Gassinski MF Association: Affecting Economic Reform and Development

The Russian Far East's forest sector suffered catastrophic declines after the break-up of the former Soviet Union and the painful transition to a market-based economy. In the GMF territory, for example, harvests declined by a factor of six.  Local logging enterprises often took no more than 20% of the annual allowable cut. Particularly affected were the region's indigenous Nanai and Udege peoples, whose unemployment levels rose, in some cases to 80%.  The GMF's overall strategy has been to develop a scientifically grounded approach to sustainable forest management (SFM) upon which a sustainable economic development strategy could be built. With the active participation of state and local governments, the GMFA developed a framework strategy for the region's sustainable economic development and had it endorsed at the level of the Governor. This opened opportunities for official support to implement the strategy, and proved to be a key step that resulted in a substantial leveraging of additional resources for the region. 

Among the many effects were: 

  • acceleration of state investments in regional infrastructure, including construction of over 100km of electrical transmission lines;
  • creation of a new road to the port city of Vanino;
  • liquidation of non-profitable forest enterprises; and
  • creation of a consortium of small logging enterprises -- the Gassinski Model Forest Union.

In the indigenous community of Sinda, a Nanai-owned harvest and sawmill operation has doubled capacity, due to new technology purchased through the Model Forest, and has created many new jobs. In Sinda, virtually all families now have regular income because of these new initiatives.

Training and assistance is also being provided to stimulate greater wood processing within the region, and to re-invigorate the non-timber forest product industry. Under a project that grew directly out of the GMFA's economic development strategy, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), through Canada's McGregor Model Forest Association, is investing $3.5 million to support this model of economic development. It will include developing new natural resource-based enterprises, increasing value-added wood processing, creating and improving existing non-timber forest product enterprises, developing regional tourism, and establishing a national park.  It is noteworthy that the new project will become an important demonstration and training area for replicating these successes for other areas of Russia. 

With thanks to V.F. Pominov for the information provided for this article. 

Visit our web site for two additional articles:

  • An article by GMFA President, Vladimir F. Pominov, about some of the many ways that Russia's Model Forest has affected the pace and direction of economic development in the Model Forest's Nanaiski Raion region entitled: The influence of the Gassinski Model Forest Project on the Economic Policy of the Territory; and

  • Links and Feedback to the Policy Level by Peter Besseau, IMFNS