FoE Japan
Russian Far East Hotspot Project
■History of the Project

FoE-Japan has been working for the sustainable development of the Russian Far East RFE) for more than a decade. Concern that key wilderness areas in the RFE were both unprotected and largely unknown to decision makers both in Russia and in the international community led us to initiate the RFE Biodiversity Hotspot Study in Spring 1994. Russian scientists, government officials, and NGOs from all ten administrative regions were brought together to identify threatened areas in the forest, wetland, tundra, and arctic ecosystems, thereby establishing hotspots: areas of great ecological importance requiring urgent support. In total, the interdisciplinary team identified fifty-two hotspots. Since the 1995 conference, we have worked steadily with Russian NGOs and the government to create new protected territories such as Vostochny Wildlife Refuge on Sakhalin Island and the Shufan Plateau Refuge in Primorsky Region.

We used information collected during this project to produce the 1996 book, The Russian Far East: A Reference Guide for Conservation and Development (Tokyo, FoE Japan). We also began working on forestry issues in the region, particular in the southern portion of the RFE. We did research, provided funds to local NGOs trying to stem illegal logging, and raised awareness in Japan - particularly by drawing attention to wasteful consumption

In 1997, FoE-J joined forces with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) to complete another Biodiversity Hotspot Study. This second study was a larger endeavour and the procedure for identifying the hotspots was refined. Using the same criteria, regional roundtables in each of the ten administrative regions of the RFE were held over a twelve-month period in 1997-1998. At these roundtables, representatives from regional administrations, nature protection agencies, scientific institutes, industry, and NGOs identified and agreed on five to seven priority territories (hotspots) for biodiversity conservation in each region.

This conference then provided the foundations for our new book (April 2004: publication date) to the region, The Russian Far East: A Reference Guide for Conservation and Development. It is the most comprehensive resource on the RFE to emerge in more than a decade.

■Current Activities

We currently have three main areas of focus, which are listed below.

Forest Conservation and Sustainable Use Projects
We raise funds in Japan to support a variety of community development projects in the Russian Far East. In 2004, we have three such projects all focused on a forest Hotspot in the Primorye region: the Bikin River basin. This basin not only has some of the finest remaining old-growth forests left in Russia, but is also home to an indigenous peoples, the Udege, who live in a 600-person village called Krasny Yar, in the heart of the basin. We are also actively supporting the effort to get the entire basin declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

We have been organizing ecotours to Russia for more than ten years. The trips provide crucial financial support for our local partners in the region. This year we have trips planned for the Bikin River basin.

Awareness Raising in Japan and Abroad
We regularly work with media, government, other NGOs, and the general public to inform them of important environmental and social issues in the RFE. One way to do this is through publications. After six years of research, we are pleased to announce a new reference guide we co-sponsored, The Russian Far East: A Reference Guide for Conservation and Development. Josh Newell, a former staff member and founder of the Hotspot Project, oversaw the production of this publication. See the website for more information.

■A Note about Future Directions of the Project:

We are interested in expanding our activities to address conservation and sustainable use of Russian Far East fisheries. This vital resource is being decimated by illegal fishing and overharvest. We feel that, Japan as the number one consumer of these resources, needs to show a commitment to preserving this vital resource. We are currently looking for seed money to begin this project.

■Project Staff
Eiichiro Noguchi

BA Japanese Literature, 1995, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan
Since 1995, Eiichiro has worked full-time for the Siberia Project. His overseas all facets of the project: administration of FoE-J Hotspot conservation projects in Russia, fundraising in Japan, and general administration of project activities. Eiichiro speaks English and Japanese fluently, and his Russia is rapidly improving.
(c) 2002 FoE Japan.  All RIghts Reserved.