Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Police unit set to patrol forests

GREEN GUARDS The new force will operate on a test basis for one year to guard against poaching and illegal logging, and could also make forests safer for tourists


Members of the Forest and Environment Protection Unit discuss joining forces with the Forestry Bureau in dealing with the problem of people dumping garbage and cultivating land illegally in mountainous and forested areas.


A new police force dedicated to the preservation of the nation's forests was officially inaugurated by the Council of Agriculture yesterday after a six-month delay.

The force will operate for an experimental period of one year.

"In recent years, we have neglected our forests," Council of Agriculture Chairman Lee Ching-lung (李金龍) said.

"It is high time we address these issues. With this new, specialized task force we hope to make tourism safer in our forest areas and react more quickly in the event of forest fires. We are in dire need of better control over poaching and illegal deforestation," Lee said.

The regular force of forest rangers does not have the legal authority to arrest transgressors of forestry laws. The new police officers will be working with the Forestry Bureau and will provide aid where needed.

Secretary General Chen Hung-yi (陳鴻益) of the Ministry of the Interior said that the ministry started the initiative in August last year.

A last-minute decision in the Legislative Yuan to increase the number of members of Aboriginal descent on the new force made it necessary to allot more time for training.

Independent Legislator May Chin (高金素梅) yesterday urged members of the new police force to treat Aboriginal tribes in their territories with respect.

"Please do not come into these regions with an attitude of disciplining our people. I hope there will be less conflict between Aborigines and police than in the past," she said.

Chin said that the human element could complicate the new force's work, since all eight forest territories under its jurisdiction overlap with traditional homelands of Aboriginal tribes.

She added that their lifestyle can be easily misinterpreted by non-Aborigines as unlawful or strange. The conflict between forestry police and native inhabitants is not unique to Taiwan, Chin said, but is a problem which occurs worldwide.

"To share some traditional Aborigine wisdom with everyone, `People always come first,'" she said.

Lee also urged members of the new force to take care not to create too much of a disturbance for people who live in forest areas.

He suggested that special training be introduced to educate members of the force about Aboriginal values and habits.

Chin apologized to the 140 policemen who started their training early and had to wait half a year before they could assume their duties.

"As the force expands, our goal is to raise the ratio of Aboriginal policemen to 80 percent," she said.

According to Chin, this percentage was determined by a legislative committee.

There are currently 38 members of Aboriginal descent on the new police force.

Chin said that the new police force was long overdue, and that it could have prevented an incident in May in which a large Chinese cypress was uprooted and stolen from the Jade Mountain National Preserve.

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