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December 10, 2004
Environmentalists are against using conifer trees for Christmas celebrations

30 November, 2004
Upon the initiative of Armenian Forests NGO 24,000 trees will be planted in Kotayk marz

June 2004
“Advice to Farmers” advisory journal

12.02.2004
The photo exhibition "Road to the desert"opened in the exhibit hall of the Architects' Union of Armenia.

12.02.2004
"We call on our people to find strength, consciousness and wisdom to turn back from the way to the desert, to destruction" says the director of the Armenian Forests NGO nazeli Vardanyan in her interview to ArmNews TVchannel.

14.02.2004
According to the governmental decision Hayantar will go from the Ministry of Nature protection to the Ministry of Agriculture.

22.02.2004
Open letter to the president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan and the Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan.

23.02.2004
Ecologists applied to the President asking to change the decision concerning Hayantar. The reaction of radio Liberty.

December 10, 2004
Environmentalists are against using conifer trees for Christmas celebrations

Press Release

On December 9, 2004, upon the initiative of the Armenian Forests NGO some 16 NGOs have applied to the mayor of Yerevan Ervand Zakharyan – expressing a concern over the use of pine trees for the construction of the main Christmas Tree to be put up at the Republic Square of Yerevan.
Environmentalists and interested organization underline in the letter that it has already been two years since the felling of pine trees is completely prohibited by the order of Nature Protection minister of Armenia. Meanwhile, despite the prohibition, some 1200 young pine trees had been cut and brought to Yerevan for the construction/decoration of the main Christmas Tree last year.
The felling of pine trees is prohibited due to disastrous rarity of Armenia’s forests. Also, pine trees were mainly planted during Soviet times for curbing erosion in target territories and creating recreational areas. It should also be noted that the cut pine trees are used only for a week and later thrown into garbage cans, which is simply unacceptable bearing in mind its the anti-educational aspect from environmental point of view.
In this respect it should also be noted that in a number of countries, including forest-rich ones like Russia there is an accepted practice of using artificial Christmas trees at New Year’s time.
The ban on cutting conifer trees was imposed in 2002, so there has been enough time for finding alternatives to live trees and branches. For decorating the Republic Square with an artificial Christmas tree can be used, which is also possible to beautifully decorate. For finding the best option of artificial tree a competition can be held, and the best tree will be put up at the square.
Below the list of the 16 organization that signed the letter is presented:
1. “Armenian Forests” NGO
2. Tufenkian Hospitality LLC
3. Transparency International Armenia office
4. Ecotourism Association of Armenia
5. Greens Union of Armenia
6. “Green” Foundation
7. “Ecological Academy” NGO
8. “Ecological bio-sustainability” Ecological union
9. “Eurasia” charitable NGO
10. “Nature protection” NGO
11. “Yanus” legal NGO
12. “Youth ecological group” NGO
13. Ecological Association of Armenian Women
14. Sustainable Development Association
15. “Goy” ecological-legal NGO
16. UNDP’s “National Capacity Assessment” project


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30 November, 2004. Noyan Tapan News Agency
Upon the initiative of Armenian Forests NGO 24,000 trees will be planted in Kotayk marz

Kotayk, November 30, Noyan tapan. By spring 2005 Armenian Forests NGO will plant 24,000 trees on an overall 30 hectares of territory near Kotayk village of the namesake marz. Kotayk villagers and volunteers from Yerevan partook in the local forest restoration works.

The works are supported by Kotayk village community office and Marz Center for Agricultural Support.


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June 2004. “Advice to Farmers” advisory journal
Action for community

“Armenian Forests” NGO was set up two years ago by Tufenkian foundation. During this short period the organization has managed to thoroughly examine the possibilities of rehabilitating the ruthlessly cut forests of Armenia. In the current year, with the mediation of “By Farmer’s Side” NGO, “Armenian Forests” implements a local community forest rehabilitating project at the Kotayk village of Abovian region.
The project envisages implementation of coppicing works on an estimated 23 hectares of nearby existing forest territory at the bottom of Hatis mount, and a further planting of 30 hectares of mixed forest. The works will be carried out by a local brigade of workers comprised of 23 villagers, which will receive a daily allowance of 1,200 AMD.
As the Forest Coordinator of the Armenian Forests Karen Afrikyan has stated, the project shall have a great success bearing in mind the positive attitude and interest the community head and locals have towards the project. The involvement of locals will also be a moral-psychological impetus for locals who will never destroy the forest that they plant.
The project also envisages to plant trees along the highway leading form Kotayk to Kaputan village. Poplars and wild almonds will be planted along the road, which according to the words of Karen Afrikyan “will be a beautiful present of historical value to the community residents and all the visitors”.


