The forests are the most important component of the Baikal ecological system, they perform the functions of water protection, water regulation, soil- and field protection, raw material, recreation place and others. The most wide spread forests of the region are those of the larch, the pine-tree and the cedar-tree. Deciduous forests with the birch-tree and the aspen prevailing in them occupy 16% of the total area covered with forests.
By their geographic position, by the mountainous character of the relief the forests of Buryatia play a great role of a natural barrier blocking up the way to the winds, they are also the sources feeding many rivers of the Baikal water protection zone. On the territory of Buryatia 3 forest zones are distinguished: the mountainous-taiga one, the forest-steppe one and the steppe one. The taiga stretches as far as the southern borders of the republic, along the mountain ranges. The steppe and the forest steppe go far north along the inter-mountain lowerings looking like narrow strips and small isolated patches.
All the forests included into the Baikal basin are referred to forest groups 1 and 2 with the corresponding forest usage regimen. All in all 7,122.3 thousand hectares, or 56.6%, are in the 1st group, and 5,453.2 thousand hectares, or 43.4%, are in the 2nd group. The whole territory of the state forests is divided into forest farms which are divided into forestries, the forestries are divided into forest plots and rounds. All in all there are 38 forest farms, 162 forestries and 1,362 forest plots and rounds in the republic.
The forest resources are traditionally used as a source of wood for industrial processing. Timber cutting was done mostly in the pine forests in the central part of Buryatia until recent time whereas the larch forests of the north-eastern and the south-western zones were only partly used.
Timber cutting is done by the companies of the Russian Federation forestry ministry, the agriculture ministry, municipal companies, as well as by other departments and businessmen.
Because of severe climatic conditions the forests grow very slowly and have low timber increase. Light coniferous forests burn very often.