TED Case Studies

Taiga Deforestation



          CASE NUMBER:          67 
          CASE MNEMONIC:      TAIGA
          CASE NAME:          Taiga Forest and Weyerhaeuser

A.        IDENTIFICATION

1.        The Issue

     Siberia's large forest, the taiga, accounts for
approximately one-fifth of the world's total forested land (more
than two million square miles) and contains about one-half of the
world's evergreen forest.  Since the collapse of the Soviet
Union, the Russian government, desperate for investment, has
invited outside timber companies to log the taiga forest.  Russia
has loosened its control over the timber and wood-products
industries in the economy, which had been state run monopolies
under the old Soviet Union.  This has raised concern among
scientists and environmentalists about the impact of taiga
deforestation on global warming.  Russian forests are
disappearing at a rate of 12 million hectares a year.  The
Weyerhaeuser Company, a large American wood products company, is
contemplating a logging, processing, and replanting operation in
a proposed wilderness area that contains pristine forests of
spruce, fir, and lurch trees.  This project has been opposed by
environmental groups including the Pacific Energy and Resource
Center.

2.        Description

     If carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gases continue to
build up in the atmosphere at the present rate, the earth's
average temperature will rise by 3 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit in the
next century.  Since the forest continuously removes carbon
gases from the atmosphere and replaces them with oxygen,
preserving the taiga may be important to controlling the
greenhouse effect.  Conversely, destruction of the forest could
accelerate global warming.

     There are other problems causing deforestation in the taiga. 
Pollution, in the form of acid rain, is emitted from Russia's
nickel, aluminum and lead smelting plants.  Many of Siberia's
rivers are damaged when timber harvesters sink logs during
transport.  This occurs when harvesters try to transport logs
down rivers to processing plants which often results in flooding
of thousands of hectares of forest land.  Because most of
Russia's natural resources of oil, natural gas, coal, and
diamonds are found under the forest, the taiga is depleted in
order to mine these minerals.  Since 90 percent of the timber is
harvested by clear-cutting, erosion and runoff of soil into
rivers and streams further exacerbates the problem.

     A California environmental think tank, the Pacific Energy
and Resource Center, created the Siberian Forests Project.  This
is a joint U.S.-Russian effort to mobilize environmentalists in a
campaign to stop the assault on the taiga.  However, in the new
Russia free from the trade barriers imposed by the old Soviet
Forest Ministry, logging is the greatest threat to the taiga. 
Trees are a quick cash crop and are easier to extract than
minerals beneath the ground.  "The Russian government now seeks
foreign joint ventures to boost the importation of foreign
currency and technology." 

     Weyerhaeuser has been conducting intensive discussions and
pursuing an active public relations campaign.  In exchange for a
greenhouse and restoration project, Weyerhaeuser wants a 20-year
lease on over 40,000 hectares of Siberian forest.  The
Weyerhaeuser operation illustrates the dilemma facing the Russian
government. The Russian government wants to obtain hard currency
and new technology, but it has concerns about selling off areas
of forest that could cause ecological and cultural problems.  The
dispute is whether or not Weyerhaeuser should be allowed to log
in the taiga.

3.        Related Cases

     TIGER case
     SIBERIA case
     USWOOD case
     USCANADA case

     Keyword Clusters

     (1): Domain                   = ASIA
     (2): Bio-geography            = COOL
     (3): Environmental Problem    = DEFORestation

4.        Draft Author:  Forbes W. Hays

B.        LEGAL Clusters

5.        Discourse and Status:  AGReement and INPROGress

     The Weyerhaeuser proposal is under negotiation.  There is no
evidence that deforestation is a policy of the Russian government
and Russia has acknowledged, at least, that it does not want to
destroy the entire taiga. 

6.        Forum and Scope:  RUSSIA and BILATeral

7.        Decision Breadth: 2  (Russia and USA)

8.        Legal Standing:  LAW

     Russian law will be the ultimate arbiter in the case.

C.        GEOGRAPHIC Clusters

9.        Geographic Locations

     a.   Geographic Domain : ASIA
     b.   Geographic Site   : SIBERia
     c.   Geographic Impact : RUSSIA

10.       Sub-National Factors:  YES

     Regional authorities often have considerable leeway in
making deals with foreign interests.

11.       Type of Habitat:  COOL

     "The forests of Ussuriland [in Primorskie Krai oblast],
which were not glaciated in the last ice age, are unique in
Russia.  They mark the northernmost extension of Asian species,
forming a natural boundary between the vast boreal forests of
Siberia -- the legendary 'taiga' -- and the humid tropical
forests of the south.  The mixture has resulted in the creation
of one of the most diverse ecosystems in Asia."

D.        TRADE Clusters

12.       Type of Measure:  Regulatory Standards [REGSTD]

13.       Direct vs. Indirect Impacts:  INDirect

14.       Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact

     a.  Directly Related          : YES  WOOD
     b.  Indirectly Related        : NO
     c.  Not Related               : NO
     d.  Process Related           : YES  DEFORestation

15.       Trade Product Identification:  WOOD

16.       Economic Data

     In 1992, Russia produced 220 million cubic meters of sawn
timber.  In 1993 production is estimated to be at about 200
million cubic meters, according to Valery Shubin, chief of
Russia's Forest Service.  Russian wood industry output totaled
$11.8 billion Rubles and agriculture and forestry together
account for 18.4 percent of the labor force.

17.       Impact of Measure on Trade Competitiveness:  LOW

18.       Industry Sector:  WOOD

19.       Exporter and Importer:  RUSSIA and USA

E.        ENVIRONMENT Clusters

20.       Environmental Problem Type:  DEFORestation 

     Clear cut logging of Siberia's forests has already occurred
(see SIBERIA case), and the impact on local species has been
significant (see TIGER case).

21.       Name, Type, and Diversity of Species 

     Name:          Pines
     Type:          Plants/Coniferae
     Diversity:     150 higher plants per
                    10,000 km/sq (former
                    USSR)

22.       Impact and Effect:  LOW and SCALE

23.       Urgency and Lifetime:  LONG and 100s of years

24.       Substitutes:  RECYCling

     The United States is already one of the world's largest
importer of wood products, as well as an exporter.  The shift is
likely for market reasons, probably leading to some decline in
U.S. forest industry employment.

VI.       OTHER Factors

25.       Culture:  YES

     The case is very much related to the loss of other forest 
lands by peoples with long-standing traditions and histories in
these areas.  The loss of the forest would obviously impair those
traditions.

26.       Trans-Border:  NO

27.       Human Rights:  YES

     Because the native peoples have had little rights up to now, 
the ownership of land is an enormous question for their human
rights.

28.       Relevant Literature

Brokaw, Tom.  New York Times (October 22, 1992). 
Levin, Julia.  Audubon (May/June 1993). 
Schafer, Kevin and Hill, Martha, "The Logger and the Tiger,"
     Wildlife Conservation, 96/3: 24.
Stevens, William.  "Experts Say Logging of Vast Siberian Forest
     Could Foster Global Warming."  New York Times (January
     28, 1992).
Wall Street Journal (June 21, 1993).
World Resources.  Washington, DC: World Resources Institute,
     1992.

                           References




Go to Super Page 1/11/97