Environmentalists yesterday called on the government not to turn the Forestry Bureau into a department under the future agriculture ministry, but rather to place it under the future ministry of environment and natural resources.
“We believe the government’s reorganization plan is a good opportunity to take the Forestry Bureau out of the Council of Agriculture (COA) and place it under an agency for environmental protection,” Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association secretary-general Lin Tzu-ling (林子凌) told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.
“It is very worrisome that the COA has suggested it would keep the Forestry Bureau when it becomes the ministry of agriculture,” she added.
She said while the council is in charge of developing the agricultural economy, officials with decision making powers would inevitably have a development-oriented mentality, instead of a mentality for ecological conservation.
“The COA’s idea of managing forests in the country is to turn them into recreational parks, to develop ecotourism and arbitrary forestation — in other words, they would want to make money out of forests, not protect them,” Lin said.
Citizen of the Earth Foundation’s Eastern Taiwan Office director Tsai Chung-yueh (蔡中岳) explained how the Forestry Bureau’s forestation policy has caused destruction in Taiwan’s forests, which leads to mudslides that seriously threaten the lives of tens of thousands of people.
“The Forestry Bureau cuts down giant trees that have been around for decades, if not centuries, sells them off and plants new trees,” Tsai said. “They tell the public about their forestation projects as if they are working hard to protect woods in the country, while they are doing just the opposite.”
He said that this false forestation policy has led to the destabilization of soil in the mountains, which leads to mudslides when typhoons hit the nation.
“It’s very scary that the same group of people who make decisions at the current council are to continue to administer [a future] forestry department,” he said.
On the other hand, Green Formosa Front member Lin Chang-mao (林長茂) was worried that if the forestry department is placed under the future ministry of agriculture, the policy of renting out land in the mountains to be used for high-altitude agriculture may continue.
“Renting out forestry land to farmers in the mountains adjacent to Shimen Reservoir (石門水庫) in Taoyuan County, for example, is already leading to pollution of water in the reservoir because of the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers,” Lin said.
Lawmakers across party lines, including the Democratic Progressive Party’s Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) and Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬), as well as People First Party Legislator Chang Show-foong (張曉風), attended the news conference in support of the environmental groups.