VLADIVOSTOK. April 1. VOSTOK-MEDIA – Officials of Khasansky District, Primorsky Krai, reviewed the results of the preparation for the forest fire season and outlined the ways to solve the most burning issues concerning the protection of the Land of Leopard from forest fires.
Elena Starostina, a spokeswoman for Amur Branch of WWF Russia, told Vostok-Media the Southwest of Primorsky Krai is the only place on earth where the Amur leopard is found. At the same time Primorye is one the most fire-prone areas of Russia. During the last fire season, which lasted from fall 2008 to spring 2009, the satellite fire monitoring conducted by WWF showed that almost a third part of the South East of Primorsky Krai was burnt out. Forest fires urge leopards leave their habitat and turn the fertile mixed coniferous-broad leaved forests, in which a large number of wild hoofed animals can find enough food, into barren open oak forests.
The early snow in October last year prevented wood fires, but nearly meter-high dry grass in the forest-steppe areas of Khasan prairies presents a serious fire danger now, stated a participant in the meeting, which was held in Slavyanka as part of the committee’s work on prevention and response to emergency situations. The meeting was held by the Head of Khasansky municipal district Aleksandr Naryzhny with heads of rural settlements and villages, security agencies, land users, forest officers, members of environmental organizations.
“The assessment of forest fire damage in the area is under the supervision of the Vice Governor of Primorsky Krai,” said Aleksandr Naryzhny. “It is essential to coordinate the activities of all agencies and to do one’s best to avoid fires near business locations and frontier outposts. Spreading of fire to the adjacent side – Hunchun wildlife reserve, is equivalent to breach of a state boundary. I was informed that the local forestries have completed the process of reformation; at present, they have enough human and financial resources, and fuel and lubrication materials. So now we need results. The federal nature reserve Leopardovy and its buffer territories should not be on fire.”
Khasan will continue to be a subsidized district and, as it turned out at the meeting, the current budgets of urban and rural settlements do not have any funds earmarked for the prevention of forest fires. In this context, the assistance of WWF-Russia and other NGOs such as WCS and Phoenix Fund, which help to prevent occurrence of fires in the habitats of Amur leopards, is well-timed.
The Amur branch of WWF-Russia has adequate supplies of gas and diesel fuel to meet all transportation needs and run airborne fire-fighting equipment. WWF can provide fuel to the inter-agency fire brigades to run their fire fighting vehicles across the reserve, because Kedrovaya Pad state nature reserve, in whose jurisdiction the nature reserve lies, does not yet have enough resources and manpower to carry out such operations.
“We have made provision for 10 fire-fighting brigades, which were set up last year at the initiative of WWF. Also, we will supply fuel to two proving grounds – Bamburovsky and the one located near Narva River as well as to five frontier outposts. We have already allocated funds for the renovation of two tractors in Barabashsky Forestry. The equipment is needed to upgrade fire lines in Leopardovy nature reserve,” said Amur Leopard Conservation Program coordinator at WWF-Russia Andrei Fereferov.