From August 22 – 29, the United States Geological Survery (USGS) and Woods Hole Oceonographic Institute scientists traveled to the Russian Northeast Science Station in Cherskiy to meet with Russian colleagues under the BPC’s Environment Working Group. The focus was to examine permafrost, its vulnerability to climate change, and the potential for the release of large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere should such frozen soils thaw as a result of future rising temperatures. Permafrost is also known to contain high concentrations of the contaminant mercury, which also could be released into the atmosphere following a thaw.
Research into the coupling of permafrost thaw and contaminant release is a relatively new but vital topic in climate science. The U.S. and Russian researchers held field and laboratory demonstrations on the methods and instrumentation needed for making measurements from arctic landscapes. They also demonstrated methods for making similar measurements from inland water surfaces in collaboration with the National Science Foundation Arctic Great Rivers Observatory (Arctic-GRO) project. U.S. and Russian scientists have collaborated on Arctic-GRO studies for several years, conducting hydrological and carbon cycling studies on the Yukon River in Alaska and on the Kolyma River near Cherskiy. During the mission, USGS scientists also met with colleagues from the Melnikov Permafrost Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Yakutsk to discuss the characterization of permafrost distribution and degradation across Russia and North America.
Environmental Cooperation in 2014
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service representatives met with Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment from June 3 – 4 to negotiate cooperation activities in 2013 – 2014. Since 1972, the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Protection of the Environment and Natural Resources has been a mechanism for collaborative nature conservation efforts between the two countries, addressing management of shared populations of marine mammals and migratory birds, fisheries, protected natural areas, endangered animal and plant species, invasive species, and wildlife diseases. U.S. and Russian federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, Native groups, and university researchers are able to build partnerships and share research through the activities outlined in the Agreement.
Community-based Fire Management
In July 2013, after over two years of Arctic Black Carbon mitigation work, the U.S. Forest Service and Pacific Environment convened a workshop to discuss lessons-learned and to explore options for sustaining and expanding community-based efforts in Russia.
The workshop, which was held in St. Petersburg, consisted of participation from six local NGO partners, including the Phoenix Fund from the Russian Far East and the Gebler Ecological Society from the Altai Krai. Participants discussed methods in each of their respective pilot areas, challenges in project implementation, and successes that have resulted from their work. These local-level efforts and experiences are valuable for finding new ways to address human-caused fires in Russia.
These efforts are designed to address open burning sources of black carbon, including agricultural burning and human-caused wildfires. These pilot programs are being implemented by international and local Russian NGOs, often in cooperation with local government partners and volunteers, involving a mix of strategies to address human-caused fires and agricultural burning, including the development of educational resources, community fire wardens or monitors, and the establishment of mobile fire brigades.
Polar Bear Commission Meets
At the 5th meeting of the U.S. – Russia Polar Bear Commission, Commissioners approved the development of a Conservation Management Plan for the shared Alaska-Chukotka polar bear population. The Conservation Management Plan will identify important habitats, high priority research activities, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge Studies that will inform sound management decisions for the shared population.
The Commission, which met June 5 in St. Petersburg, includes federal, state, and Native representatives from Russia and the United States. The group will continue to implement the Bilateral Treaty for the Alaska-Chukotka polar bear population, which inhabits the Bering and Chukchi Seas. The current annual quota for Native subsistence harvest of the polar bears is set at 58, to be split evenly between the indigenous peoples of Alaska and Chukotka.
Environmental Technical Exchange
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted a technical exchange June 25 – 30 with a Russian delegation led by the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation. The exchange focused on U.S. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) legislation, hazardous waste cleanup, land revitalization and reuse using US financial mechanisms such as grants and other incentives, and the application of U.S. technologies in addressing legacy contaminated sites.
The Russian delegation included representatives from the Russian federal government and private sector, and the United Nations Development Programme. Representatives from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Commerce, World Bank and U.S. industry participated in the meeting.
Because of the delegation’s interest in U.S. remediation and waste destruction technologies, EPA cooperated with the U.S. Department of Commerce and Environmental Technology Associations under EPA’s export promotion program to introduce this group to U.S. innovative and green technologies for the remediation and destruction of hazardous waste. During their visit, the Russian delegation observed U.S. technologies and best practices in land remediation and waste destruction from both EPA experts and U.S. companies.
After the meetings at EPA's Office of International and Tribal Affairs in Washington, D.C., the delegation visited EPA Region 2 in New York, where they toured a Brownfield site, The Highline, a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. The visit to the Highline showcased this large-scale land restoration and revitalization project that was the result of a cooperative effort by U.S. federal, state, and city governments and the local community.
