Russian Conservation News. Special Issue
Executive Editor: Margaret Williams
Assistant Editor: Melissa Mooza
Managing Editor: Natalya Troitskaya
Graphics Artist: Maksim Dubinin
Design and Layout: Design Group A4
Computer Consultation: Natalie Volkova
Translation: Cheryl Hojnowski and Melissa Mooza
Subscriptions Manager: Sarah Millspaugh
Contributing Authors: A. Blagovidov, A. Butorin, Z. Irodova, A. Kargopoltsev, M. Kreindlin, O. Krever, N. Maxakovsky, N. Ovsyanikov, A. Petrov, A. Rudomakha, I. Sharapov, M. Shishin, P. Schmidt,
and E. Shubnitsina
Contributing Artists and Photographers: A. Butorin, Y. Demyanchuk, R. Hooper, V. Kantor, B. Mayerhofer, N. Ovsyanikov, E. Ponomariova, E. Shubnitsina, I. Timukhin, A. Troitsky, S. Trepet,
and V. Trigubovich
Acknowledgement:Maps of Russia's protected areas that are featured in this issue were prepared using the Protected Areas GIS database of the Biodiversity Conservation Center/International Socio-Ecological Union. For more information, please consult http://oopt.info/gis/database-eng.html.
Voice from the Wild (A Letter from the Editors)
This fortieth issue of Russian Conservation News goes to press just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin released a statement on April 26, 2006, concerning the necessity of re-routing a planned oil pipeline beyond the watershed of Lake Baikal. Conservationists and private citizens across Russia welcomed this decision, a triumph of environmental stewardship and social responsibility over the bottom-line interests of big business. In fact, though, the victory is the entire world's to celebrate. Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest of our planet's lakes, with twenty percent of the earth's freshwater resources, is widely regarded as one the world's greatest natural treasures. In fact, for its outstanding natural values and for its importance to humankind as a whole, the lake was inscribed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List ten years ago, in 1996. In this special issue of RCN, we examine Russia's World Natural Heritage sites - there are seven in addition to Lake Baikal – and the implementation of the UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (Convention) in the Russian Federation. For many of the almost thirty Russian protected areas that are included in the country's World Natural Heritage sites, this prestigious international status has yielded real, tangible gains. One of the greatest benefits that we see in inscription is that it has helped to further raise awareness about and to popularize the territories, both in Russia and beyond its borders. This increased attention has certainly helped generate new funding and other opportunities for the protected areas, as well increase advocacy for their protection.
In the course of our work to prepare this journal, we also came to the conclusion that many important issues related to the Convention's implementation in Russia and to the Russian sites themselves remain unresolved and require careful attention. Chief among the problems we have noted is the dearth of Russian federal legislation that specifically and substantively addresses Russia's World Natural Heritage sites. It is not entirely clear to many authorities, elected officials, representatives of the business community, and the general public what types of activities are permitted and prohibited on the territories of World Natural Heritage sites; nor are there established procedures for resolving disputes concerning these territories. Another problem that might have potential repercussions on dispute resolution is the fact that the boundaries of three of Russia's World Natural Heritage sites – Virgin Komi Forests, Lake Baikal, and Volcanoes of Kamchatka – are imprecise and require clarification.
Yet another shortcoming that we have identified in our study of Russia's implementation of the Convention is a lack of coordinated management – both on federal- and site-specific levels. Despite the vast size of some of Russia's World Natural Heritage sites (the largest, Lake Baikal, occupies more than twice the area of Switzerland) and the complexity of their composition, none have specialized management plans or discrete staffing and budgets. If sites were to develop these important attributes, work across them would be better coordinated and more effective; and it would be easier to attract targeted funding to support activities benefiting an entire site, and not just one of its component parts. That the resolution of these and other problems have been identified by protected area managers and Russian and international conversation organizations as priorities for the future, gives us at RCN hope that important steps toward the more effective management and protection of Russia's World Natural Heritage sites will be made in the near term. Given the steady encroachment on some of Russia's highly valuable natural territories by Russia's economy-driving extractive industries, this becomes an increasingly urgent task, for Russia and A mountainous landscape of the Western for the world.