[ MANY MILES AWAY ]
Ukraine’s 26. 7 million acres of forestland covers about 15 percent of the
country – a sizable holding by Eastern European standards. The Carpathian
Mountains and Polissya (a region of swamped woodlands) in the west and
north of the country have the most forest, including stands of beautiful pine
and larch, but there are pockets of oak- and beech-dominated deciduous
forest throughout the central and southern steppes.
Intensive forest exploitation in Eastern Europe began in the eighteenth century, when forests were cleared for timber, as well as for potash and charcoal
production. Wood was exported to Germany, France, England, and Poland. The
need for new agricultural land, much of it cleared for the sugar beet industry,
caused a disastrous reduction of forest area in the nineteenth century.
Today, the prevailing tree species are Scot’s pine (Pinus silvestris), European
oak (Quercus robur), European beech (Fagus silvatica), Norway spruce (Picea
abies), European white birch (Betula pendula), black alder (Alnus glutinosa),
European ash (Fraxinus excelsior), European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus),
and silver fir (Abies alba). There is a nearly even split between coniferous and
hardwood forests in Ukraine, with pine the most common species (making up
33 percent of the total forested area), and oak and beech together representing
roughly another third. As is typical in Europe, a large share (more than 45
percent) of forests are planted, but Ukraine’s Carpathian region also boasts the
largest surviving reserves of old-growth forests on the continent.
The Carpathians are home to more than half of Europe’s population of
bears, wolves, and lynx. The primeval beech
forests of the Carpathians are particularly special,
and have been inscribed on the World Heritage List.
These forests are unique for the research of biological
processes in non-disturbed ecosystems and are continuously studied by
both Ukrainian and American researchers (including those from the Carbon
Dynamics Lab and the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural
Resources, both at the University of Vermont).
Ukraine has a long tradition of forest management, though as one might
expect from a country that was under communist rule for much of the
twentieth century, most involves the management of state-owned forests.
While today the law allows for municipal and private forest ownership, in
practice, state ownership predominates. State-owned forests total 9. 66
million hectares, while municipal forests represent just 40,000 hectares.
The major public owners include the Agency for Forest Resources and the
Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food.
Property restitution was not practiced in Ukraine following the breakup of
the U.S.S.R.; this was due to various historical circumstances in the different
regions of Ukraine and the public’s fear that sustainable forest management
would not be practiced on private forests. Even today, there’s a five-hectare
(a bit over 12-acre) limit on the forestland that an individual can own. This,
combined with a lack of forestry skills in the private sector, has limited private forest ownership and management. Individuals can lease forest plots for
up to 49 years for recreational, educational, and other non-industrial uses.
In its role managing the majority of the forests in Ukraine, the State Forest
Resource Agency (logo above) is charged with developing and implementing
national policies regarding forest management, including the protection,