The Russian delegation also visited the EPA Laboratory in Edison, N.J., the Cornell Dubilier Superfund site, and the TerraTherm site in Teterboro, N.J. where they saw innovative green technologies in action.
The visit produced a cooperation agreement between the Environmental Technology Council, and American trade council, and the newly-established Russian NGO “Technological Platform for Sustainable Environmental Development.” The agreement includes frameworks for the exchange of technical information, expertise and cooperation on use of technologies and best practices, and strengthens capabilities and skills in waste management and remediation of contaminated sites.EPA Hosts a Delegation
Presentations by the EPA emphasized community-based land clean-up and remediation. The Russian guests toured the award-winning redevelopment site, “Atlantic Station.” They visited the “Atlanta Life Cycle Building Center," a showplace for the concept of deconstruction rather than demolition, which provides a marketplace for recovered building materials that otherwise would end up in landfills. They also visited the Ponce City Market, the largest adaptive reuse project in Atlanta's history, in which the 2.1 million square foot historic Sears Roebuck warehouse was transformed into a mixed use development for office, retail and residential living. The Russian delegation attended the 2013 National Brownfields Conference.
At the close of the visit, the MNRE delegation invited EPA experts to have follow-up technical consultations at Russian remediation sites near Lake Baikal in the Republic of Buryatia and in the Nizhni Novgorod Region. These efforts support the goals of the Environment Working Group.
Planning Wildlife Conservation Activities
In February, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service international affairs specialist Steve Kohl traveled to Moscow to discuss cooperative plans for 2013. Mr. Kohl met with representatives of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Russian Academy of Sciences to lay out the work conducted under the U.S.-Russia Environmental Agreement, including field work and information exchange. Other participants included U.S. and Russian federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, Native representatives, and university researchers.
Marine Mammal Research and Management
During March 4-8, eight Russian marine mammal biologists met with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Seattle, Washington to review cooperative research and management efforts regarding seals, whales, sea otter, and Pacific walrus. The group will soon produce a record of the meeting detailing the marine mammal research activities planned for 2013-2014. Joint collaborative studies are critical to monitoring the status of shared populations of marine mammals in the Arctic region. The meeting, held under the auspices of the U.S.-Russia Environmental Agreement and the BPC’s Environment Working Group, was the 22nd meeting of the Marine Mammal Working Group since its formation in 1973.
Bilateral Cooperation on Management of Legacy Waste
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment hosted expert from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on March 12-13 to discuss approaches to the management of legacy contaminated sites in Russia and the United States and the development of new Russian legislation addressing management of environmental damage caused by industrial activities.
EPA experts shared their 30 years of experience in implementing Superfund and Brownfields programs, including an overview of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; the development of the Superfund trust fund; enforcement and cost recovery; planning and implementing cleanup actions, case studies of actual remediation projects, use of innovative technologies and practices in environmental cleanups; and the role of local communities in the Superfund cleanup process. Russian experts presented their successes in cleaning up former military bases at Franz Josef Land and remediation of sites near Lake Baikal and around Nizhniy Novgorod.
Joint Fire Management Training
During March 17-23, U.S. Forest Service (USFS) fire and aviation management specialists participated in joint training in Pushkino, Moscow Oblast with the Russian Aerial Forest Fire Center, a unit of the Russian Federal Forestry Agency. The training consisted of regional-level aerial observers and smokejumpers from regional-level forestry agencies throughout Russia. USFS representatives provided training sessions on the U.S. Incident Command System, fire prevention, and aerial suppression techniques. Representatives of the Russian Aerial Forest Fire Center will visit the United States this summer to continue to build upon mutually beneficial cooperation on wildfire management.
Scientists Exchange Information on Combating Invasive Forest Pest
In January, under the auspices of the Environment Working Group, the U.S. Forest Service hosted a delegation of four Russian scientists to exchange information on the emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive forest pest prevalent in the U.S. and Russia. During the exchange, scientists shared valuable information on the differences and similarities in the spread of EAB in their countries. The Russian scientists also had an opportunity to view U.S. techniques for survey, research, control, and outreach activities to combat the EAB, and they received research protocols that can be useful in controlling this rapidly spreading pest.
Research Cooperation on Genetic Verification to Track Timber
On December 4-5, 2012, the U.S. Forest Service and Russian counterparts from the Environmental Working Group met in Ahrensburg, Germany for a two-day workshop at the von Thuenen Institute to assess the progress of pilot programs in the Russian Far East and Siberia working to identify appropriate genetic markers for potential use in DNA-based timber tracking. With participation from scientists from the United States, Germany, and Russia, the workshop also provided an opportunity to exchange information and expertise, as well as discussion of opportunities for outreach to a wider audience of stakeholders in Russia.
