Saving What Little Is Left

Wild at Heart's General Secretary Lynn Lin (林子凌) was looking forward to a visit to the Alishan area late Tuesday afternoon (27.3.07) when she received a telephone call from Legislator Tian Ciu-jin (田秋堇 DPP, at large), a long time activist who has worked hard to protect the Cilan (棲蘭) forests in northeastern Taiwan.

A second reading of proposed amendments to the National Parks Act (國家公園法) was to take place in Taiwan's Legislature the following day, and not one environmental group knew about it. Tian, a member of the Legislature's Committee on Sanitation, Environment, and Social Welfare Commitee, had just been informed, and an urgent response was needed because a bill that passes its second reading has for all intent and purposes passed into law.

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The proposed amendment? Seemingly a minor change: a proviso added to article 13 which spells out prohibited activities in the parks. The law currently prohibits all hunting and fishing without exception. The new provision would have authorized the "authority in charge", i.e., the Construction and Planning Administration of the Ministry of Interior (MOI), to decide on exceptions to the law.

On its face, the amendment seemed reasonable in light of recent changes in laws and regulations allowing indigenous peoples to collect plants, hunt and fish in sustainable ways on their traditional lands. But further investigation showed that the amendments were not being pushed by indigenous interests but rather by legislators with close connections to commercial groups that have been responsible for much of the high altitude farming as well as resort and other development that has ravaged so much of the central mountains in recent years.

Fortunately, Ms. Lin was able to work with other legislators to forestall passage of the amendment; she is now tracking down the officials within the MOI responsible for letting something as important as this slip by.

While some in the Taiwan government like to tout the high percentage of total area in the country that is designated national park, reserves and so on, in fact much of these designated areas are open for "limited exploitation", a breach in the dike that has resulted in rapidly disappearing habitat

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