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EghtesadOnline: Natural resources are deemed national treasures only when they benefit the country, and allowing the Caspian Hyrcanian forests some respite is key to ensuring it remains beneficial to Iran, according to the head of the Forestry Association of Iran.

During a news conference on forest protection policies of the Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization on Sunday, Hadi Kiadaliri also said preserving the Caspian Hyrcanian forests in the north must be a top priority for everyone.

“We need to stop looking at these forests as timber showrooms and must start enforcing measures to protect every ecosystem in the forests,” he was quoted as saying by ISNA.

“The northern forests make up about 1% of Iran’s land area, yet they are of international importance, because by cutting down a single tree, the entire world takes another step toward desertification.”

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

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. It aims to promote the sustainable use of the rich, fast-depleting resource before it is too late, Financial Tribune reported.

The bill is committed to fortify a three-year-old government directive that only allows diseased, dead and broken trees to be used for timber by placing a 10-year ban on exploiting forest resources.

The current Iranian demand for timber is 7-10 million cubic meters and is expected to reach 13 million cubic meters in five years.

Iran has lined up a number of measures to alleviate the pressure on forests, such as increasing the import of timber from Russia and Ukraine to reduce logging and protect the Caspian Hyrcanian forests.

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

“The problem with this measure is that you always run the risk of importing woods carrying diseases, so the Plant Protection Organization needs to diligently monitor timber imports,” Kiadaliri said.

  Forests Not Abandoned

Nasser Moqaddasi, the deputy head of FRWO, said the organization is not going to abandon the northern forests and its insistence on getting the bill signed into law is to allow FRWO time to overhaul policies.

“Not only will the forests be given a chance to rest and restore themselves, the organization will also be afforded the opportunity to review its policies and revamp its strategies concerning the Caspian Hyrcanian forests,” he said.

Moqaddasi said the budget allocated for the implementation of the bill’s measures is far from adequate and called on lawmakers to improve on the proposed funding when reviewing the bill.

“About 3 trillion rials ($74 million) have been set aside, but that’s not enough,” he said. “Spending money on forest protection is a kind of investment in the country’s future.”

Moqaddasi noted that allocating a bigger budget is not going to put the government under pressure because the money will be spent over a decade and the forest is replete with economic opportunities that will help pay the bill.

“There are 103 watersheds in the northern forests, which have economic and ecotourism potentials,” he said.

Iran forests Iran Natural resources Forest Protection