15-year test period will precede any private ownership of forest areas

Russia will see its first private owners of forested areas no earlier than 2020, German Gref, Russia's minister of economic development and trade, told reporters Thursday after the government tentatively approved a new forestry legal code, a Rosbalt correspondent reported. The new code gives those leasing forest areas the right to acquire ownership only after 15 years of successful leasing.

Yury Trutnev, Russia's natural resources minister, said the new draft forest legal code had been approved overall but sent back to the drafters for a month of final revisions. He said the main changes would be to sections of the code dealing with the relationships between the central government and regions and localities. 'Despite a great number of inadequacies, the document is philosophically absolutely correct,' Trutnev said, noting that it resolves what he called the main question-the question of ownership. 'What is most important is that the new code will create owners,' the minister said. He also insisted that there would be no problems of ordinary citizen access to privately held forest plots.

Gref said, 'The draft has been accepted and its ideological spirit entirely approved.' He said the new code would put in place the fundamentals needed to raise the economic productivity of the forestry sector. 'Today we can't ourselves process our forestry resources. We deliver 35% of the total as raw timber and only 2%-5% as finished products. This disbalance has to be righted,' Gref said. He also noted that the new code will create two forms of lease arrangements, short-term (up to a year) and long-term (from 10 to 99 years). Gref said long-term leases would spur lease-holders to follow reforestation practices.

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