Forest Legislation

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Forest Legislation


the aggregate of legal norms dealing with the use of forests. Soviet forest legislation is aimed at ensuring the rational use, protection, reforestation, and increased productivity of the forests, as well as the protection of the corresponding rights of enterprises, organizations, institutions, and citizens.

The first Soviet forest legislation was the decree On Forests, passed by the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR in 1918; the decree regulated the use and protection of forests, which had been nationalized in 1917 by the Decree on Land. In 1923 the second session of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee approved a forest code for the RSFSR. In the same year the forest code of the Byelorussian SSR and the forest law of the Ukrainian SSR were adopted and put into effect, followed by the forest codes of the Georgian SSR and the Azerbaijan SSR in 1924 and of the Uzbek SSR in 1928. The forest legislation subsequently adopted was chiefly in the form of government decisions of the USSR and the Union republics on specific questions regarding the management of the state forests and forest use and protection.

The Constitution of the USSR (art. 14) states that the definition of the basic principles of forest use is within the jurisdiction of the USSR, whereas the enactment of special forest codes is within the jurisdiction of the Union republics (this legislation replaces the obsolete codes of the 1920’s). Forest legislation is also contained in various legislative enactments adopted by local soviets, ministries, and agencies.

According to the Constitution of the USSR, the forests are state property, that is, they belong to the people. This means that the forests in the USSR belong exclusively to the state and are transferred to organizations, enterprises, and individuals only for their use. Actions that directly or in a concealed form violate the state property right are prohibited by law. Forest ownership by the state represents the basis of relations in the USSR concerning forests and is a major requisite for the rational use of forests and for planned reforestation and protection.

All forests in the USSR (of natural origin as well as cultivated forests) are designated the Unified State Forest Fund. These include forests of national importance (including city forests, forest preserves and reserves, and forests allotted to enterprises, organizations, and agencies for scientific, educational, and other purposes), as well as kolkhoz forests located within the limits of the kolkhoz land tenure and registered in the corresponding land-accounting documents. The State Forest Fund does not include the shrubbery and tree plantations growing on land intended for agricultural purposes; on strips of land allotted to railroads, highways, and channels; in the cities and other populated areas (except land occupied by city forests); or on the personal holdings of the countrymen, personal plots of summer cottages, and garden plots.

The legislation delimits the competence of the USSR and the Union republics regarding the regulation of forest relations. The Soviet Union manages the state forest lands within the limits necessary to implement the authority granted by the Soviet Constitution; the USSR establishes the basic provisions, rules, and norms of forest use, sees to reforestation and increases in productivity, works to protect the forests, and establishes the size and procedure of distribution of the standing timber and of the forest fund of the USSR subject to felling. The Union republics manage the forests located on their territory, establish the procedure of use, and regulate all problems of forest relations falling outside the competence of the USSR.

According to natural and economic indicators, forests of state importance are divided into three groups. Forests of the first group have basically a protective purpose (such as forests protecting water and soil, mountain forests, and forests on steep slopes); the group also includes health-resort forests, greenbelts, and preserves. The second group consists of forests combining protective and productive industrial functions. These are forests of regions with insufficient forestation, high population density, and a highly developed railroad network. The third group includes forests of regions with a timber surplus (except for forests belonging to the first group); this is the main timber stock of the country. Kolkhoz forests may belong only to the first or second groups. The procedure of classifying the forests and of transferring them from one group to another, as well as the system of managing the forest economy, is determined by the Council of Ministers of the USSR. The state regulates the procedure for the distribution, planning, construction, and starting-up of enterprises and other projects that have an impact on the condition of the forests and regulates the procedure for carrying out work not connected with forestry management and the implementation of forest uses.

With the observance of requirements provided for by law, the following uses of the forests and lands of the State Forest Fund are permitted (these are termed forest uses): cutting timber and collecting turpentine and wood saps and minor forest products (such as bast and bark); mowing hay, pasturing, and collecting and harvesting wild-growing fruit, nuts, mushrooms, berries, herbs, and industrial plants (sideline uses); and using the forests for cultural and health reasons and for hunting, both sport and professional. All citizens have the right to harvest wild fruit, nuts, mushrooms, berries, and the like (public uses); they must follow the rules of fire safety and must not break or fell trees and bushes, destroy anthills or bird nestings, or litter in the forests. Free access to some forests may be limited because of special conditions and by established use procedures. Each kind of forest use (except public use) is permitted only with special permission—forest felling licenses (orders) or forest licenses—and only for a designated purpose. In the cases provided for by law, the rights of the forest users may be limited by state interests and by the interests of other forest users. Forest use to derive unearned income is prohibited.

In respect to different kinds of forest use, the forest legislation establishes responsibilities that must be observed by the forest users: work must be carried out in ways that do not harm the forests and natural reforestation; fire safety measures must be observed and forest fires extinguished; any loss of timber in the process of timber cutting, haulage, floating, sorting, and processing must be prevented; and cutting areas must be cleaned and the land strips returned at the user’s expense to a condition suitable for reforestation and other needs of forest economy. Leaving incompletely felled trees on cutting areas is prohibited, as is use of valuable commercial timber for temporary production structures.

