State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation accepted during the third reading the corrections to the Law On Specially Protected Natural Areas and several other regulatory acts of the Russian Federation about transforming state nature reserves (or zapovedniks) into national parks to take into consideration interests of local people. On Monday, July 30, the bill was investigated by the Federation Council. The changes in the legislation will come into action after the bill is signed by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.
Only four of 103 nature reserves of Russia are transformed: The Commander Islands Nature and Biosphere Reserve (Kamchatka Region), Teberdinsky Nature Reserve (Karachay-Cherkessia), Stolby Nature Reserve (Krasnoyarsk Region) and Gydansky Nature Reserve (Yamalo-Nenents Autonomous District). These reserves have similar condition – neighboring village or town near the borders.
Nikolskoye village. Photo by Ulyana Ledok
Nature reserve or zapovednik status prohibits any interventions of humans in local ecosystems. Russia is one of few countries with such strict form of protection. National park, on the contrary, presupposes territory zoning, including zones for local people activity. At the same time other zones of national parks ban any land development or use, including that of recreational purposes. In the field of protection, national parks have the same legal possibilities as nature reserves – any violation of protection regime will remain illegal.
In fact the Commander Islands Nature and Biosphere Reserve functions as a national park from its foundation. The reserve has the core area, recreational area (or buffer zone) and cooperation area, which is situated in the northern part of Bering Island with its only village on the islands – Nikolskoye. Here you may hunt, fish, collect seabirds eggs, mushrooms, herbs and berries – to continue the traditions of natural resources use, which makes life on the islands possible.
“The fact that Aleutian Municipal District is included in the territory of the Commander Islands Reserve is against land and nature protection legislatures. According to the letter of law, it would mean a ban for many types of activities for local people! The only legal way out of this situation is to transform the nature reserve into national park, which allows these types of activity for local and indigenous people. At the same time the borders of the protected territories, including those of the water area, will remain the same. The admission regime will function in its present managed way”, said Director of the Commander Islands Reserve Anastasia Kuznetsova.
Gydansky Nature Reserve. Photo from gdanskiyzp.ru
A similar situation developed in Gydansky Nature Reserve, on the southern border of which live the Nenets, local indigenous people. “The base of Nenets life is reindeer farming. When the nature reserve was founded their interests were not taken into consideration. The change of legal status will allow 40 families, living along the border of the reserve, to continue their traditional trades without violating the law. The nature protection regime remains intact”, said Director of Gydansky Nature Reserve Vyacheslav Berlinsky.
It is worth mentioning that the transition of nature reserves into national parks will not affect their borders and will not decrease the territory in any way. Neither will the changes influence the international status of the reserve, as the Commander Islands will remain in UNESCO MAB international programme regardless of the legal status of the protected natural area.
The administration of the Commander Islands Reserve is working on a special edition of The Herald, which will cover the theme in more details.