Felling ban has recently been lifted for the farmland protection forest belt, part of the Sanbei (or three "norths", referring to north, northeast and northwest China) Forest Belt that is praised as China's "green Great Wall".
Lifting of the ban was officially announced by the State Administration of Forestry (SAF) in late September here in this capital city of northeast China's Jilin Province. Upon the termination of the felling ban, mature and overmature trees in the Sanbei farmland protection forest belt are allowed to be cut in line with felling plans.
Zhu Kelie, SAF deputy director, said, "Part of the Sanbei farmland protection forest belt has entered a period of maturity and overmaturity. Renewal of that part in a scientific way will help rejuvenate the farmland protection forest and improve its performance in ecological conservation."
Since 1978, trees have been planted in 590 counties of 13 provincial-level regions in northern, northeastern and northwestern China to form a long tree shield against desertification.
The eco-conservation project covers a total area of 4.07 million square kilometers, or 42.4 percent of China's total land area. In 2003, it was included in the Guinness World Records as the world's largest forestation project. The farmland protection forest, which has had the felling ban lifted for it, makes up 10 percent of the project.
According to SAF officials, the farmland protection forest has put 57 percent of arable land in north, northeast and northwest China under protection and helped yields from the land increase by 15 percent to 20 percent.
The forest's function of ecological conservation has for long been underscored unilaterally, however, local governments have forbidden farmers to cut trees in the forest. As a result, dead and sick trees fell down in winds, killing people and animals and damaging houses. More, the farmland protection forest has begun to report a decline in its ecological conservation function, due partly to a limited variety of trees, a big proportion of overmatured trees and slow renewal.
In 2004, Jilin Province lifted the felling ban on 1,496 hectares of the farmland protection forest on a trial basis. IN 2004 alone, the move helped local farmers increase their income by 125 million yuan (15.4 million US dollars), boosted development of local lumber processing, transportation and sapling cultivation sectors and created jobs.
"Felling and renewal in the Sanbei farmland protection forest have been done in an organized manner," said Liu Yanchun, head of the provincial Bureau of Forestry of Jilin.
"The annual quota of the trees to be felled in the province is set by the Central Government," said Wang Wei, deputy head of Nong'an County, which was covered by Jilin's pilot felling campaign last year.
"We succeeded in replacing overmatured trees with new, high-yield species," Wang added.
Wang Wei told Xinhua that his county has adopted a bid invitation and contract system for trees felling and renewal. "The survival rate of the newly planted trees has reached 90 percent," Wang said.
According to SAF data, the farmland protection part of the Sanbei Forest covers a total area of 2.37 million hectares, involving 111 million cubic meters of matured and overmatured trees that are valued at 61 billion yuan (7.5 billion US dollars).
According to officials with the Ministry of Agriculture, the farmland protection forest is a big "cake" of China's lumber resources. China has adopted a felling ban and felling restriction policy on its natural forests. Lumber supply has shifted from natural to artificial forests.
The officials said that adhering to ecological benefits and seeking for the largest comprehensive efficiency upon integration of economic and ecological efforts would be the orientation of the renewal of the Sanbei farmland protection forest.