Summary of Symposium on Black Carbon Now Available
In October 2012, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences held a bilateral symposium on environmental problems caused by black carbon, with more than 50 Russian and U.S. scientists and specialists in attendance. Discussions reflected considerable interest in further development of cooperation between scientists in both countries, and enhancement of cooperation may make it possible to significantly improve data exchanges, as well as techniques and methods of observation and control. The full summary from the symposium can be accessed through the Russian Academy of Sciences website.
Environment Working Group Experts Meeting
The BPC’s Environmental Working Group of the held a High-Level Experts Meeting on October 31st. The three-hour meeting was jointly chaired by Daniel Reifsnyder, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment, and Nuritdin Inamov, Head of the International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
The assembled experts discussed ongoing collaborative projects and charted new initiatives for 2013. The agenda included a wide range of cooperation in areas such as combating wildlife trafficking; promoting sustainable forestry; improving park and protected area management; sharing best practices in hazardous waste clean-up, including in the environmentally sensitive Arctic region; collaboration on climate change issues; and symbolically linking U.S. and Russian National Parks in the Bering Straits region (Beringia).
Projects slated to begin in the coming months include joint Environmental Protection Agency work with Murmansk Technical University and the city of Murmansk to monitor and reduce Black Carbon emissions from diesel sources, and a visit to Russia by U.S. specialists to share best practices in hazardous waste management under the Superfund and Brownfields projects, which will include a field visit to sites in Nizniy Novgorod. Superfund and Brownfields projects are complimentary programs designed to clean up contaminated locations.
American Teens Win Third Prize at International Forestry Competition Moscow
Two U.S. high school students, Emily Barnett and Tyler Myers, traveled to Russia to present their field research project, “The Effects of Fire and Forest Thinning on the Biodiversity of Understory Plants in the Lake Tahoe Basin,” at the 9th Annual International Junior Foresters’ Competition. Their project won Third Prize among 52 projects presented by students from around the world. The Head of the Russian Federal Forestry Agency, V.N. Maslyakov, presented their prizes to them.
The competition is hosted annually by the Russian Federal Forestry Agency, and brings together youth from nations around the world to promote and reward young scientists for their interest and efforts in the environmental field and encourage international dialogue concerning forestry issues. This year, close to 100 students from 35 countries took part. This was the first time the United States participated in the competition.
The students’ participation in this competition is part of an ongoing collaboration between the US Forest Service and the Russian Federal Forestry Agency as part of the BPC’s Environment Working Group.
Illegal Logging Study Tour
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) implemented a U.S. – Russia exchange program under the Environment Working Group on forest law enforcement and timber theft investigation. The delegation from Russia included seven forestry, law enforcement, and policy specialists who visited Washington, D.C. and Washington State to examine U.S. approaches to forest law enforcement and timber theft investigation.
The visit complemented U.S. efforts to inform stakeholders in Russia about the U.S. Lacey Act, which prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, transported or sold; highlighted and explored relevant timber theft case studies that demonstrate law enforcement, investigation, and prosecution processes in the U.S.; and discussed relevant technologies that can enhance law enforcement efforts to address and deter illegal logging.
Technical Cooperation Improves Trail Network Information at Lake Baikal
Three U.S. Forest Service (USFS) representatives traveled to Irkutsk, Russia, to work with The Great Baikal Trail Association, a local NGO, on the design of public information materials aimed at both local and international tourists hoping to hike along the shore of Lake Baikal. The USFS specialists’ visit provided an opportunity to exchange ideas, methodologies, and practices related to development of interpretive and informational materials (brochures, trail maps, websites, and signs).
The Great Baikal Trail Association, one of the USFS’s closest partners in the Baikal region, is celebrating their 10-year anniversary of working to promote local sustainable development through low-impact eco-tourism throughout the Baikal region.
9th Russian American Long-Term Census (RUSALCA) of the Arctic Takes Place
The 9th RUSALCA expedition began this summer. With close collaboration with the GNINGI arm of the Russian Navy, the RUSALCA team successfully recovered all previously deployed moorings and instruments in Arctic waters. Customs and border guard checkpoints were cleared successfully. The RUSALCA team invited two Russian Border Guards to travel with the expedition to ensure full compliance with all regulations. The RUSALCA expedition is currently transiting northwards to Wrangel Island and beyond, gathering biological, physical, chemical and geological observations that will provide clues to the response of the ecosystem to the loss of sea ice in this region.
