Recently, the state-owned enterprise “Forests of Ukraine” announced that in 2023, Ukrainian foresters have already planted 111.1 million trees, and by 2025 they will fully implement the president’s program and plant 1 billion trees in Ukraine. In contrast to the initiative of the President of Ukraine, its implementation is not so obvious, transparent and, most importantly, “green”. You can even see on the promoted “Green Country” website that since the summer of 2020, when the start of the initiative was announced, 375,982,476 trees have already been planted. But for some reason you can’t see exactly where they were planted with the map. The secret is actually very simple – trees are planted where the forest was completely cut down before that. According to the official information of the State Forestry Agency, during the years 2020-2023, only 6% of planted trees were used to create new forests. The rest is afforestation of log cabins. That is, more felled – more planted. The Zhytomyr State Administration even managed to advertise that they planted the most trees. Although their leadership is explained very simply: let’s remember the large-scale forest fires in 2020, the burners from which they are still cutting in huge volumes. And where did the hundreds of millions of new trees come from? Very easy! Because until 2020, no one counted the number of trees planted by foresters. They were counted in hectares. Which is logical – because out of hundreds of seedlings planted by foresters up to 30-40 years old, only a couple of trees will grow. Moreover, they used to plant no less – no less, and in some years much more! For example, in 2021, 41.4 thousand hectares of forests were planted in log cabins and 3.2 thousand hectares of new forests. In 2018, 42,000 hectares were cut down, 1.9 thousand hectares of new forests. In 2017, a total of 52.1 thousand hectares of log cabins and 1.7 thousand hectares of new forests were planted. Planting new forests in the place of felled ones is a completely correct and everyday work of every forest farm. But it turns out that the foresters plagiarized their usual work, which they are required to do by law and which they did before, as “implementation of the President’s Program”. In addition, to fulfill the “ecological program”, foresters have developed new felling rules, which provide for an increase in the volume of continuous felling! More felled = more planted = more promoted! A forest instead of a steppe But the program provides not only the planting of a billion trees, but also an increase in the area of forests by 1 million hectares. Where to get this million hectares? One way is to plant forests on degraded and eroded arable land, which, according to agricultural scientists, totals more than 10.6 million hectares! Or on arable land of state forestry enterprises in the Polissya zone. Or to be more active in preserving self-seeded forests. However, all this requires hard work, negotiations, and complaints. And foresters are “owners”, they do not want to quarrel with agrarians and local authorities over arable land. And that’s why they decided to remember the USSR and fulfill the “five-year task” by “subduing nature” and “raising the virgin land”. Because why should the land “disappear” – that is how they perceive the very fact of the existence of natural territory outside of economic use. At the same time, this idea is not new – they have been offering it to every Ukrainian President since the time of Yushchenko, for the first time the UP drew attention to it back in 2009! Annual planting of “forests” in the Kherson Region (Photo: NGO “Your Forest”) Neither the fact that most of the natural steppe is included in the Emerald Network of Europe, which was created as part of Ukraine’s European integration obligations, nor the fact that in 2022 the Supreme The Council defined by law the concept of “steppe area” and expressly prohibited their afforestation, nor that the similar European program of 3 billion trees directly prohibits the afforestation of valuable natural non-forest ecosystems such as the steppe. Plowing the steppes for planting forests in the Mykolaiv region (Photo: Ivan Moisienko) I wrote about why new hectares will be planted in the steppes, as soon as the program was approved. In response, the head of the State Forestry Agency at the time, and now the head of the SE “Forests of Ukraine” Yury Bolokhovets, promised that “we are not going to plant forests on valuable steppe areas.” But the reality turned out to be different – and hundreds of hectares of steppe are planned to be destroyed in the fall of 2023. Therefore, to summarize, foresters are trying to turn a good idea into fiction. But it is not too late to return the “Green Country” to a constructive direction. In order to do this and not to embarrass the country, which is on the verge of joining the European Union, one should simply follow the legislation: transfer self-seeded forests to the status of lands of the state forest fund and stop their destruction by agrarians; to transfer state-owned agricultural land to Polissia, not to the future state agrarian monster, but for reforestation; carry out, together with scientists, the identification of all valuable non-forest ecosystems within the lands of the State Enterprise “Forests of Ukraine” and stop their afforestation; stop transferring forests for mining, construction of housing and industrial enterprises; withdraw proposed logging rules that increase the volume of continuous logging. Otherwise, the “billion trees” program will go down in history as an example of empty PR and the destruction of nature: a billion mistakes. Oleksiy Vasylyuk, Ukrainian nature protection group, specially for UP. Life Publications in the “View” section are not editorial articles and reflect exclusively the author’s point of view.
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