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Comments of LLC «Forest Certification» on the publications about sanitary felling on the territory of the Irkutsk region

 

Recently, an investigation was published on the network regarding sanitary felling in the Irkutsk region. Forest Certification LLC could not stand aside and prepared a response to the investigation.

LLC Forest Certification back in 2010 issued a certificate to one of the companies described in the publications. Then, in connection with the transfer of rights and obligations under lease agreements from one organization to another, the certificate of one of the voluntary forest certification schemes was transferred, the certificate of another voluntary certification scheme was issued after the transfer of the rights and obligations of the new organization. All documentary evidence confirming the legality of the transfer of rights and obligations are at the disposal of Forest Certification LLC and are available at the request of interested parties.

The publications indicate the fact that the auditors, when issuing certificates, did not take into account the violations revealed at uncertified companies owned by Yevgeny Bakurov. Certification systems require auditors to identify and assess forest areas for which the certification applicant or certificate holder is responsible to varying degrees. Holders of certificates issued by Forest Certification LLC are not in any way responsible or responsible for the forest areas of other companies. One legal entity cannot be held liable for another legal entity just because they are owned by one owner.

All audits of these companies were carried out in accordance with the applicable requirements of the relevant voluntary forest certification scheme. As part of the audits, the auditors performed a mandatory analysis of permits and a survey of stakeholders (in 2017 and 2018, consultations were held, including with representatives of the NP «Transparent World» (http://www.transparentworld.ru/)), providing information support to environmental organizations using GIS technologies, space images and the Internet. For all 10 years, none of the organizations actively participating in these publications and their promotion, has not exercised its right to provide appropriate comments in the framework of these consultations.

In addition, as part of the audits, the auditors visited the areas covered by sanitary felling. Such sites were visited in 2017 and 2019. In 2017, sanitary felling was inspected in lease agreements No. 91-1 / 9 of January 13, 2009 and No. 7-09 of January 16, 2009, in 2019, sanitary felling was inspected in lease agreements No. 91-1 / 9 dated 13.01.2009, No. 7-09 dated 16.01.2009 and No. 8 dated 09.09.2008. The survey of stakeholders, analysis of documents and field inspection did not reveal any cases of violation of the law in the appointment and implementation of sanitary felling.

All fellings, including sanitary ones, were designed based on forest inventory materials, forest inventory materials were put into effect by the Acts of the Ministry of Forestry of the Irkutsk Region, entered into forestry regulations, the State Forest Register (GLR) and the forest plan of the Irkutsk Region, on the basis of this, forest development projects were developed, passed the state examination.

The requirements of the certification systems prescribe the assessment of the consistency of sanitary felling according to permits. The auditor takes as a basis a risk-oriented approach to assess the correctness of the appointment of sanitary felling, primarily by analyzing the documents submitted, information in the public domain and consultations with stakeholders.

In practice, this means that if there is a projected and agreed sanitary felling in the leased forest areas of the company, the certification system does not require specialized forest pathological measures at the level of a specific felling. This is not the function of companies like ours, we cannot and will not replace the state forestry supervision.

From 2015 to 2020, the same auditor was never appointed for audits for two years in a row. And in 2017, an auditor with 4 years of experience as a forest pathologist was appointed as the lead auditor. In 2015, this expert defended his Ph.D. thesis on the topic «Forest pathological monitoring in protective forests» (copies of supporting documents are available in Forest Certification LLC).

We have no reason to question the qualifications of our auditors. At the time of the appointment, sanitary felling was legal and justified based on the results of the forest inventory, and the conclusion of additional agreements to lease agreements was a common law enforcement practice (additional agreements were concluded with many tenants not only regarding the purpose of sanitary felling).

The fact that the additional agreements were subsequently declared illegal by a court decision only confirms the fact of violations committed then by the relevant executive authority, but not by our clients. The cancellation of additional agreements to lease agreements does not in any way indicate that these plantations did not need sanitary and recreational measures or that such measures were assigned illegally.

On the territory of the Russian Federation today there is a practice of interpreting the requirements of the legislation by the forest management authorities at their own discretion. At the same time, tenants are forced to work according to the requirements that are imposed on them. Subsequently, after a long time, and, as a rule, following the results of prosecutorial inspections, it suddenly turns out that the practice that has developed in the subject does not fully comply with the current legislation. This is also facilitated by the high degree of bureaucratization of the forestry system in Russia, which has a large number of regulatory legal acts that contradict each other.

Unfortunately, such situations, when for a long time everything was normal, and then, after the fact, it suddenly turns out that there are serious violations of the law, take place.

We believe that if the companies indicated in the publications, or Yevgeny Bakurov personally, had anything to do with the illegal appointment of sanitary felling, then, firstly, the law enforcement agencies would initiate relevant criminal proceedings, and secondly, the Ministry of Forestry of the Irkutsk Region would terminate the contracts lease with this tenant. At the moment: a) no criminal cases have been opened; b) the lease agreements have not been terminated.

In addition, we have internal information that repeated inspections of sanitary felling, carried out with the involvement of forest pathologists, did not reveal serious violations «in essence» in the appointment of sanitary and recreational measures.

Forest Certification LLC always applies a risk-based approach in assessing clients for the applicable requirements of certification systems. Not all those who go for certification receive these certificates. We are open to dialogue and, if necessary, are ready to provide any additional information that does not contradict the certification requirements.

August 2021