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Road to the Desert

Photo Exhibition 12 February, 2004

The photo exhibition “Road to the desert”, devoted to the state of the forests of Armenia, opened in the exhibit hall of the Architects’ Union of Armenia on the February 12th.
The exhibition was undertaken by “Armenian Forests” and “Hayots Dprots” NGOs and the Helsinki Committee of Armenia.

The objective of the exhibition was to focus the attention of the society on the disappearing forests of Armenia and call to protect those.

Photos represented both Armenia’s beautiful nature and cut forests in different regions of Armenia.
The pictures were taken in Lori, Tavush, Syunik regions. Trees are violently cut in all forested areas: wood processing productions function. Armenian wood is being exported to Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Iran, etc.

The organizers demand put a ban on forest cuttings, wood export, entrance of techniques in the forest (trucks, electric saws, tractors, etc.), make stricter the control, motivate the usage of alternative energy.
The right to have healthy environment is consolidated by the constitution of the RA. Forests are the most important part of the healthy environment, the entire eco-system will be violated without forests.
The exhibition was held until the February 15th. This was the first exhibition, it yet should continue in Yerevan and out of it.

For more information about the exhibition or its organization in your district, please contact Armenian Forests NGO at info@armenianforests.am or (374 1) 541529, 582039.



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ArmNews TV

12 February, 2004

This chain saw symbolizes the level of vast deforestation in Armenia. And, generally, the exhibition called The Road to The Desert was about the cuttings in Armenia that reached tragic levels. Each represented photo, each poster had an aim to attract the society’s attention to the cut forests. The exhibition presented our beautiful nature and then views of cut forests.

Karen Asatryan, a photo journalist noticed: “Art is a very strong means of alarming a necessary idea. It is just an alarm. We don’t know, what will be the response.”

Because of mass the illegal cuttings, the ecological balance is violated in Armenia. Many springs have dried out. Different varieties of plants and animals have disappeared. 82% of Armenia’s lands are subject to some levels of desertification. According to unofficial data, more than 1,000,000 m3 of wood is being cut in Armenia. The purpose of the exhibition is to come to people’s sense and remind them, that we all are responsible for the current situation.

The director of the Armenian Forests NGO says: “We call on our people to find strength, consciousness and wisdom to turn back from the way to the desert, to destruction.

The organizers of the exhibition made some demands for the forest protection, particularly, to put a ban on cutting for five years. Those of visitors, who were for, put their signatures.

The president of the Armenian Forests NGO Jeffrey Tufenkian mentioned the following: ”Nature in Armenia is very-very beautiful and it is just a tragedy to see how trees are chopped down. It is clear, that we won’t get big results by organizing these kind of exhibitions. It is just the beginning.”

This is the first exhibition, that should be continued in Yerevan and outside.

The visitors were also expressing their wild opinion concerning the pictures presented in the exhibition.
These are the words of a visitor, “I am just shocked. The photos in the first room were very nice, where the beauty of our pure nature is presented. But the contrast is very big in the second hall, where we have seen cut wood and huge trees, which, may be, were 100 years old. All this made an astonishing impression on me.”

According to the World Bank estimations, if the cuttings continue at the same pace, forests in Armenia will completely disappear in 20 years. The title of the exhibition is more than symbolic, it may come true.

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Haykakan Zhamanak
14 January, 2004

Separation

Hayantar will soon be taken out from the system of the Ministry of Nature Protection of RA. This information was also proved by the Minister of Nature Protection of RA Vardan Ayvazyan during the conversation with our correspondent. But he found it difficult to give forecasts concerning the new status of this body. It became known from other sources, that regarding this issue two possibilities are discussed: one, that Hayantar should become a self dependent unit, and the other one- it will get involved in the structure of the Ministry of Agriculture of RA. By the way, the nature-protective control function will be the right reserved to the Ministry of Nature Protection.

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Open letter to the President of the RA Robert Kocharyan
And the Prime Minister of RA Andranik Margaryan

22 January,2004

Honorable Mr. President
Honorable Mr. Prime Minister

We apply to you concerning the governmental decision of last week about the move of Hayantar GNCO from the Ministry of Nature Protection to the Ministry of Agriculture. We urge you not to sign the decision and prevent the intended change.

We welcome your attention towards the forest issues welcome your intention to separate the control body (Ministry of Nature Protection) from management body (Hayantar).
Nevertheless we are seriously concerned about the intended change, time chosen for that and the expected result. We’re sure that the change will worsen the state of the forests which is already disastrous.

From the first sight the transfer of the forest management body to the Ministry of Agriculture seems to make the situation better, but actually the change may have dangerous consequences for different reasons. State forest fund should be integral and be managed by one body. The transfer of Hayantar under the subordination of the Ministry of Agriculture separates the forest fund: specially protected areas remain in the system of the Ministry of Nature Protection and will be coordinated by the Agency of Bio-resource Management.

