Abandoned agricultural lands

In Russia there are 77 million ha of unused agricultural lands which are overgrown by forests, and it is impractical to convert most of them back.

The problem

Across Russia, there are about 77 million hectares of unused agricultural lands. Most of these areas were not in use during the last decades and will never be good for growing food: it’s nonproductive barren soil that is not suitable for modern agriculture. Though these plots would be perfect for growing forest.

A lot of these territories are naturally converting into young forest already. But Russia’s officials overall position is that abandoned agricultural lands is state’s strategic resource and these lands should be converted back to agriculture as much as possible by any means.

Current Russian legislation is causing troubles for landowners who want to reforest their empty agricultural lands: they face huge penalties and land seizures. Therefore many landowners have to get rid of forests by burning it. These leads to millions of hectares of lands getting on fire and emitting huge amount of CO2. Very often forests nearby are blazed up because of these fires. Arson of abandoned agricultural lands is one of the main reasons of wildfires in Russia.

The solution

Russian government should give landowners rights to plant and grow forest on agricultural lands to afforest these territories as soon as possible. This simple measure will minimise amount of fires on abandoned territories and hence will prevent a lot of CO2 emissions. Moreover, the new Russian forests grown on abandoned lands is a perfect natural climate solution. This will provide a great expansion of planet’s carbon sink which is necessary if we want to limit warming to 1.5°C.