On Arbor Day yesterday, civic group Citizens of the Earth, Taiwan (CET) urged the government not to subsidize planting new forests, as it would encourage landowners to cut down big trees to plant small tree saplings, but rather allow forests to grow naturally to protect the environment and prevent mudslides.
While the government has promoted its effort in planting trees to create forested area each year, there is a difference between forestry for economic purposes and natural forest conservation, the group said.
The forestation policies enforced by the government in previous years have always led to a repeated cycle of landowners “cutting down big trees to sell for profit, and earning government subsidies for growing small trees,” it said, adding that misguided policies are causing the destruction of the nation’s forests.
The group cited the case of a farmer, Tsao Hsu-rong (曹榮旭), who successfully restored his 8-hectare land at the now Lujiaopi (鹿角埤) Ecology Park in Chiayi County, from betel nut plantation to natural forestland with increased biodiversity.
After inheriting a betel nut farm on the hillside from his father, Tsao said that about 20 years ago, he decided to he wanted to create a better environment for his children.
He allowed the land to grow on its own without weeding or using pesticide, and found the land recovered in a short period.
“I wanted it to become like the natural forest behind my home when I was young, with many birds and animals,” he said. “We have discovered that there are 34 species of birds in the area and many more amphibians, as well as reptiles.”
“Natural forests have their mechanism of succession, by spreading seeds through wind and animals — beginning with the growth of herbal plants, then photophilous and fast-growing secondary forests,” said Yang Kuoh-cheng (楊國禎), an associate professor at Providence University’s ecology department and chairperson of the Taiwan Academy of Ecology.
CET executive director Lee Ken-cheng (李根政) said growing trees on hillsides and mountainous areas should be carefully planned as the species of trees and planting methods would affect land conservation efforts.
Lee said the government should revise its forest policies and national forestland classification system to clarify the purpose of forestation.
Artificial forest plantations should be limited to forestland for economic purposes and government policies should aim at allowing conservation forests to grow naturally and subsidize the forestlands that are unlogged, Lee said.