Forestry Commission and Military clamp down on illegal forest activities

Accra, Sept. 27, GNA – The Forestry Commission
and the Military are undertaking a joint operation in the Western Region to
clamp down on illegal forest activities.

Dubbed ‘Halt 3’, the operation being conducted
in the Sefwi Wiawso area in the Western Region, started on September 13, 2018,
and will end on October 4, 2018.

Briefing the media on the operation, Mr John
Allotey Deputy Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, said the forest and
wildlife resources in the Region were under serious threat through human
activities, especially illegal farming, mining, logging, chain sawing and commercial
collection of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) as well as poaching.

He said these activities in the forest
reserves in the Region were causing serious havoc to the environment and forest
resources.

He said during a rapid field assessment of the
extent of degradation, it was discovered that 24,398.96 hectares of intact
forest had been lost to forest illegalities.

Mr Allotey said a recent multi-stakeholder
consultation on the way forward in Sefwi Wiawso unanimously agreed on a
military intervention, together with the Rapid Response Team and the forest
guards of the Forestry Commission, to stop the illegalities going on in the
forest reserves.

He said the Omanhene of Sefwi Wiawso
Traditional Area, Okatakyie Kwasi Bumangama and his chiefs and elders also
declared their total support for the operation to sanitise the forest reserves.

Mr Allotey said the Forestry Commission would
continue to collaborate with the Military to sanitise the illegalities in the
forest system in line with its mandate to regulate the utilisation of forest
and wildlife resources.

It would also ensure the conservation and
management of those resources as well as the co-ordination of policies related
to them.

Mr Allotey explained that the military had
been engaged because the illegal operators were known to be in possession of
modern sophisticated weapons for their self –defence, which the staff of
Forestry Commission could not contend favourably with.

He said the Commission’s District Management
Teams in collaboration with the Rapid Response Teams would continue to patrol
the forest reserves even after the exit of the military teams.

Mr Allotey said the Commission, in
collaboration with the Ghana Armed Forces, had trained the Commission’s
frontline staff to enable them fight illegalities in the forest.

The frontline staff would also be given modern
logistics to enable them carry out their forest protection roles effectively.

In addition, the Commission will strengthen
its community collaborations to ensure the sustainable management of the
country’s forest reserves will continue to be one of the Commission’s key
strategies.

“Building strong structures, which include
awareness creation and sensitisation programmes, provision of alternative
sources of livelihoods for the communities will help in the conservation of the
forests,” he said.

The joint field operations between the
Forestry Commission and the military has in the past been used to address
Illegal farming in forest reserves, poaching in protected areas and forest
reserves, Illegal chain sawing and logging in forest reserves and Illegal
mining operations in forest reserves.

He said so far, the Team had seized illegal
timber in the Krokosua, Sui, Bia North and Moro Forest Reserves, as well as
from Sefwi Buako and Juaboso.

About 30 trucks loaded with illegally sourced
timber were arrested and they carried over 2,000 pieces of doors and
uncountable number of beams.

He said the Operation Halt 3 Team realised
that, the modus operandi of the illegal operators had changed as they convert
harvested timber into beams, then they are manufactured into doors, door and
window frames and other furniture on the fringes of the forest.

The” manufacturers” therefore, are illegal
sawmill operators but not carpenters. So the task force seized illegal sawmill
machines but not carpentry tools,” he said.

Illegal sawmill machines and the illegal
lumber and other wood products which were seized by the task force have been
kept in safe locations. 

He said the operation was being closely
monitored by the Chief Executive, the Deputy Chief Executive and the Executive
Management Team of the Forestry Commission, adding that reports reaching the
Head office indicate that so far, there have been no brutalities.

Mr Allotey said four people were arrested and
sent to Sefwi Wiawso Police Station but were released on bail.

GNA

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