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High conservation value forests

High conservation value forests (HCVF) are such forests which have especially high ecological and/or social value. In other words, HCVF are such forests which are more valuable in terms of biodiversity values, ecological values and importance for local people than in terms of industrial timber logging.

HCVF as a concept contains no any principally new ideas. Forests, which were not cut or cut with strong restrictions because of different reasons, existed from the earliest times. Nowadays various types of such forests are known, they are located in all regions of the country. But in the framework of HCVF concept they are united by one general term and sound methodology of identification and preservation.

The term «HCVF» appeared during elaboration of voluntary forest certification systems — particularly the system developed by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international non-governmental organization. Sustainable and environmentally responsible forestry means that maintaining all other forest values is not less important than gaining profit due to timber products sale. That is why special efforts to identify HCVF are required. According to the term adopted by FSC, HCVF includes such forest areas where it is necessary to preserve and to enhance their high conservation value. That is why cuttings in such forests must be limited or forbidden at all — otherwise these forests will lose their value. If logging operations are allowed they must be carried out with special plans. Obligatory HCVF identification and conservation is one of the key principles of forest management certification by FSC.

Working out national HCVF concept and its use in practice have become very acute problems due to the growing interest to the FSC certification in Russia. Besides, possibilities to establish new protected areas in lots of Russian regions are very restricted nowadays, that is why preservation of biological diversity and main environmental forest functions must be carried out by logging companies in industrial forests.

At present HCVF are defined in the FSC Russian National Standard. The experience of interpretation, identification and mapping of HCVF in Russia is rather extensive: www.hcvf.ru

Nowadays it is considered that various HCVF can have value from different scales — international, regional or national. In Russia HCVF can be identified on national and regional levels due to vast territory of the country. For example, at present the majority considers intact forest landscapes (IFL) mapped in the course of Global Forest Watch researches («Atlas of Intact Forest Areas in Russia» Aksenov and others, 2003; Aksenov et al., 2002) as HCVF 2 (intact forest landscapes) of the national level. The same forest area can have several values. For example, if an intact forest landscape (HCVF 2) includes areas with rare ecosystems (HCVF 3).