Tue, Jan 19, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Trees protected in revised Forestry Act

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

The Forestry Bureau has announced regulations to protect trees of ecological, historic or aesthetic importance, the first national regulations to preserve non-forest trees.

The regulations are part of revisions to the Forestry Act (森林法) last year, which specify criteria according to which local governments can include trees grown on non-forest areas, including on private land, to their preservation lists.

The criteria include trees that are more than 100 years old or give shade to an area of more than 400m2, as well as plantations that have regional significance or the existence of which is considered advantageous to local biodiversity.

The criteria are invested with modern conservation concepts to preserve plantations with significant aesthetic, historic or educational value, as well as trees that are connected to local communities or religions, bureau conservation division director Kuan Li-hao (管立豪) said.

The iconic “Takeshi Kaneshiro tree” — named after the Taiwanese-Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro (Jin Cheng-wu, 金城武) — in Taitung County’s Chihshang Township (池上) could be included in the county government’s preservation list because of its cultural value, Kuan said.

Trees lining roads and in private gardens could also be protected if residents file an application with local governments to include the trees in a census, which regulations stipulate should be held every five years, to determine whether they should be included on the preservation list.

Protected trees cannot be removed from the list unless they pose a public safety risk or develop diseases, the bureau said.

In cases of urban renewal plans that require the removal of protected trees, a task force is to be organized to assess the feasibility of the renewal plan and tree removal, it added.

The regulations were announced following protests against the controversial handling of trees, including the removal of trees surrounding the Taipei Dome complex that gave rise to a series of demonstrations in 2014 and last year.

According to the Forestry Act, unauthorized handling of trees may incur a maximum fine of NT$600,000 and government officials who fail to recognize a tree as worthy of protection would be punished.

The regulations are due to take effect in the first half of this year, the bureau said.

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