More than 3.7 million hectares of fast-growing forests have been planted in central and east China since 2002, the State Forestry Administration (SFA) announced at a press conference on Wednesday.
The trees, which will be harvested to feed the country's paper and other timber intensive industries, have been planted across 18 provinces and autonomous regions.
In the years ahead, more than a third of the trees will be pulped for paper.
Another 43 percent will be used in the manufacture of fibreboard.
A further 9.2 million hectares of forests will be planted under the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10).
By 2015, 13.3 million hectares of fast-growing trees are expected to provide 140 million cubic meters of timber, 40 percent of national demand, to the domestic market each year, said Wang Lianzhi, head of the SFA's office in charge of plantations.
"The trees will help boost China's domestic timber supply," he added.
The forestation project in central and eastern China began in 2002 as one of six massive tree-planting programs with a combined budget of more than 700 billion yuan (US$86.31 billion).
Other projects include the protection of natural forests, sand-break forests surrounding Beijing and Tianjin, shelter forests in North, Northwest and Northeast China and along the Yangtze River, wildlife protection efforts and a program to return arable land to forests and grasslands.
By the end of last year, about 23 million hectares of infertile farmland had been returned to woodland or grassland in more than 1,800 counties across the country's 25 provinces, mostly in western China.
By 2010, 16 million hectares of farmland are expected to have been given over to forests, SFA official Liu Shuren said.
As for the protection of China's rare and endangered wildlife, Cao Qingyao, spokesman for the SFA, said, "One of our most significant achievements in recent years is the rising number of Tibetan antelope."
"Antelope numbers have increased to 190,000 following a decade of protection efforts," he said.
A century ago, the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau was home to more than 1 million antelope.
Their numbers dropped drastically to only about 130,000 in 2000 after years of poaching. The animals' fur is a prized commodity for the making of luxurious shahtoosh shawls.
Unique to the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau, the antelope live between 4,000 and 5,500 meters above sea level.
As unveiled at the weekend, a Tibetan antelope character named Yingying has been selected as one of the five mascots of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
(China Daily November 18, 2005)