Moscow,Russia — Russia’s upper chamber of parliament on Friday passed a new forestry code that has been severely criticized by environmentalists.
The Federation Council voted 128-10, with four abstentions, to approve the code, which would remove forests from private ownership and transfer responsibility for their protection and maintenance from the federal to regional governments.
The environmental organization Greenpeace criticized the bill, which was passed by the lower house earlier this month, saying that it lacked enabling legislation to make it workable.
“There will be full anarchy starting Jan. 1,” when the law will go into effect if President Vladimir Putin signs it by Dec. 1, predicted Alexei Yaroshenko, coordinator of Greenpeace Russia’s forestry program. “The forests will have no owners, no protectors.”
He predicted that for the six months to a year that it takes to get the enabling regulations in place, loggers will cut down trees closer to roads and villages for easy transport.
He said the worst consequence of the new bill is that it opens the way for construction in forests.
“One can build temporary or permanent structures,” Yaroshenko said. “That’s the first step toward shutting citizens out of the forests.”
According to Greenpeace, Russia’s forests constitute 22 percent of the world’s total woodlands, an area larger than the continental United States.