Two Russian Botanists Visit the St. Louis Botanical Garden
On September 15 two Russian botanists visited St. Louis for a week of observation at the Missouri Botanical Garden. They then traveled to Iowa and Minnesota to view the prairie landscapes finishing the trip at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Minneapolis. Organized under the U.S.-Russia Environmental Agreement, the trip is coordinated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Fisheries Cooperation in St. Petersburg
U.S. and Russian delegations met in St. Petersburg September 5 – 7, to discuss the status of fisheries stock and cooperation during the annual meeting of the Intergovernmental Consultative Committee on Fisheries (ICC) furthering cooperation under the 1988 bilateral fisheries agreement. The U.S. delegation was led by Ambassador David Balton and included representatives from the Department of State (OES), NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the North Pacific and Bering Sea Fisheries Advisory Body. The Russian delegation was led by Alexander Fomin, Deputy Head of the Russian Federal Fisheries Agency, and included representatives from the Federal Fisheries Agency, FSB State Maritime Inspection Division, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as scientists from several fisheries institutes. Scientists from both sides shared data on fish stocks in the northern Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Law enforcement agencies highlighted instances of close cooperation on inspections and prosecutions. At both the ICC meeting and a negotiating session on September 4, members of the delegations continued discussions on a bilateral agreement on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
Workshop Aims to Help Protect the Far Eastern Leopard
The boreal forest surrounding the eastern Russia-China border is home to the last viable population of Far Eastern Leopards. Just a few decades ago the Far Eastern Leopard’s numbers were plentiful and their range extended deep into Russia, China, and the Korean peninsula. However, as a result of poaching, forest degradation, and habitat loss, the subspecies has dwindled to less than 40. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service, in cooperation with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), convened and supported a three-day workshop from July 31 to August 2 in Slavyanka, Russia. Thirty-four experts, specialists, and administrators from Russia, China, and the U.S. came together to exchange information on survey methods and conservation tactics, as well as to determine ways to promote international cooperation.
APEC Environmental Ministerial Meeting in Khabarovsk
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment and Science Dan Clune met with Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sergey Donskoy during the APEC Environmental Ministerial in Khabarovsk They discussed the possibility of expanding cooperation on legacy waste cleanup—including each side hosting experts for information exchanges. PDAS Clune suggested Minister Donskoy meet with EPA experts and visit brownfields sites himself, and Donskoy welcomed the opportunity. The U.S. delegation noted that EPA is awaiting approval of funding for visits, and Minister Donskoy said that he hoped EPA experts could visit before 2013.
4th Annual Meeting of the Polar Bear Commission Convenes in Alaska
The U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Agreement Commission held its annual meeting in Anchorage June 25-27. The purpose was to review information presented by the Agreement's Scientific Working Group about abundance and trends of the Alaska-Chukotka polar bear population, and to use that information to determine a yearly quota for Native subsistence harvest. For the first time, the four commissioners (two government and two Native representatives) approved a multi-year quota of 58 bears annually, to be divided equally between Alaska and Chukotka for the next five years. The quota allows Native groups to harvest the bears for cultural, traditional, and subsistence use. Native people legally harvest polar bears in Alaska but not in Russia, where a prohibition on all harvest remains in place.
Two Americans Design Visitor Centers in Baikalsky Nature Reserve
From July 18 to August 2, two U.S. Fish & Wildlife employees traveled to Baikalsky Nature Reserve in southern Buryatia, Siberia, to share expertise on the design and retrofitting of two visitor centers. The exchange, organized under the U.S-Russia Environmental Agreement, assisted in the redesign of environmental education hubs that are increasingly accessed by foreign and domestic tourists. The Russian Government has instructed that natural lands be more open and available to the public, and improving visitor center services and infrastructure is key to that process.
Forestry Officials Embark on Wildfire Prevention Tour
The U.S. Forest Service in cooperation with the National Fire Protection Association and the Russian Federal Forestry Agency recently hosted a delegation to the U.S. to examine community-level efforts and solutions to wildfire prevention. The tour took place from June 20th-30th and is an activity under the U.S. State Department-funded USDA Arctic Black Carbon program to address open burning sources of black carbon in Russia, including wildfires.
Ecologists Talk Sustainable Development
On June 5, USAID partner NGO Fund for Sustainable Development (FSD) organized a roundtable with ecologists from the Russian Academy of Sciences to discuss the state of environmental conservation and sustainable development. Participants concluded that progress has been made toward sustainable development at the local level, where communities are often compelled to reduce pressure on ecosystems by developing grassroots solutions for conserving natural resources.
Baikal Trip Focuses on Public Recreation Projects in Protected Areas
May 29 to June 16, a team of U.S. specialists traveled to the Baikal region to discuss public recreation projects and infrastructure development. The trip was supported by USAID and the U.S. Forest Service. The American experts also conducted two days of training in Irkutsk for managers of seven nature reserves in the Baikal region, sharing best practices in managing tourism and recreation in protected areas.
