Planting cedars all over Russia
Ivan Sanzharov
The owner of the cedar pine ecological nursery ‘Zelenograd Cedars’

Planting cedars all over Russia

The eco-activist told EcoTourism Expert about how he is going to turn Russia into a cedar-land and make this tree a vivid national symbol.

Please tell us how it all began.

“In total, from 2009 to 2017, within the framework of the project ‘Let's Turn Sakhalin and the Kurils into the Cedar Islands‘, 210,000 cedar seeds were planted and 80,000 Korean and Siberian cedar seedlings were grown, out of which we distributed 24,200 seedlings just free of charge for landscaping schools, kindergartens, hospitals, clinics, other public areas and for planting them in the forest. Our family planted 5,250 cedar seedlings in the forest.”.
Once, when I lived on Sakhalin Island, I had an idea to grow cedar pines (Ivan Sarzhanov engages in growing Korean pines (Pinus koraiensis), Siberian cedar pines (Pinus sibirica) and Dwarf Siberian pines (Pinus pumila) (hereinafter referred to as ‘Korean and Siberian cedars’ - EcoTourism Expert). It was in 1985. I started planting cedar pine nuts wherever possible. In 2009, I planted the first 1,000 nuts in my country house, or rather, my mother-in-law’s country house. Every year, the area planted increased. We began to plant cedar seedlings on a plot of land in the forest. Gradually, this idea turned into the possibility of creating a large-scale environmental project to turn Sakhalin and the Kurils into the ‘cedar islands’.

But, unfortunately, we did not meet much understanding and support in the Sakhalin area. We increasingly lacked the land for growing cedars.

Did you turn to anyone for support?

Yes, in search of support, we sent a letter to the Governor of the Sakhalin Region. However, instead of support, we received a response from the Sakhalin Ministry of Forestry prohibiting planting cedar seedlings in the forest.

Sanzharov was offered to take a ‘Far Eastern hectare’. However, since this is a non-profit project, he did not have the means to develop this land and build utility facilities.
If we recall, in total, from 2009 to 2017, within the framework of the project ‘Let's Turn Sakhalin and the Kurils into the Cedar Islands’, 210,000 cedar seeds were planted and 80,000 Korean and Siberian cedar seedlings were grown, out of which we distributed 24,200 seedlings just free of charge for landscaping schools, kindergartens, hospitals, clinics, other public areas and for planting them in the forest. We, our family planted 5,250 cedar seedlings in the forest.

In the end, my family and I decided to move to the Kaliningrad Region. Here, Sergey Koshevoi, the head of the Zelenograd District administration, initially allocated 7.1 hectares for the cedar nursery. The business got going very fast, much faster than I expected. In just one year, we grew 300-400 thousand seedlings.

And this year, on February 8, he allocated additional 11 hectares of land. In general, our plans are to plant up to three million trees here - just the land is required. It is possible to turn the Kaliningrad Region into a real cedar paradise.

As I understand, the Kaliningrad Region was not the only project?

As they say, it took off from there. Gradually, I began to realize that I could go beyond the Kaliningrad Region. And the ‘Cedars of Russia’ project arose. We set ourselves the task of planting and growing cedars in all the regions of the country where possible. We are looking to plant the seedlings along ravines, to make forest shelterbelts along rivers and streams, plant the seedlings in places of massive tree felling, in abandoned quarries, landslide hazard areas and the like. To do this, we intend to set up a register of such places by 2023.

Arid regions, such as the Orenburg Region, the Stavropol Territory, attract particular attention in this regard ... We would like to plant them with trees. At the first stage, we think it appropriate to set up nurseries there for growing trees and shrubs adapted to local conditions in order to plant these plants in these regions. Оf course, we are eager to grow cedars and other valuable wood species there.

Do you grow not only cedars?

In addition to the Siberian and Korean cedars, we also grow Korean fir trees (Abies Koreana), Amur cork tree (Phellodendron amurense), magnolia-vine (Schizandra), chestnut trees (Castanea), oaks (Quereus). As a separate line of activities, I would like to develop the cultivation of trees listed in the Red Book, for example, yew trees (Táxus).

How do you plan to cover the whole country?

To work more efficiently, we plan to open branches of the Zelenograd Cedar Nursery in all regions of Russia. By the way, they were already set up last year in Ufa and St. Petersburg.

We are going to implement the ‘Cedars of Russia’ project through our regional focal points. They are currently functioning in 35 regions of the country. Our plan for this year includes setting them up in 10 more regions, by 2021 - in 80 regions of Russia.

