355 requests were received by the regional forest departments. The use of forests located on agricultural land is allowed, for example:

  • for wood harvesting;
  • harvesting and collection of non-timber forest resources;
  • research and educational activities;
  • creation and operation of forest nurseries, etc.

Also, forest on unused agricultural land can be used to implement climate projects and achieve carbon neutrality indicators - if this is not associated with risks and threats to food security.

Changes in the regulations are likely to follow: Rosleskhoz specialists summarize the experience gained, including with the participation of the Rosselkhoznadzor, discuss the features of the work identified in the course of practical activities, and prepare amendments to optimize it.