Forty Years of Environmental Cooperation
U.S. and Russian scientists, environmental experts, and officials gathered at the U.S. Embassy on May 23 to celebrate four decades of cooperation to protect the environment. On that date in 1972, President Richard Nixon and Premier Nikolai Podgorny signed the U.S.-USSR Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Protection. Today, the agreement is Russia’s longest-running bilateral agreement on environmental cooperation. The 60 guests renewed old acquaintances and examined photos of meetings and expeditions over the past four decades, while younger participants learned about the achievements over the years. Writing in the event guest book, marine biologist and former top Russian environmental advisor Alexey Yablokov noted that U.S.-Soviet environmental cooperation was a “breakthrough of common sense.”
EPA Discusses Cooperation on Management of Legacy Contaminated Sites in Russia
Neilima Senjalia and Eleonora Barnes of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) visited Moscow to discuss planning for Phases 2 and 3 of U.S.-Russian cooperation on the management of legacy contaminated sites. The new activities will be building on Phase 1 of the project—a technical exchange conducted in Washington, D.C. and New York in 2010. In the upcoming Phase, U.S. experts will share EPA experience in implementing Superfund and Brownfields Programs and discuss approaches on how to set up financial mechanisms, develop needed legislation, select technology, and undertake the technical clean-up of legacy sites. An important part of this effort is to create a transparent process and access to information to involve the public in decision-making activities related to remediation projects. The discussions included the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of Economic Development, World Bank, U.N. Environment Programme, NGOs, and universities.
While in Russia, Barnes also gave talks in Kazan and Moscow as part of the U.S. Embassy Speakers Program. She told university students about U.S.-Russia environmental cooperation and shared approaches to address environmental problems, including replicability, sustainability, and measurable environmental results. She also met with the Ministry of the Environment of Tatarstan and the Public Chamber of Kazan to discuss their participation in the project on management of legacy contaminated sites.
Wetlands Conservation Meeting in Far East
Three officials from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and the EPA attended a conference on problems of wetlands conservation and protection of migratory birds of Southeast Asia in Blagoveshchensk in the Amur region. The conference was held at the Far Eastern State Agrarian University, May 14-17. The U.S. delegation offered interviews and presentations to the audience of conservation professionals. Wetlands conservation is critical to the survival of many migratory birds in eastern Asia.
Russians Examine U.S. Park and Reserve System
Following similar exchanges in 2011, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) hosted an eight-person delegation of Russian protected area managers on a tour of National Forests, National Parks, and a National Wildlife Refuge located in Nevada, Utah, and California. Led by Vsevolod Stepanitsky, the head of the Russian protected area system, and including directors and deputy directors from parks and nature reserves across Russia, the delegation focused on sustainable recreation, education, and public participation.
While earlier exchanges provided a broad overview of the protected area systems in the respective countries visited, this recent tour focused in-depth on the management of recreation, interpretation, and environmental education on public lands, as requested by the Russian delegation. USFS Internal Programs organized the exchange, with financial support from USAID, which also included visits to protected areas managed by the National Park Service, the FWS, the Bureau of Land Management, and USFS. Traditionally focused on conservation and scientific research, the Russian protected area system is increasingly prioritizing sustainable recreation and environmental education vis-à-vis its protected area policies.
► Click here to read more about their visit.
Great Rivers Forum in Nizhny Novgorod
FWS officials took part in the 14th International Great Rivers Forum in Nizhny Novgorod, May 15-18. The Forum focused on managing riverine ecosystems to ensure optimal levels of water quality and quantity, restore and manage riverine and riparian wetlands, increase sustainable fishery stocks, and conserve internationally significant resources. The Forum offered the U.S. delegation an opportunity to explain rules and regulations enforced in the United States enforces to protect our river ecosystems.
Study Tour on Recreation and Interpretation for Russian Protected Area Managers
April 30-May 11, 2012: The study tour for was the third in a series of exchange visits on protected areas undertaken as part of the Environmental Working Group of the Bilateral Presidential Commission. The visit of 19 Russian Protected Area managers to DC and Florida in February 2011 and the return visit of 8 U.S. Protected Area managers to South Russian protected areas in October 2011 laid the groundwork for this tour. While the earlier exchanges provided a broad overview of the protected area systems in the respective countries visited, the current tour focused on in-depth study the management of recreation, interpretation, and environmental education on public lands, as requested by MNRE. All three exchanges were multi-agency efforts on the U.S. side.
► Read more about the study tour.
