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ZIBTSEV Sergiy, M.V. Kaletnik, M.P. Savuschik


Recognition of the importance of forests in Ukraine began in the 18th century under Tsar Peter I, who issued decrees to protect high-quality trees and to ban cutting of forests. However, a low level of state control in the 19th century led to the cutting of about 40% of oak and pine forests in the plains of the country, and further damage occurred during the 1917 Revolution and World War II. This reduction of forest coverage resulted in extensive soil erosion due to water and wind, the drying-up of small rivers, extensive emergence of quick-sands, dust storms, and drought in steppe and forest-steppe regions. To remedy the situation, forest planting (including steppe and quick-sand planting) became a priority for forest policy in Ukraine.

As a result, woodland areas increased by 2.3 million hectares and wood stock more than doubled, mainly at the expense of beech, fir, oak and pine. Virtually all quick-sands were stabilised and a sizeable number of anti-erosion plantations and field-protection forest belts were created.

Following the disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the situation of Ukraine's forest resources has worsened. In addition, most of the country's woodland region, in Polissia, was rendered inaccessible for use by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster of 1986.


Ukraine occupies a surface area of 603.500 square km, extending 900 km from north to south and 1,300 km from west to east. Total woodland area covers about 10.7 million hectares, of which 9.4 million hectares comprise forest vegetation. Forest land accounts for 15.6% of the total surface area, half the average level for Europe. Ukraine has a forest deficit, with only 0.18 hectares of forest and 33 cubic metres of general wood stock per citizen.

The bulk of Ukraine's forest reserves (99%) is national property. More than 50 state ministries and departments are forest users. The most important are the State Forestry Committee of Ukraine (66%) and the Ministry of Agro-Industry (26%).

The vastness of the country's territory and the wide range of natural climatic conditions have created an extremely uneven distribution of forests throughout Ukraine. The biggest forest tracts are concentrated in the north, in Polissia (38% of the country's woodlands and 36% of wood stock) and in the Carpathian Mountains. Mountain forests comprise 17.1% of the total forest area.

General forest stock is estimated at 1.7 billion square metres, with mature forest stock accounting for 14.4% of the total. Average wood stock is 185 cubic metres/hectare. The average increase in forest land of the State Forestry Committee of Ukraine is 4.0 cubic metres/hectare, varying from 5.0 cubic metres/hectare in the Carpathian Mountains to 2.5 cubic metres/hectare in the steppe zone. Conifers occupy 42.6% of the total area, with pine trees accounting for 36% of this figure. Deciduous forests occupy 57.4% of the total area, with beech and oak comprising 33% of this figure.

More than half of Ukraine's forests (55.8%) are classified as ‘first group’ - comprising multi-purpose protective forests, sanitary-hygienic forests and forest reserves. In this group, only sanitary, landscape and forestry fellings are permitted. Other forests - mainly for production - are classified as ‘second group’.

Massive felling during World War II and subsequent intensive forest planting have led to a prevalence of middle-aged plantations. Forests aged up to 20 years comprise 31% of the total forest area, from 20–40 years 45%, from 40–60 years 13% and older than 60% 11%. The average age of a Ukrainian forest is 51 years. Forests of artificial origin account for 40% of the entire forest area.


Ukraine's forest policy is based on calculating the current level of forest provision together with economic changes in recent years. The main trend in this policy is to provide a balance between preservation of forest ecological systems and the continuous, multi-purpose exploitation of forests.

A new legislative base for forest management was adopted by the Ukrainian parliament in 1994, with the passing of the Forest Code, which legally confirmed state ownership of the country's forests. The need for state management was recognised in the importance of protecting the country's forests. Legislative regulations destined to play a fundamental role in developing environmentally-sound forest sound operations include the following:

Ukraine supported and signed the following resolutions at the Strasbourg Conference:


The State Forestry Committee of Ukraine is authorised to provide for the reproduction, increase in productivity, protection and defence, and organisation of resource use of forests with the aim of meeting the needs of society.

