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    PRIVATE OWNERSHIP OF FORESTS WILL COME TO RUSSIA NO EARLIER THAN IN 2020, SAYS GREF

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    MOSCOW, March 18, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - The property rights to forests in Russia are only available after 15 years of leasing the property, Minister of Economic Development and Trade German Gref said on Thursday after the end of a session of Government.

    "The property rights to a forest are only available after 15 years of honestly leasing it. Thus, the first private owners of forest resources will appear in Russia no earlier than 2020," Mr. Gref said.

    "During this period, a civilized system of forest use will be established," the Minister underscored.

    The Russian Government approved the draft Forest Code on Thursday. Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov ordered the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and the Ministry of Natural Resources to finalize the document within a month.

    Mr. Gref underscored that the Forest Code "is the first serious step towards unifying the management of forests." According to him, preference in leasing a forest will be given to those forest users, who will lease it for 10-99 years.

    "Long-term leasing is more effective, because a forest user has to agree to a set of obligations connected to reforestation; only after protective measures and reforestation will the user be allowed to fell trees, " Mr. Gref underscored.

    Another innovation in the Forest Code is the creation of a Forest Cadastre, which will become part of the Real Estate Cadastre. Mr. Gref noted that for the first time, the Forest Code would be closely linked with the Civil Code, the Land Code and ecological norms. "The Forest Code will have an ecological aspect," Mr. Gref added.

    He believes that the adoption of a Forest Code has been overdue. "Many countries, such as Finland, have built their high-tech economies on the basis of efficiently managing their forest resources. We were not able to do it. Today, the prerequisites to use the rich forest resources for a further industrial and economic development need to be developed," concluded the Federal Minister.

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