Joint Aerial Survey of Ice Seals Begins
The United States and Russia kicked off a large-scale aerial survey effort to estimate the number of ice seals (ribbon, spotted, ringed, and bearded seals) in sea ice areas of the Bering Sea. This major bilateral collaborative research project started mid-April and will include flights of nearly 19,000 nautical miles over U.S. waters and 11,000 nautical miles over Russian waters. The survey lasts into May, and a second survey is planned during the same period in 2013. This effort, supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and several Russian institutions, constitutes the largest survey effort ever undertaken to estimate the abundance of these important seal species.
► Click here for more about the ice seal survey.
Workshop Focuses on Connection Between Black Carbon and Agricultural Burning
At a March 28-29 workshop in Pushkino, Russia, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and the Russian Engineering Academy of Management and Agrobusiness convened Russian and U.S. scientists, Russian government officials, and agribusiness and NGO representatives to address the problem of Black Carbon deposition in the Arctic as a consequence of agricultural burning in Russia. This workshop was a component of USDA’s Black Carbon Initiative project, which is supported through an agreement between the Department of State and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and jointly implemented by three USDA agencies: the Agricultural Research Service, USFS, and FAS. It was also part of a larger, multilateral and multiagency U.S. government program to reduce climate impact in the Arctic from Black Carbon emissions.
► Read more about the event.
Forestry Group Meets in United States
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS), with support from USAID, hosted a high-level, six-person delegation from the Russian Federal Forestry Agency (RFFA), including its Deputy Head Alexander Panfilov. During the week of April 2, the group traveled to Washington, D.C. and Colorado to participate in a bilateral Forestry Working Group meeting. In Washington, the two sides signed the 2012-2013 cooperative work plan between RFFA, USFS, and USAID and held meetings between key counterparts on themes including illegal logging, climate change and forest health, fire management, and forest inventory and monitoring. In Colorado, the delegation visited forest stands affected by fire and mountain pine beetle, an air tanker base, and two Firewise Communities, which provided a first-hand look at forest management in the United States, forest health issues, and community fire prevention efforts.
Large Wildfires Management Study Tour
With USAID support, the USFS is hosting three specialists from the V.N. Sukachev Institute of Forest and Avialesookhrana in Krasnoyarsk, Russia from April 20 to May 5. This study tour provides the participants with additional perspective on the monitoring and management of large and catastrophic wildfires, determining the direction of further cooperation with the Sukachev Institute on fire-related issues, and allows the Russian delegation to examine U.S. systems for monitoring and managing wildfires. The Russian specialists are traveling to California, New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, and Montana, where they will visit sites such as the Tahoe National Forest, National Interagency Fire Center, and the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory to explore approaches to wildfire research and management.
Polar Bear Scientific Working Group Meets in Anchorage
The Scientific Working Group of the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Commission held its annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, March 14-16. Established under an agreement regarding the Alaska-Chukotka Polar Bear population, the Scientific Working Group provides advice on the conservation and management of polar bear populations shared between the United States and Russia. Members of the Scientific Working Group include government and Native researchers and managers. The meeting allowed for presentations of new research, including a capture-based program led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge studies. Members developed a plan for future cooperative studies, recommended that the Polar Bear Commission maintain the current annual limit of 58 polar bears for subsistence harvest by Native peoples of the United States and Russia, and concluded that a proposed multi-year quota system to manage harvest in the United States was biologically sound.
Joint U.S.-Russia Team Visits Antarctic
For the first time, a joint team from the United States and Russia concluded a six-day inspection of foreign research stations, installations, and equipment in Antarctica on January 28, pursuant to the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and its Environmental Protocol. Officials from the U.S. Department of State and the Russian Federation Ministry of Foreign Affairs led the inspection, which visited three stations. The U.S.-Russia team examined the Treaty Parties’ adherence to their obligations, including with respect to limiting environmental impacts, ensuring that Antarctica is used only for peaceful purposes, and that Parties honor the prohibition on measures of a military nature. An inspection report will be jointly presented by the United States and Russia to the other Treaty Parties at the next Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Australia this June.
Officials Discuss Environmental Cooperation Plans in Moscow
Steven Kohl, Chief of the Russia-East Asia Branch in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s International Conservation Division, met with counterparts in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Russian Federal Natural Resource Oversight Agency, Academy of Sciences, State Fishery and Oceanography Institute, National Bird Banding Center, Moscow Zoo, Moscow Botanical Garden and other agencies and organizations February 4-11. They discussed bilateral activities to be conducted under Area V of the 1972 U.S.-Russia environmental agreement which relates to nature conservation efforts.
