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Environmental groups fault President Ruto on lifting of logging in local forests

The environmental lobbyists urged the government to release an official statement detailing the forests in which logging will be allowed. PHOTO/Creative Commons.

By RICHARD CHENGO

newshub@eyewitness.africa

Conservation lobby groups in Kenya have warned that the lifting of logging in local forests would intensify deforestation.

The lobby groups led by Kenya Forest Working Group (KFWG) and East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) said the move by President William Ruto to lift logging in local forests was ill-advised, against Kenya’s plans to increase its forest cover and detrimental to mitigation initiatives against climate change.

“We express deep concern regarding the recent announcement by His Excellency the President of Kenya, Dr William Ruto, that the moratorium on logging in the country’s commercial plantation forests is being lifted,” the lobbyists said.

While attending a church service in Molo on July 2, 2023, President Ruto recently announced the lifting of a six-year ban on logging in the country claiming the move would help the economies of areas that depend on forest products.

The president said his government has put up plans to ensure that only mature trees are harvested while more are planted.

However, the environmentalists said while they understand that harvesting of mature trees in exotic plantations may be important, they urged the government to maintain an unwavering ban on logging in indigenous forests.

“It is imperative to protect the essential ecosystem services these forests offer, including their role in mitigating climate change. Instead of prioritizing short-term economic gains and job creation through logging, the emphasis should be on preserving our indigenous forests,” they added. 

The lobbyists requested  relevant committees in the Senate and the National Assembly to summon the  Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry, and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), to  discuss the implementation of recommendations from the 2018 Taskforce Report on Forest  Resources Management and Logging Activities in Kenya.

“These recommendations address key areas, including the establishment, management, harvesting, valuation, and disposal of public plantation forests, aiming to enhance productivity and revenue generation,” they added.

KFWG and EAWLS underscored the importance of working closely with private landowners and state corporations that own significant land areas, encouraging investment in private forest plantations to augment public plantations and satisfy Kenya’s growing demand for wood.

President Ruto said his government has put up plans to ensure that only mature trees are harvested while more are planted.

“The President’s consideration of these recommendations is crucial as he contemplates lifting the logging ban,” they noted.

They added that parliamentary committees should also insist that the KFS outline how it will deal with the  saw millers who made financial commitments six years ago before the ban took effect, and to  account for the instances of illegal logging that have occurred during the ban in many parts of the country, for example in the Kinale area.

“As we open up our commercial forests for logging, Kenyans would also like to know where the proceeds of such an important forest management practices as logging would go considering the

Forest Conservation and Management Fund is yet to be established as per Section 27 of the Forest Conservation and Management Act of 2016,” they emphasized.

They revealed that the President’s announcement on lifting the logging ban has created considerable confusion among stakeholders and without clarification; this confusion could result in misuse and misinterpretation of our indigenous forests.

“We urge the government to release an official statement detailing the forests in which logging will be allowed, the rationale behind the lifting of the ban, and measures to ensure compliance with the Forest Conservation and Management Act of 2016 and Forests (Participation in Sustainable Forest Management) Rules of 2009,” they demanded.

They demanded that the KFS publicly share its plans on tree felling, harvesting and Replanting and an inventory of plantations, including details on tree volume, locations, acreage, and age should also be made available through local newspapers, the KFS website, or other official communication channels. This information must be disclosed before permitting logging in public plantation forests.

“We also call for the conversion of any plantations within indigenous forests back to their original state, as suggested by the 2018 taskforce,” they insisted. 

The lobbyists said they were deeply concerned that lifting the logging moratorium without considering the aforementioned recommendations and concerns could have detrimental effects on indigenous forests in the country.

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