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China's largest forest to again thrive by eliminating farms and communities

06-18-2010 09:22 BJT

by Xinhua writers Tian Ye, Mou Xu and Liu Jingyang

HARBIN, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Fifty-year-old Xu Zhiming has been living on a tree farm in northeast China's Xiaohinggan Mountains (Lesser Hinggan Mountains) for 30 years, but she will soon be moving into her new city home which she is "very pleased with."

From a shanty bungalow in the forest to a cement apartment in downtown with heating and tap water, Xu's relocation was the result of China's initiative to protect forest reserves by minimizing human activity.

Located in China's northeast region, the Great and Lesser Hinggan Mountains are the country's largest reserves of natural forests and occupy 5.6 percent of the country's forest area, which once stood at about 11 million hectares.

However, after 60 years of intensive lumbering since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the amount of workable forest reserves in the area dropped from 780 million cubic meters to 66 million cubic meters in 2007, according to statistics released by the Forestry Department of Heilongjiang Province.

These reduced workable timber reserves have prompted the government to act.

On June 12, China's State Council, or Cabinet, announced that it would protect the northeastern forest areas along with the country's southwestern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, the southern highland and major rivers and lakes, by declaring these areas to be a ecological region that only permits "restricted development".

The State Council said in a statement that those regions which "affect the national ecological safety" should focus on environmental protection and rehabilitation.

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