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Russian delegates meet with local forestry professionals

Jeff Edmonds, with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Forestry, presents to Russian delegates Wednesday morning at Northwest Technical College. Edmonds was among five state and federal employees who took part in a forestry roundtable with the delegates. The delegates included, clockwise from bottom left, Yekaterina Kochneva, Olga Boronakhina, Kseniya Nagornova, Stanislav Lebedev and, not pictured, Nataliya Verkorubova. At bottom right is interpreter Yurey Skripnikov. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Forest practices here are similar to those in Russia, despite nearly 1,000 miles separating the two regions, experts learned Thursday in Bemidji.

Five local forestry professionals met in a roundtable discussion with five visiting Russian delegates at Northwest Technical College to discuss forestry-management practices.

Representatives from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Forest Service gave brief presentations and fielded questions from delegates, who are environmental experts in Russia.

Participants found that several practices, such as the harvesting of government-owned forests and fire-suppression efforts, are markedly similar in both Minnesota and Russia.

Stanislav Lebedev, a forestry engineering technician in Krasnoyarsk, said geologists can rent forest land to cut a ditch and analyze the geology of the land, but renters don’t own the timber. If trees are cut for the work, the renter may not use the timber.

“In Russia, when somebody rents a plot of land, that individual rents land only,” he said, speaking through translator Yurey Skripnikov. “If there is forest over there, he is not a renter of the forest. How does it work over here?”

It is very similar here, said Jeff Edmonds, who coordinators timber harvesting in northwestern Minnesota for DNR Forestry.

Edmonds said state forest land in the northwestern Minnesota region accounts for one-third of the timber that is cut in Minnesota. Annually, as much as 300,000 cords of timber are harvested from this region, or about 85,700 cubic meters.

Lebedev said most of the forest land in Russia is rented out to private businesses; one renter cuts about 150,000 cubic meters of timber a month. He added that this area covers about 1.3 million acres in Siberia, a “huge, huge area” with sparse population.

B.J. Glesener, regional fire staffer with DNR Forestry, said the region is coming out of one of the worst fire seasons in 20 years.

“Our areas where we have peat soils – organic soils – we dug down 18 feet and found no water,” he said. “The swamps were very dry.”

Most wildfires, he continued, are reported by residents who call 911. The DNR has agreements in place with federal, state, tribal and local governments to utilize all available personnel when large fires are reported.

Lebedev said Russia monitors its forests for fire through land and air surveillance.

“As I mentioned before, lands are rented out to timber agencies, and the renter is responsible for … fire-prevention measures on that particular lot,” he said.

A government agency provides air patrols from April through the fall. Firefighters can parachute firefighters into the forests to battle any blazes located.

“In the case of fire, they immediately notify the forestry agency, and they would respond by sending their fire trucks, tractors, whatever equipment is necessary,” Lebedev said.

Glesener said that was similar to fire prevention here.

“There was one tragedy with one of those air-drop teams,” Lebedev said. “Seven firefighters were dropped with (para)chutes, but there was a sudden change in wind direction and they landed right in the fire.”

Of nine members in that team, seven died, he said.

Kseniya Nagornova, academic programs administrator for Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, questioned the amount of downed trees left over from the July 2 storm.

“In Russia, they would have cut those trees to pieces and used that,” she said. “Why is it those trees are still there?”

Edmonds said an auction was held a month after the storm, through which the state-managed forests were cleaned up.

He suggested the downed trees were still on private lands.

“In terms of the storm that happened in Chippewa National Forest, we have done some salvage harvest and are still planning on implementing more harvest of those damaged trees,” said Darla Lenz, Chippewa National Forest supervisor through the U.S. Forest Service.

About the delegates

The Russian delegates are professional leaders who come to the United States through the Open World program.

Bemidji has hosted Open World delegates eight to 10 times, said Alice Thompson, the program coordinator in Bemidji.

Each Russian contingency comes with a theme, such as 2010’s “Women as Leaders.” This year’s theme was environmental management.

The delegates arrived in Bemidji Friday and will return home Saturday. During their time here, they stay with host families and take part in numerous conversations and events.

Today’s events include visits to Lake Bemidji State Park, a presentation by DNR officials, a walking tour of a wetland bog and a visit with the director of the Concordia Language Villages on international collaboration on sustainable building techniques.

“The program is very concentrated and intense,” Thompson said. “We work hard all week, but we have a lot of fun all week too.”  

Thompson said she has applied to host Open World delegates in 2013 that would be focused on social work.

“It’s so enriching for them (the delegates),” she said, “and it’s good for us in Bemidji to be exposed to other cultures.”