Thu, Jan 03, 2013 - Page 4 News List

Keep forests in environmental ministry: groups

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Representatives of Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan, and other environmental groups hold a press conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday, calling on the government to protect the nation’s forests by transferring the Forestry Bureau and Taiwan Forestry Research Institute from the Council of Agriculture to the new Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources.

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

With a lawmaker proposing that the Forestry Bureau and Taiwan Forestry Research Institute (TFRI) be placed under the new Ministry of Agriculture as part of the government’s reform plan, environmental protection groups yesterday called for the two agencies to be retained in the to-be-formed Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources instead.

The Executive Yuan had planned to move the two agencies from the Council of Agriculture into the environmental resources ministry, but Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Jeng Tian-tsair (鄭天財) has called for them to remain part of the agricultural ministry when legislators reviewed that ministry’s organization act.

“Taiwan’s geologically fragile mountains are only relatively stable because they are protected by the forests,” Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan, chairperson Liao Pen-chuan (廖本全) said. “The mountains, forests, water and soil are closely linked with one another, so it is more appropriate to incorporate them into the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources.”

He said if the agencies that manage forests remain in the agricultural ministry, the policies are likely to lean toward forestry — treating the forests as agricultural crops or allowing trees to be cut down to plant other cash crops — but mudslides and landslides have proved the importance of national land conservation.

Frank Yang (楊俊朗), a researcher with Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan, said the nation’s forests have already lost their industrial value because the tree species are diversified and the quality of the wood is uneven, so wood logged from 1 hectare of land can only sell for about NT$30,000, but the government provides subsidies of up to NT600,000 for each hectare of forestation.

He said the current policy of encouraging forestation on plains for trees that grow for short rotations of about six years before being logged is not really helpful for soil and water conservation, and may also affect land that could have been used for growing food crops to improve the nation’s self-sufficiency.

“Forests can be used, but not only for wood,” said King Hen-biau (金恆鑣), chairperson of the Jane Goodall Institute of Taiwan and a former TFRI director-general.

King also said Taiwan’s forests lack industrial value, but have multiple roles in protecting water resources, air quality, soil conservation and biodiversity.

Environmental policies are complicated issues involving many aspects that are linked with one another and need solid scientific research as evidence to back up the policies, he said, but research and management at present are still divided into small sections that lack comprehensive planning.

Seven environmental protection groups and two legislators urged Jeng to withdraw his proposal and allow the two agencies to be included in the new environmental resources ministry, to better protect the environment for all the people in Taiwan, rather than to help a few people profit from forestry.

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