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Woodland Areas Need Sustainable Strategies
Experts have called for the overturning of a blanket ban on logging in areas targeted for afforestation, claiming it is not the best way to achieve conservation with development.

A report by the China Council for International Co-operation on Environment and Development stated that the ban was leading to insecurity of farming rights in some rural communities.

They also said the conversion of cultivated land to forests was putting downward pressure on food prices, hitting farmers in the pocket by reducing rural incomes.

The report by the council focused on the potential impacts of the nation's two major forestry programs, which are aimed at halting environmental degradation.

The natural forest protection program and the program for converting cultivated land back to forests are the key countermeasures taken by the Chinese Government against ecological deterioration in the country, especially in the western regions.

The programs - the largest of their kind in the world - involve 1.2 million forestry workers and several millions farmers in 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities across the country.

The council - established in 1992 as a consultative body for the State Council in the fields of environment and development - met on Saturday and Monday in Beijing. It said the two programs have contributed significantly to an improvement in ecological conditions in western China.

But the implementation of the two programs has also had negative effects on local communities and forestry enterprises.

The fact that the logging ban was arbitrarily extended in many areas of the country to collective forests has unsettled farmers.

Incomes of farmers who are not involved in the project and still rely on crop production are being hurt by the practice of converting cultivated land back to forests.

With regard to the natural forest protection program, the report suggested the removal of the ban on logging from collectively-owned forests in certain regions to guarantee clarity and predictability of farming rights.

The country should develop a strategy to replace the logging ban on State-owned forests with the sustainable management of woodland, it said.

(China Daily November 27, 2002)

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