January 21, 1998


FROM: Sakhalin Environment Watch
Pacific Environment and Resources Center
Friends of the Earth - Japan


Please take a moment to look over this Action Alert coming to us from Sakhalin Environment Watch on Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East. The last unprotected old growth forests of Sakhalin are under threat from logging companies. Yet the regional governor has a unique opportunity to protect this territory -- covering 170,000 acres -- as a wildlife refuge. These refuge would protect old-growth coniferous forests vital for biodiversity and salmon spawning habitat. Our colleagues in Sakhalin are asking for urgent faxes to encourage the governor to make the right choice and to show his environmental leadership.

Below you will find a description of the situation and a sample letter to the governor. Please fax the governor and be sure to send us a copy! On behalf of the people and forests of Sakhalin Island, thanks for your help!

Siberian Forests Protection Project
Pacific Environment and Resources Center
1055 Fort Cronkhite
Sausalito, CA 94965 USA
Tel: 415-332-8200 Fax: 415-332-8167

Vostochny Wildlife Refuge: Background Information

Historically, the island of Sakhalin in the Russian Far East was covered in pristine coniferous forests. Yet nine pulp and paper mills built by the Japanese led to the systematic destruction of Sakhalin's forests through concentrated clearcutting. Few pristine coniferous forests remain on Sakhalin. We must act now to ask the Governor to protect the last major refuge of pristine ancient forests.

The Pursh-Pursh and Vengeri Rivers, which flow into the Sea of Okhotsk, contain 700 square kilometers (170,000 acres) of ancient forests that have been unimpacted by human activity or forest fires. The crystal-clear, clean water of these rivers flows through incredibly beautiful wilderness. Many species of salmonids, including pink, chum, masu-cherry, and coho salmon and Sakhalin taimen, spawn here. The watersheds contain high landscape and biological diversity. Covering less than 1% of the area, the proposed refuge provides habitat for 33% of all plant species and 65% of all terrestrial animal species known on Sakhalin Island. According to a study by biologists from the Institute of Marine Geology and Geophysics, 28 species of rare and endangered animals and 30 species of rare and endangered plants are found in this rich and wild corner of Sakhalin. Such rare animals as Sakhalin musk deer, grouse, mandarin duck, mountain snipe, osprey, golden eagle, marbled murrelet and many others are still found in the ancient forests of the Pursh-Pursh and Vengeri only because their habitat has not been logged. From April to November, a large population of wild reindeer uses the territory to calve, raise young, and mate.

In 1995 at an international conference organized by Friends of the Earth-Japan, this territory was included on a list of "biodiversity hotspots" a list of valuable wilderness areas of the Russian Far East in need of immediate conservation and protection. However, the area has come under serious threat.

Having exhausted the forest resources on adjoining territories, two local Russian logging companies are trying to log this relatively remote and inaccessible region. Despite numerous appeals by government conservation agencies about the necessity of establishing a wilderness preserve here the "Vostochny" wildlife refuge local and regional authorities have leased 250 square kilometers of coniferous forest in the central part of the Pursh-PurshVengeri watershed to a company for clear-cut logging. In refusing to establish the reserve, the authorities cited the absence of scientific proof of the necessity to preserve this wilderness territory. Yet in 1996, with financial support from the Sakhalin Regional Ecological Fund, the environmental organization Friends of the Earth - Japan, and the Japanese foundation ProNatura, Sakhalin biologists conducted an expedition to the area and prepared scientific evidence that persuasively demonstrated the necessity of preserving the ecosystem of the Pursh-PurshVengeri watersheds. But the lease agreements were already completed and clear-cutting began. So far, 3.5 square kilometers of virgin forest have already been destroyed to the north of the Pursh-Pursh river.