At the first stage, for three years until 2022, we will collect applications for seedlings in the regions throughout the country with the help of our focal points. First of all, we will provide socially significant establishments with plants - educational, health care, cultural and social protection ones, as well as the plants for landscaping of public areas.

We will also be engaged in finding the people for setting up of the Zelenograd Cedar Nursery branches in the regions, or independent cedar nurseries. We hope that we will be able to open such nurseries in the regions by 2025.

My dream is to plant cedar groves in each city and village in the regions of Russia and make a cedar pine a vivid symbol of the country. And this is not just a dream. Within the framework of the project, we plan to send our proposals to the heads of the municipal administrations and regional governments.

Of course, we pay attention to the necessary environmental education of the younger generation. It seems that it would be possible to more actively set up school forestry, to bring schoolchildren in on landscaping public and natural areas, to communicate more with young naturalist circles, to tell them how to grow and plant seedlings of cedars and other trees. I think, we probably need to start with a kindergarten. We plan to give eco-lessons there and plant seedlings together with the kids.

And what is happening in the Kaliningrad Region?

As for the Kaliningrad Region, I would like to note that in 2021, the planting of the cedar groves begins in each city and village of this Amber area. This year, we are starting to implement the project ‘Let’s turn the Kaliningrad Region into a cedar-land’. To do this, in April-May 2020, our proposal will be sent to each municipality head to give us the information on the planting areas and the quantity of cedar seedlings required. The cedar seedlings will be provided free of charge.

Who renders assistance to you?

Of course, in our work we are relying on volunteers. When some people hear about our project, they also have a desire to help grow cedars, but, unfortunately, they often give up doing this at the very beginning. It is a sweat to do this work and they have to work from morning till night. But I do not give up hope. So, people are the main resource that is very important to us.

Of course, not the last question is financing. Frankly speaking, the lack of financial resources hinders the increase in the number of seedlings of cedars and other trees cultivated and planted in all regions of our great Motherland.

Currently, the ‘Cedars of Russia’ project is being implemented at the expense of a naturopath blogger Katia Txi (99%), and donations from individuals (1%). We opened a crowdfunding platform to collect money for the project:

In 2019, we sent 40,000 cedar seedlings and 3,000 seedlings of other trees to 17 regions of the country for free. This year, we plan to send 500,000 cedar seedlings to 45 regions of Russia. In general, the project’s production programme for this year provides for growing 3 mn cedar seedlings.

It takes three years for a seed planted into the ground to become a seedling. The nuts the nursery receives from the Far East are stratified, that is, mixed with sand, covered with a plastic film and put in boxes in a heated room to accelerate germination. As a result, the nuts germinate in three to four weeks, although it usually takes 40-50 days. Then, the seedlings are transplanted from the beds into containers, where they grow and then are planted out.
To do this, we purchased 1,500 kg of the Siberian cedar seeds at our own expense, out of which we sent 200 kg to the Bashkir branch and 30 kg to the St. Petersburg branch. If we get the sponsors’ support, 10-15 mn cedar seedlings will be grown at the Zelenograd Cedar Nursery in 2020, and about 10 mn seedlings at our branches. At the same time, the cost of growing one seedling will be ₽2.5-2.8.

From January 24, 2020, germinated Siberian cedar nuts are being planted directly at the nursery. As of February 12, 2020, a total of 430,000 germinated cedar seeds were planted during the winter season of 2019-2020.

If funds are available by 2021, we will be able to grow 35-40 mn seedlings of cedar and other trees and hundreds of millions annually starting from 2024 at our nurseries of the ‘Cedars of Russia’ project.

However, this is possible only if the project receives the financial support.

Our plans are absolutely real. This is confirmed by the fact that since April 15, 2018, 600,000 cedar seedlings have been grown without any budget support.

Even if we do not raise funds, we will continue to grow cedars using our own resources.

There is hope that Ivan Sanzharov’s dream will come true. In February this year, the ‘Cedars of Russia’ project and their successful experience in the reforestation attracted the attention of the federal authorities. A working meeting of Dmitry Kobylkin, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, and Ivan Sanzharov took place at the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia. The issue of the project support was raised at the federal level. Sergey Anoprienko, the head of Rosleskhoz (Russian Forestry), present at the meeting, said that the proposed project would be considered and evaluated, and the proposals will be considered for their further development and support.

As the Ministry of Natural Resources said, according to Kobylkin, “such projects as the ‘Cedars of Russia’ meet the state objectives for the reforestation and require support.” The Minister expressed confidence that solutions to support the project would be found and the ‘Cedars of Russia’ project could be included in the long-term plan to achieve the national ‘Ecology’ project indicators.