New Research Program on Genetic Verification of Tree Species
The U.S. Forest Service, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, is launching a scientific partnership to support collaboration between leading scientists and institutions in Russia, the United States, and Germany to conduct research on genetic variation of tree species, including larch and oak. The partnership, an effort under the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission’s Environment Working Group, will support pilot studies to develop the application of cutting-edge technologies for genetic verification of commercial tree species. The project will seek to use data gathered from samples of selected species of interest and identify appropriate genetic markers that could be potentially used in DNA-based timber tracking. These pilots will enable scientists to explore using the technology and adapt its use for a variety of purposes. The pilot studies will build on existing work in Russia and around the world to provide the basis for more substantive proposals for future research and collaboration. This project could provide a foundation for creating a genetic database and genomic map of select high-value timber species for use by forest companies, government regulators, and other stakeholders.
Environment Working Group Co-Coordinators Meet in Washington
Co-coordinators U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Reifsnyder and Nuritdin Inamov, Director within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, met in Washington, D.C. on January 17 where they discussed a wide range of issues, including black carbon, Beringia Days, polar bears, and possible areas of future cooperation such as joint efforts to combat e-waste. Reifsnyder also introduced Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Larry Gumbiner, who will be the Working Group’s acting co-coordinator during part of 2012.
Russians Study Protected Areas Management
In December 2011, five Russians experts traveled to the United States through the International Visitor Leadership Program to learn about public involvement in the management of national parks and other protected natural areas. The group visited the headquarters of the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before continuing on to sites in Washington State, New Mexico, Minnesota, and New York. At Bosque del Apache National Park in New Mexico, the group learned how retirees, students, and others volunteer their time to assist the park’s full-time staff in day-to-day operations. As public involvement and collaboration in natural resource management are relatively new concepts in Russia, members of the delegation plan to introduce a model of public involvement through local field-tests.
U.S. Park Officials Visit Persian Leopards in Protected Areas in Southern Russia
A delegation from the U.S. National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Embassy visited four protected areas (including the Caucasus Zapovednik Nature Reserve) on Russia’s Black Sea coast, October 23-November 1. Their visit reciprocated similar travel of Russian park managers to the United States last February, and was arranged by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE). In addition to discussions with reserve directors and staff, the U.S. visitors spoke with the areas’ scientists and rangers, visited sites of interest—such as a Persian leopard reintroduction project—and brainstormed opportunities for cooperation and exchange in the future. The Russian hosts noted their interest in learning more about grant writing, how to attract U.S. scientists and student interns to work in the parks, and public outreach and environmental education. Russian participants were also interested in the impact of Olympic construction on natural systems; the U.S. delegation plans to follow-up with information about the U.S. experience with the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
Moscow Zoo and U.S. Embassy Mark Tiger Day
On September 24, U.S. Ambassador John Beyrle participated in a Tiger Day celebration at the Moscow Zoo. He presented a new U.S. semi-postal stamp—special postage stamps that also raise funds for charitable causes—which supports endangered species protection through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and took part in the issuance of a tiger postcard created by the Russian Postal Service in support of wildlife conservation. The U.S. Embassy, Russian Post Office, and the Moscow Zoo partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Wildlife Fund, the Amur Foundation, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) for the event and related outreach efforts. Both the Moscow festivities and a similar event in Vladivostok were covered widely in the Russian media.
U.S. and Russian Officials Discuss Black Carbon Effects and Solutions
The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) co-organized an October 7 workshop in Moscow on black carbon. The workshop examined the link between black carbon—considered a major contributor to climate change in the Arctic—and diesel emissions, pollution mitigation, and clean technologies that can improve the efficiency of energy systems in the Arctic's remote regions. Experts from Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the University of Alaska shared their countries’ experiences in reducing diesel emissions. Russian and American participants discussed the science of black carbon, and potential future cooperation on mitigation projects through the Arctic Council framework, including the $5 million U.S.-funded Arctic Black Carbon Initiative, and the Arctic Council’s Project Support Instrument.
Seismology and Geodynamics Cooperation Continues
At the end of August, the U.S. Geology Survey and National Science Foundation once more extended a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Russian Ministry of Education and Science and the Russian Academy of Sciences. Valid through September 2012, the MOU provides for research cooperation, data exchange, and the establishment and operations of joint stations in the field of seismology and geodynamics.
U.S. and Russian Officials Meet Regarding Forests
Mary Wagner, Associate Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, met with Alexander Panfilov, the Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Forestry Agency, in China on the margins of the APEC Forest Ministerial on September 7. They discussed a number of issues, including future forest-related programming under the U.S.-Russia Protocol of Intent on forests, and expressed interest in collaborating on joint projects to combat illegal logging in the future.
