Russia to Use Satellites to Defend Vast Forests

Russia to Use Satellites to Defend Vast Forests

26 July 2007

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MOSCOW – Russia will use satellites to catch loggers felling its vast Siberian forests known as the “green lungs of the planet”, the state forestry agency said on Wednesday.

Ancient taiga woodlands which cover much of Siberia are protected by Russian law, but since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union illegal loggers have cut down millions of trees, mainly for sale in neighbouring China.

“From January 1 2008 we will have continual protection,” Vladimir Kresnov, head of the Russian forestry agency, said at a news briefing.

“The government has to know everything about its rich forests and has to have correct information about the state of its forest resources.”

Scientists often refer to the taiga forest, which stretches across Siberia from the Urals on the boundary of Europe to the Pacific in the Far East, as the “green lungs of the planet”.

Ecologists welcomed the satellite protection plan.

“It will definitely help defend parts of the forest,” Yevgeny Shvarts, conservation policy director at WWF Russia, said.

The announcement by the agency, which is controlled by the Ministry of Natural Resources, comes as environmentalists fight to save forests around the 2014 Winter Olympics venue in Sochi on the Black Sea coast in southern Russia.

The Russian Ministry for Economic Development, which is controlling construction for the Games, wants to concrete over woodland to build the Olympic village and a bobsleigh track on the edge of a protected natural park.

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