Special procedures for forest use are established for forests of state importance and kolkhoz forests. For instance, city forests are used mainly for cultural and health purposes; procuring wood (in the sense of forest felling as a main use), collecting turpentine, and pasturing are prohibited there. Other kinds of forest uses may also be prohibited if they are incompatible with leisure and recreation. In the forests allotted to organizations and in the preserves, all or some kinds of forest uses may be limited or completely prohibited if this is required for the completion of tasks entrusted to the corresponding organizations.

The procedure of management and use of the kolkhoz forests is determined by the statute On Kolkhoz Forests, approved by the Council of Ministers of the USSR. These forests are designed to meet the requirements of the kolkhoz economy and the timber needs of the kolkhoz peasants, sideline uses, and needs for raw materials for crafts and trades; in addition, they protect fields, combat soil erosion, and conserve water. The forests allotted to the kolkhozes are used by the kolkhozes for all kinds of purposes free of charge (within the established levels of yearly use). The kolkhoz members have access at reduced rates or free of charge. A kolkhoz may transfer its rights to other forest users, charging fees for the procured production according to the rate established for state forests.

All forests have legal protection against fire, unlawful felling, and other actions inflicting damage to the forest economy and are protected against harmful insects and diseases. Protective and safety measures are laid out in the state economic development plans. Several services have been organized for the protection of Soviet forests: the State Service for Forest Protection and services for forest protection of the ministries and departments entrusted with management of the forest economy, of the city soviets of working peoples’ deputies, and of the kolkhozes. The bodies of the State Service for Forest Protection of the USSR have wide powers to prevent and stop violations of regulations and to institute safety measures. All business transactions that in a direct or concealed manner violate the right of the state ownership of the forests are considered void. Persons guilty of making these business transactions and persons guilty of unlawfully felling trees, of damaging trees and shrubs, and of violating fire safety requirements in the forests bear criminal or administrative responsibility (see, for example, the Criminal Code of the RSFSR, arts. 98, 99, and 169). Persons guilty of violations against fire safety regulations in the forests are liable for fines imposed through administrative procedure (see Rules of Fire Safety in the Forests of the USSR, approved by the Council of Ministers of the USSR on June 18, 1971, Collected Decrees of the USSR, 1971, no. 12, art. 89).

Enterprises, organizations, agencies, and citizens must compensate for damages inflicted by violations of the forest legislation to the extent and in the manner established by the statute of the Council of Ministers of the USSR of Aug. 21, 1968: On the Procedure and the Extent of the Material Responsibility for Damage Inflicted to the Forest Economy (Collected Decrees of the USSR, 1968, no. 16, art. 111). On the basis of the statute the instruction On the Procedure for Making People Answerable for Forest Violations in the Soviet Forests was published by the State Committee of the Forest Economy of the USSR on Mar. 26, 1969. Unlawfully obtained timber and other products are subject to sequestration and return to the enterprise, organization, or institution entrusted with the management of forest economy or to the forest user whose rights were violated (if sequestration is impossible, the cost of the unlawfully obtained production is recovered). Forest users who violate the established order of forest use may be temporarily prohibited from timber cutting or other forest uses until the violation is stopped. The same measure may be applied to timber procurement enterprises evading reforestation. Enterprises, organizations, and institutions failing to fulfill technological, sanitary, and other requirements may be temporarily prohibited from further forest use.

In most other socialist countries, forests are completely nationalized (Mongolian People’s Republic, Bulgaria) or almost completely (personal ownership and ownership by agricultural cooperatives are allowed but with restrictions). The procedure for forest use and forest protection is determined by laws, codes, and other legal acts. For instance, in Bulgaria, forest use and protection are regulated by the law on forests of Nov. 7, 1958, and by special rules approved by the Council of Ministers of Bulgaria of Dec. 12,1960. Rumania adopted a special forest code in 1962. Czechoslovakia has a detailed law on forests and the forest economy dating from 1960. In Poland the basic forest legislation is the law on the state forest economy (1949). In 1971 a law on protection of land and forests in use and on land recultivation was adopted. In Hungary the law on forests and hunting (1961) regulates the procedure of deciding questions related to forest use, forest care, extension of the forest area, and improvement of the protection of large tracts of forest. Forest use and protection in the German Democratic Republic is part of the annual planning procedure by territory and by economic sector.

In capitalist countries, where private property is predominant, the relationship of ownership and use of forests is regulated by civil law. However, the danger of forest depletion as a result of forest exploitation by private owners and related unfavorable changes in the natural environment are forcing the bourgeois states to limit the rights of private owners and buy large tracts of forest to protect natural forest complexes. The USA has a total forest area of 292.7 million hectares, more than half of which is commercial woods belonging to 4.5 million private owners. The national forests, which are important for recreation and public health, belong as a rule to the government and are run by the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture. Multipurpose use and maintenance of a stable level of production from the national forests were legislated in 1960, and protection of national forests in 1969.

Various governmental organizations in the capitalist state control the use and protection of forests. Measures on rationalized forest use and forest protection have been introduced by logging and timber companies, which have been forced to concern themselves with the preservation of forest resources in order to meet the demand for timber. For example, US pulp and paper companies have incentive programs to encourage private forest owners to use the most modern methods of forestry management. The laws of many states in the USA require private owners to carry out measures to ensure stable forest productivity while also opening the forests to public recreation, arresting soil erosion, and so on.

Most capitalist countries of Western Europe, in order to ensure forest protection, have laws limiting the rights of private owners. In Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, and elsewhere, central and local government bodies may condemn forest areas in order to organize national parks and reserves to meet state needs and establish public recreation areas.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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