By Veronica Timokhina
The Alps are the business card of Austria while India is famous for its jungles. Belarus’ green forests, so much resembling animal fur from above, are our true pride. However, they aren’t just beautiful and pleasing to the eye; they are a treasury of unique biological and landscape diversity. Moreover, they are a priceless source of timber. How can we preserve the fragile balance, enabling us to use the country’s natural wealth without damaging it?
“Forests are one of the most important natural resources for the country,” asserts Mikhail Amelyanovich, Belarus’ Forestry Minister. “Forests account for around 10m hectares — almost half our territory. These are significant reserves, with 60 percent of Belarusian woods filled with coniferous species. Birch prevails among deciduous trees while hardwood trees, such as oak, hornbeam, ash, maple and elm, occupy just 4 percent. We should mention that almost 25 percent of all forests are planted and managed; we devote much attention to their cultivation.”
The Forestry Ministry is conducting serious work. How does this influence the quality of our forests?
World experience, alongside that of domestic forestry, testifies to genetic-selection being the only way to improve the structure of our forests, while enhancing efficiency and sustainability. Great achievements have already been made, creating a permanent collection of seeds.
How do we earn money from our forests without damaging them?
Implementing the principles of sustainable forest management and forest exploitation, we ensure economic and ecological security of the state. A careful attitude towards our green wealth is our top priority.
Such instruments as active forest certification help enhance our forest management. At present, it’s obligatory to certify timber for the ecologically sensitive EU market, especially for Germany, the UK and Holland. This year, the Forestry Ministry has already exported $32m of produce and services.
Ecological tourism is gaining popularity worldwide and is developing in Belarus. What role does the Forestry Ministry play in this process?
We’re taking a very active role, with 74 forest hunting farms operational — popular with hunters and those keen to spend time in the countryside. Many forests have tourist sites, with open air cages containing wild animals, ecological routes and nature museums. Moreover, by 2015, we’ll have a series of woodland parks, aiming to enhance the ecological education of the population. In all, 50 such sites are to be set up, occupying at least 135 hectares.
How do you plan to preserve and expand our forests?
Belarus has approved its 2011-2015 Forestry Industry Development Programme, stipulating the major aims as preserving, expanding and rationally using the Republic’s forests. Modernisation of forestry equipment is necessary, with the latest technology acquired, alongside IT resources and aerospace devices. Additionally, woodland seed collection will be developing, using genetic-selection to ensure healthy saplings are grown.