Forest fire specialists are extremely concerned about the decision of the Russian president to abolish the Federal Forest Service of Russia
Press Release by
BALTEX FIRE 2000 and the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC)
7 June 2000
Impacts of climate change on northern forests and the possible consequences on forest fires in Europe and Russia are key issues that are currently being addressed by an international forest fire conference in Finland. Between 6 and 10 June 2000 the government of Finland is hosting BALTEX FIRE 2000 (The Baltic Exercise for Fire Information and Resources Exchange). Representatives of all nations bordering the Baltic Sea, members of the United Nations Team of Specialists on Forest Fire, which operates under the auspices of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), and representatives from rescue and disaster emergency management agencies are jointly discussing regional cooperation. These northern nations demonstrated their understanding and capabilities to integrate fire as a natural and ecologically significant element in sustainable forestry. Periodic surface fires in northern forests help to improve forest growth and reduce combustible materials that under uncontrolled conditions would lead to severe and catastrophic fire disasters.
The main reason for calling the international fire experts, however, are the expected disaster fires that are currently on the increase globally as a consequence of climate and land-use changes. Wildfires which destroy the carbon storage of forests also contribute to additional release of greenhouse gas emissions. The preparation of an international action plan to respond to extreme fire disasters in any country is therefore the most important output of the conference.
In this context the delegates of BALTEX FIRE 2000 expressed their concern over the recent decision by the government of Russia to abolish the State Forest Committee (Federal Forest Service) and to replace it by a department within the Ministry for Natural Resources. As the director of the Germany-based Global Fire Monitoring Center and the US and Canadian representatives of the UN Fire Team stated, this move may affect the overall capabilities of the Russian government to control the forests belonging to the State Forest Fund and to effectively protect these forests against fire. He urged the government of Russia to strengthen their federal capabilities in forest fire protection rather than weaken them by unnecessary reorganization. He reminded the Russian government of its responsibility, particularly under recently agreed-to international commitments concerning climate change, greenhouse gas emission limitations, and the global carbon budget, to professionally manage and protect the 1.1 billion hectares of forest which constitute an important natural asset with significant importance to global environmental and climate stability.
Kuopio, Finland, 7 June 2000
Global climate change will lead to increase of high-severity forest fires in Siberia which will release additional greenhouse gases and reduce carbon sequestration in the forest ecosystems.
Responsible for this press release:
Dr. Johann G. Goldammer The Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC)
c/o Freiburg University
D – 79085 Freiburg