People, Environment

Bill Promotes Sustainable Use of Forest Resources

Bill Promotes Sustainable Use of Forest ResourcesBill Promotes Sustainable Use of Forest Resources

The Forest Protection Bill, which has needlessly courted controversy from a small but vocal faction, does not seek to designate Iran’s northern forests off limits, but to promote the sustainable use of the rich, fast-depleting resource before it is too late.

Speaking on the radio program Goftegou on Sunday, Nasser Moqaddasi, the deputy head of Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization, explained that the bill aims to fortify a three-year-old government directive that only allows diseased, dead and broken trees to be used for timber.

“The bill places a 10-year ban on exploiting forest resources, but dead and broken trees can still be used to meet wood demand,” he said.

Moqaddasi noted that the pause in using forest resources allows Caspian Hyrcanian forests, which run parallel to the southern shores of the Caspian Sea in the north, to recover and help promote their sustainable use.

“We have to protect and preserve our forests,” he stressed.

Majid Abbaspour, director of the Iranian Society of Environmentalists, reiterated Moqaddasi’s statement, saying that it takes multiple entities to help ensure the forests are protected once the bill is passed.

“Barely 10% of Iran’s timber demand is met by our forests, which means we can do away with it should there be a need to completely cut ourselves off of our forests,” he said.

About 76% of wood needs are met by tree farms that have helped take off the pressure from forests, while the rest is imported from Ukraine and Russia.

The bill, which has been on hold in the Majlis for over a year, is expected to be reviewed and voted on by lawmakers soon.

Critics say the bill is redundant because forest management schemes currently in place help protect forests and limit overexploitation of resources, while creating jobs for many.

They claim banning the use of timber will force operators of the schemes to abandon their jobs because it makes no financial sense to manage resources that are not used.

They also assert that timber smugglers are the ones hurting forests, but the bill strictly targets the legal exploitation of these resources, which is illogical.

Some have even gone as far as suggesting cutting down old trees—some of which are older than 200 years old—to prevent them from falling over younger trees and breaking them.

Tehran currently imports about 1 million cubic meters of timber from Russia and Ukraine annually, but wants to increase the volume fourfold. The goal is to import a total of 10 million cubic meters of wood every year by 2021.

According to forest authorities, 7.1% of woodland areas in northern Iran have been lost in recent years to logging and wildfires.