The Virgin Komi Forests is the first Russian natural site to have been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. This nomination opened a new page in the history of Russian environmental protection. The territory consists of two protected areas that compose the last European mass of primary forests, almost undisturbed by human activities.
The "Virgin Komi Forests" is a treasury of taiga. This area is home to more than 40 mammal species, (including brown bear, sable, elk), 204 bird species (including such Russian Red Book birds as erne and fish hawk) and 16 fish species, the most valuable of which are ice period relicts Lake Char and the Arctic grayling.
The territory stretches for more than 300 km along a meridian and the western side of the Sub-Polar and Northern Urals. This mountain system influences the climate significantly. On the eastern slopes of the mountains, typical Siberian flora abruptly replaces European plant forms and species characteristic of the Urals' humid western slopes. In some places, natural complexes compose very complicated mosaics: along narrow valleys of the rivers the taiga vegetation spreads high up into the mountains.
The main tree species in the forests, spruce and fur tree, are accompanied by Siberian cedar growing here on the northwestern border of its natural habitat. The middle and northern taiga are followed by forest-tundra. Large areas are covered with mountain tundra and broken rocks; there is almost no vegetation. Here is also the place where the Pechora River begins its flow and joins its crystal-clear tributaries.