IKEA subsidiary conducts felling in valuable old-growth forests in Russian Karelia
Company has been granted a timber concession by Russian authorities
Finland’s environmental administration (SYKE) has expressed its concern over the felling of old-growth forests in the Muyezerka forest (Maximjärvi in Finnish) region in Russian Karelia.
A couple of weeks ago a Finnish-Russian forest research team encountered forest harvesting machinery in areas that had been agreed to be left as intact forest landscapes.
“It came to us as a surprise that fellings were conducted there. Another shock was that the company responsible for these cuttings was Swedwood, a subsidiary of the Swedish home furnishings giant IKEA”, says Tapio Lindholm, a leading expert from SYKE.
SYKE’s leading researcher Raimo Heikkilä is currently in Petrozavodsk (Petroskoi in Finnish) trying to define how much of the old-growth forests, which are immensely valuable from the nature point of view, have already been cut down.
According to SYKE, the Muyezerka forest “is the largest (over 100,000 hectares) surviving territory of natural state, pine-dominated, high productive forests south of the north-boreal subzone in the whole of Europe”.
Heikkilä suspects that the fellings carried out there are in violation of the FSC certification programme.
On Thursday, Helsingin Sanomat was unable to reach a representative of the Russian arm of Swedwood for comment with regard to the fellings.
“Our company is committed to the FSC criteria of good forest management and abides by them”, said Charlotte Lindgren, acting communications manager at Swedwood.
In Karelia, there are both officially protected forests and forests that have been agreed to be left intact by agreements between environmental organisations and forestry companies. Such agreements are of definite duration.
The discovered fellings are not illegal, because the agreement has expired and they have been granted a timber concession by the authorities.
“Swedwood cannot be accused of a crime, but of having the nerve to cut down old-growth forests in their natural state. The good thing about the company is, however, that with it one can still have a dialogue about moral issues”, Lindholm says.
Previously, the company has conducted wide fellings north of the Kostomuksha (Kostamus in Finnish) Nature Reserve, where it has a 25-year contract with regard to a 450,000-hectare forest area.
Swedwood has used the felled trees at its glued laminated timber board factory in Kostomuksha.
The company has complied with the protection orders where such have been issued on old-growth forests.
The woodlands of the Muyezerka forest region, however, are difficult to access and as yet they have not been mapped out properly.
According to the initial evaluation, a majority of the forests in the area are completely in their natural state, or in a state left by the former tradition of slash-and-burn cultivation.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Ikea´s contract manufacturer to shut down plant in Finland; production goes to Ikea plants (5.5.2009)
SYKE report (.pdf file)