Cross-Strait Beringia Days Celebrated in Alaska
With more than 225 participants from across the Bering Strait region, the Beringia Days International Conference was held in Nome, Alaska in early September. Native leaders, scientists, governmental representatives, and local residents from both Russia and the United States gathered to learn more about projects funded by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) Shared Beringia Heritage Program. Photos of Beringia Days are available on the NPS website. Read more»
Inuit Youth Strengthen Bering Strait Ties
In July, five Inuit youth traveled from Nome, Alaska to Provedinya, Chukotka to participate in a boating festival in Lavrentiya. The youth traveled under the U.S.-Russia 1989 Bering Straits Region Agreement which allows for visa-free travel for indigenous residents of the region. Hosted by the Chukotka Minister of Sports and Culture, their memorable visit included finding relatives previously unknown to them. The Inuit youths’ visit highlights importance of deepening cooperation and strengthening ties in the Bering Strait Region, mentioned in the May 2011 joint statement issued by Presidents Obama and Medvedev.
U.S. Delegation Encourages Ecotourism in Eastern Russia
U.S. Forest Service (USFS) specialists traveled to the lake Baikal area in May-June to share expertise and best practices on ecotourism and public participation in decision making with management of Pribaikalsky National Park, Baikalsky Reserve, Tahoe Baikal Institute, Great Baikal Trail, and other Russian counterparts. This followed a spring 2011 visit by the directors of the Baikalsky Reserve and Pribaikalsky National Park and 17 other delegation members hosted by USFS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. National Park Service as part of a protected area exchange under the BPC.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Reifsnyder Ends Visit to Kamchatka and Arrives in Vladivostok
The U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok announced that Daniel A. Reifsnyder, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Sustainable Development, has ended his visit to Kamchatka and arrived in Vladivostok. Read more»
U.S. Department of Justice Participates in Seminar on Environmental Crimes
From May 16-19, Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) joined representatives of the Russian prosecutor’s office in leading a seminar in Khabarovsk Kray on illegal logging and the U.S. Lacey Act, which combats trafficking in illegal wildlife, fish, and plants. The seminar was attended by local government officials, forestry agency representatives, and members of the NGO community.
U.S. and Russian Officials Focus on shared Heritage in the Bering Strait Region
From April 20-May 14, a delegation of Russian government officials and representatives of indigenous populations and NGOs travelled to Washington, DC and Alaska. Their trip was part of an ongoing effort to create a U.S.-Russia shared heritage area in the Bering Strait region, which includes promoting the protection of shared environments and strengthening relations between U.S. and Russian indigenous groups. During their trip, the delegation held consultations with the U.S. National Park Service to discuss effective park management and preservation practices. Additionally, they met with various participating Alaskan tribes to work with them in coordinating the establishment of the shared heritage area. View the NPS website to learn more about the Beringia Shared Heritage Program.
U.S. Delegation Travels to Russia to Discuss Conservation
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Dan Reifsnyder, accompanied by representatives from the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. National Park Service, travelled to Moscow on April 18-21 to meet with officials from the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Federal Forestry Agency, as well as with representatives from environmental NGOs. Read more»
U.S. and Russian Park Management Experts Exchange Expertise
A delegation of twenty Russian national park and nature reserve managers and non-governmental representatives concluded their two-week visit to the United States on March 4. During the delegation’s meetings in Washington D.C. and Florida, Russian representatives shared expertise and exchanged views on protected area management and habitat conservation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. Read more»
U.S. and Russian Specialists Exchange Expertise on Water Management
Fifteen Russian academicians visited Reno, Pyramid Lake, and Lake Tahoe, Nevada to exchange information with American specialists on water management and economic use of water basins with similar climatic and physical conditions. Upon completion of their visit, the participants discussed strategies and action plans for applying in Russia the ideas and approaches discussed during their visit. American and Russian specialists also identified areas for future scientific and technical collaboration. This visit builds on roughly 40 years of U.S.-Russia cooperation on water management issues, beginning with the 1972 U.S.-U.S.S.R. Agreement on Protection of the Environment, which led to a long series of scientific exchanges and study tours focusing on Lake Baikal and Lake Tahoe.
Save the Tiger Events in St. Petersburg and Vladivostok
On November 21-24, 2010 the first ever International Tiger Forum was held in St. Petersburg, bringing together representatives from the 13 tiger range states, donor states, international organizations and other interested parties along with tiger experts from all over the world. U.S. Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs attended the Forum and met with various foreign dignitaries, including Russian Prime Minister Putin and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, subsequently announcing U.S. contributions in the amount of $600,000 for tiger habitat protection and anti-poaching programs. Read More»
National Parks Service Launches Website highlighting the Beringia Shared Heritage Project
September 27, 2010 - The National Parks Service Launched a Website with photos, news and events, history and research information about the Beringia Shared Heritage project in Alaska. Visit the site»