Currently, the State Forestry Committee of Ukraine comprises 25 regional forest management units, which in turn cover 244 state forest enterprises, 48 state hunting and 20 forest hunting enterprises, five natural reserves, and 15 wood industry, road-building, special forest protection, forest inventory and other enterprises.

The main lines of forest management in Ukraine are:

  1. raising the percentage of forest land functioning at optimum level in all natural zones
  2. preserving the biodiversity of forest ecosystems
  3. raising the resistance of forest ecosystems to negative environmental conditions: climatic change and antropogeneous pressure, forest fires, diseases and harmful insects
  4. rational, inexhaustible use of forests to satisfy the needs of the domestic market for wood
  5. agroforestry and forest planting in steppe zones

Main principles for reforming forest management

Reform of forest management in Ukraine requires constitutional recognition of forests as both the property and object of civil and legal regulation, and legal guarantees for the unification of forest lands and forest vegetation. One of the main conditions for reform is to provide legal guarantees for the right of all forms of property to exist on forest land.

It is envisaged that private ownership of forests will take two directions: ownership of medium-sized plots of forest land adjacent to farms will be transferred to the farms and the expenses incurred will be borne by the farms; private enterprises, organisations and individuals will be able to grow forests on their own land at their own expense.


The contribution of forestry to Ukraine's Gross National Product is not significant because of the relatively low percentage of forest land and shelter forests.

Wood cutting is carried out in accordance with prevailing scientifically-based standards approved by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety. However, the economic crisis led to a reduction in budgets for forestry financing and, as a consequence, deterioration of care of young trees. In recent years, the forest cutting fund has been under-used, primarily in those regions where cutting area operations are expensive due to complicated natural conditions. This was aggravated by a decline in demand for wood. Since 1990, the volume of main use has decreased 1.3-fold and interim use 2.1-fold.

Currently, about 13 million cubic metres of wood is cut in Ukraine each year, including thinning (45%), with round timber constituting 70% of this total. Each year, enterprises of the State Forestry Committee of Ukraine cut and sell more than 7.6 million cubic metres of wood, including about five million cubic metres of industrial wood. From this number according to the mode of cutting: for the main use - 3.2 million m3, thinning - 4.5 million m3 and 1.7 million m3 correspondingly.

Pine accounts for the largest quota of main use (34.9% of the cut area per annum), fir 19.2% and oak 11%. Alder, beech and birch each account for 7–8%.

In a situation of insolvency in the domestic market, forest enterprises turned to the overseas market, attempting to increase wood exports. Between 1994 and 1997, total exports of round timber and sawed timber by enterprises of the State Forestry Committee of Ukraine increased by 9.2-fold and 4.5-fold respectively.

Ukraine has a long-standing tradition of non-wood forest use, mainly wild fruits and berries, mushrooms and medicinal herbs. However, the nuclear pollution caused by the Chernobyl disaster led to a dramatic fall in the volume of consumption of wild foodstuffs and medicinal herbs. In the period 1992–96, picking of wild fruits and berries decreased 5.7-fold (848 tons less per annum), mushrooms 4.2-fold (133 tons) and medicinal herbs two-fold (277 tons).

Hunting and tourism also constitute important forms of forest use. Ukraine has five million hectares of hunting territory, the bulk of which is controlled by the Ukrainian Society of Hunters and Fishermen (86.6%). the State Forestry Committee of Ukraine owns 9.9% of hunting land.

Mechanisation in main and intermediate fellings

Currently, harvesters and forwarders are not used in Ukraine for forest maintenance. Main and intermediate wood cutting is effected through the use of chain power saws.

Wheeled and crawler tractors are used for wood extraction in the flat regions of the country, and caterpillar tractors and cable systems in mountain areas. Little use is made of horses for wood extraction.

All of the wood for intermediate use and about 20% for main use is extracted by wheeled (farm) tractors. The remaining 80% of wood for main use is extracted by crawler tractors. Between 1,100 and 1,200 crawler tractors are in use throughout Ukraine's forests, 800 of which belong to the State Forestry Committee of Ukraine.

