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Baikal Explorer

Stretching nearly halfway around the northern hemisphere, Russia is the largest country by area in the world, encompassing 6.6 million square miles and climate zones including Arctic tundra, dry steppe, and subtropical areas; but Russia's vast forests are by far the greatest landscape, covering nearly 70% of the country's territory with dense taiga and mixed forests. Russian forests comprise about 75% of all boreal and nearly 20% of total global forest area and play a tremendously important role as a global carbon sink.

The great forests of Siberia and the Russian Far East are under threat, however. The country's Forest Code was heavily amended in 2006, all but eliminating the national and regional Forest Service and most forest management services. The effects have been devastating:

  • Lack of adequate funding and personnel to manage fuels or fight fires has contributed to the catastrophic forest fires seen each summer in many regions.
  • Illegal and unsustainable logging is contributing to a sharp decline in biodiversity and important habitat for endangered species like the Siberian Tiger and Amur Leopard.
Because of these changes, community involvement in forest management and fire prevention is more important than ever. Almost all wildfires in Russia stem from fires set intentionally in rural areas, either to clear fields or to burn garbage. Uncontrolled seasonal burning in dry fields spreads to nearby forests, ballooning into massive blazes. Pacific Environment is working with several NGOs to implement a set of 2-year pilot projects aimed at reducing the scale and frequency of agricultural burning in a few target regions through outreach and community fire brigade programs. The lessons learned from the projects will be used to expand and replicate this community-based approach to forest and fire management in other regions.