State bans logging in a rare virgin forest

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 May, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 May, 2003, 12:00am

One of the mainland's last remaining virgin forest areas is to be protected from logging.

The State Forestry Administration announced it would prohibit any logging in a 946,000-hectare section of the famed Greater Xing'An Mountain range in Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang, Xinhua reported.

With tree cover of 95 per cent, the newly designated area is home to massive old-growth trees, including various species of juniper and birch.

The announcement comes as the nation's virgin forests continue to dwindle.

While the mainland's total forest cover is about 134 million hectares, or about 14 per cent of its overall land area, the majority is man-made, with virgin forests shrinking at a reported rate of 5,000 sq km a year.

Many of the nation's virgin forests are located in the 350,000 sq km Greater Xing'An Range.

The range is one of the nation's largest forest areas and has served as the heart of the nation's lumber industry.

The area's wood protection policy accounts for one-third of the nation's total.

The region is also believed to be the birthplace of the Manchus, the rulers of the Qing dynasty.

But decades of logging in the mountainous region, which was at its heaviest during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, have caused serious ecological destruction.

In 1998, the region's deforestation caused the devastating flooding of the Nenjiang and Songhua rivers.

As a result, the government implemented strict logging restrictions in 2000, which cut the region's annual lumber production by 40 per cent to about 8.6 million cubic metres.