Posted by Jon Spaulding
The Russian environmental community won a victory in late May when a Pacific Environment partner NGO, Geblerovsky Ecological Society (GES) successfully challenged the commercial logging company Birch and the government agency that issued the permit to clear-cut a ‘protected’ forest reserve in pristine, remote Altai Krai, in southern Siberia. On May 27, the regional court ruled against the logging company and their government allies, ordering an immediate halt to destructive clear-cutting in the roughly 90,000 acre Zalesovsky Forest Reserve, a rare and ancient taiga ecosystem that is home to bear, moose, and many other species, some of them officially listed as endangered. This victory resulted from Pacific Environment’s funded project work to GES on Public Forest Monitoring.
The decision sets a legal precedent of national significance by using Russian citizens’ constitutionally guaranteed right to a healthy environment to win a court case against a government agency. It also is indicative of the potential power grassroots NGOs have in promoting respect for the rule of law in Russia.
GES executive director Aleksey Gribkov acknowledged that the victory would not have been possible without the legal advice of a growing network of allied NGOs throughout Russia that Pacific Environment has been helping to cultivate over the past twenty years.
With a current grant from Pacific Environment, GES defends critical habitat for protecting endangered species and conserving Altai’s unique biodiversity. The project, Public Forest Monitoring, taps into many Russians’ discontent with government and commercial abuse of public resources, and focuses on recruiting and training regional volunteer activist groups to detect illegal poaching of wildlife and illegal logging of protected forests.
For over ten years, GES has focused on biodiversity issues, conducting conservation activities in nature preserves, assisting in the creation of school-based forest stewardship programs, monitoring conservation lands, conducting environment education, and leading anti-poaching raids.
To learn more about our Russia Program, visit www.pacificenvironment.org/russia.