Taiwan is well endowed with forest resources, a fact that makes these precious resources the target of illegal loggers. Cases of illegal logging are not uncommon. With the intention of curbing this illegal activity, the Forestry Bureau held a press conference on March 16 at which a national forest illegal logging high-risk area map and the main illegal logging locations were announced. The Bureau then called on all citizens to pay attention to and protect Taiwan’s forests together.
On the 16th, Forestry Bureau Director General Lin Hwa-ching also announced that volunteer forest rangers will be recruited. The directors of Luodong, Dongshi, Chiayi and Hualien forest district offices and the climbing clubs of National Yilan University, National Chung Hsing University, National Chiayi University, National Cheng Kung University and Tzu Chi University signed memoranda of understanding under which, from this year, the student members of these climbing clubs will assist the Bureau in patrolling forests. Through cooperation between the government and the people, the government highlighted its determination to involve the public in fighting illegal logging.
The Forestry Bureau stated that it has over 1,000 forest rangers tasked with the job of preventing illegal logging. Various enforcement measures have been adopted and the Prosecutors-Police-Forestry platform has been established together with the Ministry of Justice Prosecutors Office for the Taiwan High Court and the National Police Administration, reducing the occurrence of illegal logging cases in recent years. However, the area of national forests is 1.847 million hectares, and hence it is difficult to stamp out illegality using government human resources alone. Therefore, the Bureau decided to enlist members of the public to serve as forest rangers to protect the country’s forests alongside its full-time rangers.
The Forestry Bureau said that the targets of the University Climbing Club Mountain Patrol Assistance Plan are university climbing clubs across Taiwan. After approval from a forest district office they can receive up to NT$150,000 as patrol allowance to assist with patrolling deep mountain forests and reporting illegal logging, land opening and other illegality. The Bureau also calls on non-university climbing associations to sign cooperation agreements with forest district offices and report illegal logging and suspicious persons during their climbing activities so that the government and citizens can fight crime together.
As well as joining forces with university climbing clubs, the Forestry Bureau will also officially recruit volunteer rangers who will patrol national forests with the Bureau’s full-time rangers. Healthy people who are educated to high school level and are 18-65 years of age, who are interested in forestry and conservation and keen to do public service can enroll at their local forest district office. After training and passing a test, they will be qualified volunteers and can make a real contribution to the conservation of Taiwan’s forests.
The Forestry Bureau also said that the first-ever publicly announced national forest illegal logging high risk area map and the main illegal logging locations are based on the locations of the illegal logging cases that took place over the years, and they also represent the areas of distribution of precious timber. It is hoped that by making this previously secret information public, people will pay more attention to activities in these areas to achieve the effect of “everyone opening their eyes to jointly supervise.”
To encourage people to report illegal logging, the Forestry Bureau has announced a fast and simple new measure for the issue of a reward for reporting illegal logging. If a case is reported and, as a result the offenders and their booty are captured, a reward, calculated in accordance with the value of the logs, as high as NT$50,000 per case, will be paid to the reporting person within seven days of the case being passed to the prosecutor by the police. After the suspects are charged, a further reward, 10% of the value of the logs and up to NT$3 million per case, can be received (with the previous reward deducted).
COA Minister Lin Tsung-hsien is at present fully involved in epidemic prevention work. He said that, on his first day in the job, he told the director general of the Forestry Bureau that illegal logging prevention work should be strengthened and made a special visit two days before (March 14) to Minister of Justice Chiu Tai-san to discuss how illegal logging can be countered together, hoping to set up a cross-agency contact mechanism to clamp down on illegal logging. The Social Participation in Forest Protection program is intended to supplement limited government resources and create a Taiwan forest protection network based on government-citizen cooperation so that the precious forests of Formosa live on.
For information about volunteer registration, enquire at your local forest district office. The Forestry Bureau’s free hotline for reporting illegal logging is: 0800- 000930.