Hayantar and the Ministry of Agriculture have different objectives and functions, direct collision of agricultural and forest interests may occur, forest interests will subordinate to agricultural interests, and forest protective and forest restorative problems will move background.

We had that experience in the system from 1992, which was completely inefficient.

Besides today there are no specialists and appropriate body within the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the creation of that will demand additional expenses from the budget, while the simple removal of Hayantar from the structure of the Ministry of Nature Protection, creating a new body, will use the existing means.

It is known that the Government of the RA has contact with the World Bank about the Natural Resource Management and Poverty Reduction project implementation, and a component of that is the development of new forest policy.

The group of international and local specialists is developing a package of structural and forest legislative changes within this project.

The work is being finished and the package of changes is going to be represented for approval. The governmental decision about the change of Hayantar subordination is contrary to the paragraphs of the new forest policy.

We urge the government first to approve the new forest policy and only after that to implement the structural changes. And before that, we urge you to involve all the interested parties- the specialists, the representatives of the social sector, in the discussion of this problem, which also proceeds from the requirement of the Aarhus Convention ratified by RA.

We consider very important the state of the forests of Armenia, accordingly consider very necessary the integrity of the state forest fund, the extraction of Hayantar from the Ministry, the provision of Hayantar with large authorities providing the status of self dependent management body, with the authority of representing legislative undertakings.

We hope your involvement in the procedure will promote the protection of Armenia’s forests, reproduction and the expansion of forest areas.

Sincerely,
1. President of Armenian Forests NGO Jeffrey Tufenkian
2. Armenian Assembly of USA “Armenia Tree Project” vice country director J Kauffeld, Project Coordinator Mher Sadoyan
3. President of Eco-tourism Association NGO Zh.Galyan
4. Regional development center/”Transparency International” Armenian branch Sona Ayvazyan
5. Vice president of “Goy” legal-environmental NGO Y.Koshkaryan
6. President of “Yanus” legal-environmental NGO Nazeli Vardanyan
7. President of “green Union” NGO H. Sanasaryan
8. Senior specialist in the Ministry of Education and Science S. Pipoyan
9. President of the Association for Sustainable development NGO K. Danielyan
10. President of “Lore” eco-club NGO M. Melikjanyan
11. President of Helsinki Committee of Armenia
12. President of Tufenkian Charity Foundation M. Hovhannisyan
13. Volunteer Coordinator of “Makour Ervin” Project A. Hayrapetyan
14. President of “Hayots Dprots” art-educative Union K. Asatryan



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Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
23 January, 2004

Environmentalists Warn Of More Damage To Armenian Forests

By Shakeh Avoyan

Fourteen environment protection groups and other non-governmental
organizations urged President Robert Kocharian on Friday to block a
government decision putting Armenia's endangered forests under the
Agriculture Ministry's control.

In a joint open letter, they warned that the move could have "dangerous
consequences" for the country's shrinking green areas, saying that the
ministry lacks the expertise and commitment to protect them.

The decision, made by ministers last week, removed the Hayantar forestry
agency from the jurisdiction of the Environment Ministry shortly after it
was criticized by Kocharian for not doing enough to prevent the endemic
illegal logging. The ministry will now have only the authority to oversee
the agency's work, but not manage it on a day-to-day basis.

The signatories of the letter, among them two Diaspora-funded charities,
welcome that, but said Hayantar should have instead become an independent
government agency. "We are concerned that the planned change would further
aggravate the already catastrophic state of our forests," they said.

"Hayantar and the Agriculture Ministry have different goals and functions;
there might arise a direct conflict of forest and agricultural interests,"
they added, warning that "forest protection could be relegated to the
background."

The issue was discussed on Friday at a meeting between Environment Minister
Vartan Ayvazian and the country's leading environmentalists. One of them,
Karine Danielian, said that she always had difficulty cooperating with the
Agriculture Ministry on forest protection when she worked as environment
minister in the early 1990s. Ayvazian also signaled his disagreement with
the change of jurisdiction.

However, Kocharian is unlikely to reconsider the controversial decision,
having strongly defended it at a news conference last week. He argued that
in many European countries forests are run and protected by agriculture
ministries.

The total area of lands covered by woods in Armenia has shrunk considerably
since the onset of a severe energy crisis in the early 1990s which forced
many people to use wood for heating their homes in the winter. Wood is also
heavily used by local firms producing construction materials and furniture.
Environmentalists say the deforestation is causing soil erosion and having
other negative effects on the country's ecological system.

The Environment Ministry periodically bans commercial logging and tried to
overhaul Hayantar two years ago. The reputedly corrupt agency was banned
from cutting and selling trees and transformed into a regulatory body at the
time.

However, the measure appears to have not had desired effects, with
deforestation remaining a serious problem in Armenia. It was discussed
earlier this month at an extraordinary meeting of senior government
officials chaired by Kocharian.

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