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The Law on Specially Protected Natural Territories

The Law on Specially Protected Natural Territories National Park Alkhanay. Feast of Alkhanai Obo © Natalia Sudets / Strana.ru

On July 25, the State Duma of the Russian Federation passed a law amending the Federal Law “On Specially Protected Natural Territories”. Three years have passed since the text of the bill was adopted in the first reading in 2015.

This law was developed in pursuance of the instruction of the President of the Russian Federation in 2014 to adopt a draft federal law that provides for the strengthening of the legal regime for state nature reserves and national parks, including a ban on the seizure of land and forest areas located within these specially protected natural areas (PAs) , and to change their purpose; on the establishment of a closed list of state nature reserves subject to transformation into national parks, and the procedure for implementing such a transformation.

The law passed today basically corresponds to the presidential commission. In addition to the above provisions, it also introduces an order in which exemption from payment is possible when visiting reserves and national parks, which is important for residents of nearby settlements. The law prohibits the construction of new sports facilities in the territory of national parks. In the interests of indigenous small peoples living in the territory of national parks, a ban was introduced to reduce the zone of traditional extensive nature management, and the harvesting of food forest resources within the boundaries of these zones was permitted. An important innovation that facilitates the creation of new specially protected natural areas is the abolition of mandatory state environmental impact assessment of materials that justify their creation. A number of provisions of the law contribute to strengthening the protection of protected areas, the press service of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) of Russia.

“Unfortunately, the adopted law does not solve all the acute problems of PAs. So, it does not cancel the possibility of allocating biosphere polygons on the territory of reserves. That is, there is still a threat of construction of ski resorts, other sports facilities, hotels and related communications on the biosphere grounds, that is, de facto the purpose of reserve lands can be changed, “said Igor Chestin, WWF Russia director.

This directly contradicts the specified instruction of the President of the Russian Federation. Recall that the protection of reserves from the possibility of building resorts on their territory was one of the key themes of the action “Hour of the Earth-2018”, within the framework of which more than 100 thousand signatures were collected under the appeal to the President.

Not all proposals of indigenous peoples’ associations aimed at removing barriers for the implementation of sustainable traditional nature management, the reduction of conflicts between PAs and representatives of these peoples living in their territory, were adopted. For example, the law does not clearly state the exemption from obtaining permits and payment for visits to PAs by representatives of indigenous peoples living in their traditional territories. The proposal on the possibility of creating national parks without functional zoning in the places of residence of indigenous small peoples was discussed in the law, but was not reflected in the law.

The Law on Specially Protected Natural Territories

National Park Alkhanay. Feast of Alkhanai Obo © Natalia Sudets / Strana.ru

On July 25, the State Duma of the Russian Federation passed a law amending the Federal Law “On Specially Protected Natural Territories”. Three years have passed since the text of the bill was adopted in the first reading in 2015.

This law was developed in pursuance of the instruction of the President of the Russian Federation in 2014 to adopt a draft federal law that provides for the strengthening of the legal regime for state nature reserves and national parks, including a ban on the seizure of land and forest areas located within these specially protected natural areas (PAs) , and to change their purpose; on the establishment of a closed list of state nature reserves subject to transformation into national parks, and the procedure for implementing such a transformation.

The law passed today basically corresponds to the presidential commission. In addition to the above provisions, it also introduces an order in which exemption from payment is possible when visiting reserves and national parks, which is important for residents of nearby settlements. The law prohibits the construction of new sports facilities in the territory of national parks. In the interests of indigenous small peoples living in the territory of national parks, a ban was introduced to reduce the zone of traditional extensive nature management, and the harvesting of food forest resources within the boundaries of these zones was permitted. An important innovation that facilitates the creation of new specially protected natural areas is the abolition of mandatory state environmental impact assessment of materials that justify their creation. A number of provisions of the law contribute to strengthening the protection of protected areas, the press service of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) of Russia.

“Unfortunately, the adopted law does not solve all the acute problems of PAs. So, it does not cancel the possibility of allocating biosphere polygons on the territory of reserves. That is, there is still a threat of construction of ski resorts, other sports facilities, hotels and related communications on the biosphere grounds, that is, de facto the purpose of reserve lands can be changed, “said Igor Chestin, WWF Russia director.

This directly contradicts the specified instruction of the President of the Russian Federation. Recall that the protection of reserves from the possibility of building resorts on their territory was one of the key themes of the action “Hour of the Earth-2018”, within the framework of which more than 100 thousand signatures were collected under the appeal to the President.

Not all proposals of indigenous peoples’ associations aimed at removing barriers for the implementation of sustainable traditional nature management, the reduction of conflicts between PAs and representatives of these peoples living in their territory, were adopted. For example, the law does not clearly state the exemption from obtaining permits and payment for visits to PAs by representatives of indigenous peoples living in their traditional territories. The proposal on the possibility of creating national parks without functional zoning in the places of residence of indigenous small peoples was discussed in the law, but was not reflected in the law.

Also, the issue of securing the legal regime of PAs with international status has not been resolved.

The adopted law is a significant step forward, but the path is not yet complete. And work in this direction will be continued.

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