Russia is home to one-fifth of the world's forest lands, about 90% of which comprise fragile boreal areas (1, 2). These forests sustain unique human cultures, valuable wilderness, and biodiversity (1, 2). They also play a crucial role in the flows of atmospheric moisture on which millions of people depend and sequester a substantial, though uncertain, quantity of greenhouse gases (1). Despite their importance, Russian forests have suffered from wasteful over-harvesting of accessible timber, inadequate protection, fire, and pests, and new challenges—such as forests on melting permafrost—are emerging (1–3). The previous forest code and a long history of extraction without investment have been widely blamed for exacerbating these problems (1, 4, 5). The Forest Council of the Russian Academy of Sciences has initiated work on a new national forest code (2, 6). The future of Russia's vast forests depends on the implementation of effective policy.