China appoints 1.2 million ‘forest chiefs’ in over one year

Xinhua reports that China has achieved its goal of establishing the “forest chief” scheme as scheduled, with nearly 1.2 million “forest chiefs” appointed in over a year, the forestry authority said on 14 July 2022.

With the comprehensive implementation of the scheme, the country’s management of forest and grassland resources has strengthened, said Xu Jide, an official with the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, at a press conference.

The number of administrative cases related to forestry and grass matters dropped 21 percent year on year in 2021, Xu said, adding that significant progress has been made in scientific afforestation, and wildlife protection has strengthened.

During the first six months of this year, the country accomplished 82.9 percent of its afforestation goals, Xu added.

China issued a guideline to implement a “forest chief” scheme nationwide over a year ago, urging to roll it out nationwide by June 2022 amid the country’s continuous efforts to protect forests and grasslands.

Going forward, the administration will guide localities to strengthen the training and supervision of the “forest chiefs” and improve their abilities to perform their duties, Xu said.

CGTN reported in January 2021 that China had issued a guideline to implement a “forest chief” scheme nationwide amid the country’s continuous efforts to protect forests and grasslands. It urged that the “forest chief” scheme be rolled out nationwide by June 2022.

“General forest chiefs” should be appointed in all provincial-level regions, said the guideline. It clarified all levels of forest chiefs’ responsibilities in protecting forest and grassland resources.

Under the scheme, China will strengthen the ecological protection and restoration of forests and grasslands, promote large-scale afforestation, and enhance monitoring and supervision for forest and grassland resources by utilizing modern information technologies.

Efforts will also encourage the prevention and control of harmful pests and plant diseases, as well as natural disasters such as fires.

China started trials of the “forest chief” scheme in 2017, and so far up to 23 provincial regions, including Anhui, Jiangxi and Chongqing, have already carried out the trial program, providing the foundation for nationwide implementation.

“Nationwide implementation of the ‘forest chief’ scheme is a key step in enhancing local responsibilities in ecological protection,” said Guan Zhi’ou, head of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.

Indicators measuring the performance of “forest chiefs” will include forest coverage, forest stock volume, comprehensive vegetation coverage of grassland and the area of desertified land restored, while specific targets will be tailored in accordance with local conditions, according to Guan.

The nationwide implementation of the scheme will help pool resources and strength to enhance the protection of China’s forest and grassland resources.

Origin and evolution of the “forest chief” scheme

Forests play a critical role in combating climate change. It takes China from timber production to ecosystem rehabilitation and then to the future of carbon neutrality.

Even though China’s forestry has made great achievements, there remain many problems with its sustainable management, especially the difficult balance between rural livelihood and forest conservation. Under these circumstances, the forest chief scheme was transformed from local trials to a national mechanism.

A recent article in the journal Sustainability, published in April 2022, seeks to analyze the origin and evolution of the “forest chief” scheme and the complexities and challenges related to China’s sustainable forestry development. Taking the risk governance framework, the study provides a systematic overview of the functioning of the “forest chiefs” element integral to sustainable governance. It offers innovative ways of top-down participation in the specific context by integrating the adaptive risk governance approach, thereby provoking critical thinking about sustainable forest governance. Read full article at link below.