DECLARION SAVE GEORGIA’S FORESTS
(Adopted at the scientific seminar: Importance, Reality and Prospects of Georgia’s Forests)
We the undersigned:
Recognizing the immense importance of ecological functions of Georgia’s forests – forests in Georgia are characterized by high level of endemism, unique biodiversity, they play important role in climate regulation, soil protection, water regulation, etc.;
Recognizing the esthetic, spiritual and cultural importance of Georgia’s forests;
Taking into account the fact that there are still almost virgin forests in Georgia that represent the clear example of forests of our bio-geographical region;
Recognizing the essential role of forests in mitigation of the impacts of climate change and other global ecological catastrophes;
Noting with alarm the poor condition of Georgian forest ecosystems, as in the most part of the country the degradation of the forests reached the critical point;
Underscoring that if the current level of utilization of timber resources is retained, despite legal or illegal nature of logging, in 10-15 years the forests of Georgia will be fully destroyed;
Calling for the Government to take an action in the spirit of Article 37 of Georgia’s Constitution,
We demand from the Government:
• To stop large-scale exploitation of Georgia’s timber resources;
• To put more emphasize on protection and conservation of forests;
• To increase transparency and public participation in the forestry sector.
We recognize that due to country’s social and economic needs it is inevitable that certain amount of timber resources will be utilized, however, logging without ecosystem approach will lead Georgia towards ecological catastrophe.
We are confident that current situation in the forestry sector is a result of fault management and that sector needs urgent reforming. However, at the same time it is absolutely unacceptable that in the name of the reforms, the forests of high conservation value are permitted for felling without any preliminary assessment. To improve situation following actions shall be taken step by step:
1. Inventory/categorization of forests shall be finalized and based on the environmental assessment, the areas where limited logging is still permissible shall be defined;
2. At least 15 percent of country’s forests shall be granted the status of protected areas (IUCN I-IV category); before establishment of administrations, these territories shall be announced as reserved for protected areas by the legal act and industrial logging shall be prohibited;
3. Georgia’s National Forest Policy shall be subject to meaningful public hearings, with participation of representatives of general public, specialists and academic groups;
4. National Forest Policy document shall be finalized based on the public hearings and approved by the resolution of the Parliament of Georgia;
5. Based on the national policy:
- national strategy and action plan for sustainable forestry shall be designed;
- in accordance with the strategy and action plan relevant legislative changes shall be made;
- relevant institutional changes shall also be made.
Policy document, national strategy and action plan, new forest code, as well as any mechanism of forest regulation shall be subject to wide public debate before their approval. In addition, in accordance to the requirements of Aarhus Convention, in case comments or suggestions are not taken into account, the government shall substantiate and make public its reasons of rejection.
We the undersigned, strongly believe that the abovementioned is the most acceptable and only way of collaboration between the government and the public, as well as sharing responsibility over the future of our forests and next generations that still leaves chance to save Georgia’s forests.