Use of cable systems in mountain forests is restricted because of the scarcity of funds in forest enterprises. Currently, about twenty domestically-manufactured cable systems are used for transporting wood from forests in the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine. Of the wood cut in mountain areas, 75% is extracted by crawler tractors.


In recent years, the volume of forestation has fallen dramatically. Faced with strict budget constraints, only the most essential forestation tasks are being carried out, and reforestation is being practised only in main felling and forest fire areas. Assistance for natural renewal and forest restoration through the use of combined methods have been introduced. Between 1991 and 1998, the total volume of reforestation was 1.8 times less than in the period 1981–90.

Scientific research and education

Scientific support for Ukraine's forestry is ensured by the Forestry Research Institute, Agrorestry, 13 forest research stations, the Institute of Mountain Forestry and the Forestry Planning Institute ‘Ukrgiprolis’.

The forestry education system in Ukraine includes:

Preserved areas

Between 1991 and 1996, the number of territories and properties controlled by the Nature Reserve Fund rose from 5,602 to 6,400, and the general area increased from 1,255 to 2,037 hectares. The proportion of the country's nature reserves in relation to total surface area increased from 1.98% to 3.37%. The area of forest reserves under different restriction levels accounts for 10.8% of the total forested area.

The largest nature reserves are the biosphere preserves of the Black Sea (87.3 thousand hectares), the Carpathian Mountains (63.2 thousand hectares), and Askania-Nova (33.3 thousand hectares), plus the national nature parks of Podilsky Tovtry (261.3 thousand hectares), Azovo-Syvashsky (54 thousand hectares) and Shatsky (32.5 thousand hectares).


The bases for the development of environmentally-sound forest operations in Ukraine, in line with the FAO model code, are the following:

Subsequent phases in developing the principles of environmentally-sound use of forests in Ukraine are the following:

  1. Classification of environmental damage caused by forest operations, on the basis of the FAO model code.
  2. Classification of Ukraine's forest resources, according to the environmental impact of forest operations.
  3. Analysis of existing legislation in Ukraine related to restricting environmental damage caused by forest operations.

In this context, the priority measures to take are the following:

Table 1: Forest reserve structure by groups of protection

Forest land (100%)
First class forestSecond class forest
Bank protectionProtectionRecreationalPreservedProductive
Lakes, rivers, canals, etc.Whole soil erosion, sub-alpineCity forest, sanitary beltsNational nature parks, state parks 

Table 2: Forest reserve structure by species (1996)

SpeciesTotal area
(' 000 hectares)
Average age
Current gross annual increment
(millions of cubic metres)
Aspen  61.9380.30
Black Alder536.9371.84
Larch    8.0390.04
Oak2,272.8   556.52
Pine3,129.9   4713,84  
TOTAL5,251.2    28.99  

Table 3: Mountain forest reserve structure by species (1996)

SpeciesTotal area
(' 000 hectares)
Growing stock
(millions of cubic metres)
Current gross annual increment
(millions of cubic metres)
Fir101.1  31.6211.650.50
TOTAL1,640.4   428.80107.13  6.89

Table 4: Volume of wood harvesting in transition

Main  5.9  5.9  5.4
Thinning  7.3  6.9  5.6

Table 5: Structure of main fellings by species

Coniferous Total55.1
Ash  2.0
Aspen  3.1
Beech  7.0
Birch  7.1
Black Alder  7.7
Hornbeam  4.8
Broadleaf Total44.9

Table 6: Ukraine's exports

Production 1994199519961997
Round wood(' 000 m3)28.2134.6173.1260.1
Sawn timber(' 000 m3)  8.7  14.9  28.9  39.5
Turpentine(' 000 tons)  2.1    3.6    3.1    2.8

Table 7: Non-wood production
(' 000 tons)

Medicinal herbs

Table 8: Forestation
(' 000 hectares)

Afforestation   423450203  93
Natural   119  42  31  27

Table 9: Tractors deployed in forest operations

Caterpillar tractors   641   679   683   797

Table 10: Employees in the forest sector

Higher-level education    6,447  6,941  10,540  10,244
Specialists  17,50417,342  25,759  26,678

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