The planned Maqaw National Park in Ilan County should be opened as soon as possible to protect the 1,000-year-old forest in the region and to provide local Aborigines with a sustainable way of survival, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said yesterday.
The park was proposed in 2002 to cover territory in four counties, including Ilan, Taoyuan, Taipei and Hsinchu, in the Snow Mountain Range.
“The area where Maqaw National Park would be established includes a Taiwan cypress forest. Because of the economic value of these trees, the region has been a popular destination for tree thieves,” Tien told a press conference. “The [probability of] thieving has been on the rise now that the economy is facing a great depression. We feel that the opening of Maqaw National Park can no longer wait.”
Citing a Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) report last Thursday, Tien said 11 suspects, two of whom are Aborigines, were arrested last December and last month for illegally logging seven Chinese firs and two Taiwan cypresses, with a combined worth of NT$5 million (US$149,000).
“The plan to establish Maqaw was announced in 2002. Over the past six years, the project has been stalled because of conflicts between parties with interests in it, and the issue of eco-conservation has been turned into an ethnic debate,” she said.
Tien said some Aboriginal politicians repeatedly tell Aborigines that once Maqaw is established, the government’s next step would be to expropriate their reserves for conservation purposes, causing panic in the local Aboriginal community.
“However, they need not worry because while the government does not have enough money to do that, from a bird’s eye view the Aborigine reserves also look very bare,” she said.
Addressing some Aborigines’ fear that after the establishment of Maqaw they may not be allowed to reside or hunt in the region, Tien said: “Around the globe countries recognize now that Aborigines can live in national parks [without causing environmental damage],” adding that “according to the Wildlife Conservation Act [野生動物保育法] they cannot hunt these animals to begin with, except during traditional celebrations.”
Aborigines can benefit from eco-tourism as the government promises to spend NT$2 billion on Maqaw’s conservation work and eco-tourism businesses in five years, Tien said.
As such, Tien called on local Aborigines to cease resistance to the park.
At a separate setting however, Taoyuan County’s Fusing Township (復興) chief Lin Hsin-yi (林信義), an Atayal, was not convinced.
Fusing Township, along with Wulai Township (烏來) in Taipei County, Datong Township (大同) in Ilan County and Jianshih Township (尖石) in Hsinchu County, which are all traditional domains of the Atayal tribe, will be part of the national park.
“Many national parks, such as Sheiba (雪壩), Taroko (太魯閣) and Yushan (玉山) National Parks, have been set up in Aboriginal traditional domains before. The government promised that Aborigines would benefit from those national parks, but it never happened,” Lin told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview. “This time, the government said they will co-manage Maqaw National Park with us, but how are we supposed to trust them again?”
Lin said the power to manage the Atayal traditional domain should be returned to the Atayals.