An opportunity to save this unique wilderness has now appeared. While reorganizing the forestry department on Sakhalin, the regional administration has annulled all lease agreements with the island's local logging companies. After completing reorganization, forest lands will again be transferred to these new local logging enterprises. Right now, it is legally possible for the Sakhalin Governor and Administration to create the "Vostochny" wildlife refuge that would protect the wilderness of the Pursh-Pursh and Vengeri watersheds.

The fate of the last large area of old-growth Sakhalin forests rests with the Governor. He can refuse to lease the Pursh-PurshVengeri watersheds and instead create the "Vostochny" wildlife refuge. In doing so, one of the few unique corners of Sakhalin wilderness will be saved.

What You Can Do

Public opinion is vitally important right now to encourage the governor to establish the "Vostochny" refuge. Sakhalin Environment Watch is appealing to all who are interested in wilderness on our planet.

The governor plans to make his decision before the end of January. Please FAX your letters to the Governor at: +7-504-41-62-200 (Note: from the U.S., first dial 011 to send an international fax).

We are sure that the combined strength of the world's environmentalists can save these forests!

For "Sakhalin Environment Watch"
Dmitry V. Lisitsyn
Secretary of the board


Governor of Sakhalin Region
Russian Federation
Igor Pavlovich Farkhutdinov
VIA FAX: +7-504-41-62-200

Respected Igor Pavlovich!

We are writing to you regarding your opportunity to create the Vostochny Wildlife Refuge in the central part of Sakhalin Island. Located in the watersheds of the Pursh-Pursh and Vengeri rivers, this unique wilderness area carries great importance for the preservation of biological diversity and pristine forests not only for Sakhalin Island, but also for the whole world. The protection of this area, representing Sakhalin Island's last unprotected ancient forests, would provide significant ecological, environmental, aesthetic and cultural values. We are alarmed by the danger that this valuable wilderness could be destroyed in the near future by logging companies that have already begun to build logging roads into the area.

We understand that you are the head of Sakhalin, a leading region in the Russian Far East. No doubt you are well aware of Russia's international commitments, as agreed upon in the Convention on Biological Diversity, to protect biodiversity.

Your country, along with many others, signed this international agreement in 1992. One of the most important strategies for preserving the world's biological diversity is the creation of wilderness reserves to protect those areas that are rich in habitat for rare and endangered plant and animal species.

We understand that the proposed Vostochny Wildlife Refuge in the watersheds of the Pursh-Pursh and Vengeri rivers represents such an important area. The Vostochny Wildlife Refuge has been identified by Sakhalin, Russian Far East, and foreign ecologists as a biodiversity protection priority. Although the proposed refuge covers less than 1% of the territory of Sakhalin, one can find over 33% of all plant species and 65% of all animal species found on Sakhalin Island. This wild corner of Sakhalin provides habitat for 28 rare and endangered animal and 30 rare and endangered plant species. The ancient forests of the Pursh-Pursh and Vengeri rivers protect natural spawning habitat for such economically and ecologically important species as coho, pink, chum, and masu-cherry salmon and the Sakhalin taimen. Only a few such undisturbed salmon spawning habitats remain throughout the Northern Pacific region.

Sakhalin Region is about to see significant economic development from its offshore oil and gas reserves. Such economic development, including proposed construction of pipelines, will undoubtedly impact the environment. As a result, the protection of undisturbed wilderness areas on Sakhalin Island has now become especially important.

As the head of one of the leading regions in the Russian Far East, we ask you to use the unique opportunity to show Sakhalin Island's leadership in environmental issues. We ask you to show Sakhalin's environmental leadership by refusing to lease the forest territories of the Pursh-Pursh and Vengeri Rivers to logging enterprises and instead establishing the Vostochny Wildlife Refuge. We are certain that such a decision would be warmly received by the international community as well as by the people of Sakhalin. Please inform us of your decision in this matter.



Siberian Forests Protection Project
Pacific Environment and Resources Center
1055 Ft. Cronkhite
Sausalito, CA 94965
Tel 415-332-8200
Fax 415-332-8167