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Grigory Pasko: Jackboot Forest Rangers

forests022510.jpgOfficial persons during execution of duties imposed upon them with respect to the implementation of state forestry control and oversight may apply in the capacity of special means: rubber truncheons, tear gas, handcuffs, means for the forced stopping of transport,” — from the newly published rules for the storage, bearing and application of special means by official persons implementing state forestry control and oversight. The rules were signed by the Premier of Russia, Vladimir Putin, on Feb. 3.
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Oh yes, I forgot: they can also sic the dogs on anyone who does not show enough love for the forest or those who brazenly plunder it.  At last, here the government is getting serious about protecting some of Russia’s most beautiful natural wonders.

I rushed to share this joyous news with the expert of the Greenpeace forestry program, Alexey Yaroshenko. For some reason Alexey did not share my joy.

First, because he had known about the draft of these rules for along time, and even back when he learned about them, he wasn’t sothrilled. Second, because very recently in January, Greenpeace and42,000 other Russians had appealed to President Medvedev with a requestto restore state forest protection in the country, and not to endow theexisting controllers with some kind of new punitive powers. Third,because this whole business, in Alexey’s opinion, is senseless, eventhough it is merciless towards violators of sylvan welfare. Senselessbecause the «official persons» from the number of the current statecontrol in their majority – are paper bureaucrats. There are some tenthousand of them for the whole country, no more. They would do well tohandle just the paperwork, and here they’re supposed to be runningaround the forests armed with handcuffs and truncheons as well…

In short, Alexey upset me.

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Then I telephoned my acquaintance – the forest ranger NikolaiBelinsky. He would certainly rejoice, I thought. His forest is inMozhaisk Rayon – a whole 64 thousand hectares no less. Nikolai’s firstwords were: «How horrible!» And he clarified that all this – thetruncheons, the gas, the dogs, the handcuffs – is for naught. He knowsall the people in the Rayon, everybody knows him, moreover not just oneyear. Against whom to apply gas? It would be better if they would setup a system of permitting the issuance of firewood to people; changedthe current system of forest protection and works with respect to carefor forests; reduced the quantity of bureaucratic inspections…

In short, Nikolai upset me.

Should I call Putin maybe? And say to him directly that they, overthere, in the government, have clearly mixed up forest rangers with theOMON. Mister premier! We’ve got enough OMON in the country already!Even too much!

But with state forest protection – a mess! It was none other than you,mister Putin, who in the year 2000 liquidated the independent FederalForestry Management Service. It was under none other than you that inthe year 2005 the powers of forest protection were taken away from theforesters and entrusted to the few-in-number inspectors ofRosprirodonadzor. It was with none other than your blessing that a newForestry Code has entered into force since 1 January of the year 2007,a Code that doesn’t envision the existence of state forest protectionat all.

The current system of checks of legal entities and entrepreneurs has norelation whatsoever to the immediate protection of forests. As aresult, according to the data of Greenpeace, the proportion of unlawfulfelling in the general volume of logging operations just in recentyears has increased by approximately two times, and in the central partof Moscow Oblast more than 1000 hectares of forests were “developed”.

In order to provide Russian forests with minimal protection, no fewer than 20 thousand foresters-inspectors are imperative.

They can do without the handcuffs, gas and dogs.

The system needs to be changed, not armed to the teeth.

Truly: whatever it is they undertake – they end up with a Kalashnikov machine-gun.

Or the CPSU.

Or the OMON.