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The Current Status of Protected Areas
The Current Status of Protected Areas
Taiwan’s protected areas, which have been established for ecological conservation purposes, can be divided into four categories, nature reserves, wildlife refuges and major wildlife habitats, national parks and national nature parks, and forest reserves. There are 22 nature reserves in Taiwan now. They were announced by the Council of Agriculture (COA) and municipal and county governments according to the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act. As for the wildlife refuges and major wildlife habitats, they were announced by the Council of Agriculture and county and city governments according to the Wildlife Conservation Act. Currently, there are 20 wildlife refuges, 37 major wildlife habitats, nine national parks and one national nature park, announced by the Ministry of the Interior according to the National Park Act. There are six forest reserves, planned by Council of Agriculture according to the Forestry Act. The total area of all the protected areas subtracting the overlapping areas and the sea areas is about 1,133,488.20 hectares, which is approximately 19% of the land area of Taiwan.
I. Nature reserves (22 locations):
Since June 27, 1986, according to the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act, 19 nature reserves have been announced by the COA. In addition, Penghu County Government, Pingtung County Government, and Taipei City Government announced three local nature reserves: Penghu Columnar Basalt Nature Reserve, Xuhai-Guanyinbi Nature Reserve, and Hokutolite Nature Reserve. Management authorities were assigned, in order to maintain and manage Taiwan’s important ecological systems and unique topography and geology, as well as areas with genetic preservation, permanent observation and educational and research value.
The Forestry Bureau, Council of Agriculture provides the budget each year. It works with the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute, Forest Conservation and Management Administration of the Veterans Affairs Council, management agencies of the competent county and city governments and academic research institutes to promote reserve management and maintenance, survey research, and educational advocacy. According to Article 84 of the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act, “Any change or damage to the original natural conditions in the nature reserves is prohibited.” The nature reserves are thus under the strict protection of the government, in order to maintain their original features and provide academic research and educational advocacy functions and value.
II. Wildlife refuges (20 locations) and major wildlife habitats (37 locations):
In order to preserve wild animals and habitats, since the promulgation of the Wildlife Conservation Act, we have been actively involved in promoting all kinds of wildlife conservation work and the establishment of wildlife refuges. Since 1991, according to the Wildlife Conservation Act, the Council of Agriculture has announced and planned 37 major wildlife habitats. The Forestry Bureau, Council of Agriculture and competent county and city county governments provide the budget each year and promote protected area management and maintenance, survey research and educational advocacy, together with academic and research institutes and local conservation groups.
III. National parks (9 locations) and national nature parks (1 location):
Since the United States founded the first ever national park globally in 1872, the Yellowstone National Park, approximately 100 nations or regions have founded nearly 1,000 national parks. Since 1981, Taiwan has been conducting national park and protected area work. According to the National Park Act, we founded Kenting, Yushan, Taroko, Shei-Pa, Kinmen, Dongsha Atoll, Taijiang and South Penghu Marine National Parks, as well as Shoushan National Nature Park. The national parks are different from metropolitan parks and theme parks. Their functions are to maintain unique natural scenery, wild animals and plants, and historic monuments. They are also used for recreation and research. According to the National Park Act, the national parks must be categorized according to the current land use characteristics: limited use areas, recreational areas, historical preservation areas, special scenic areas, and ecological reserves. The nine national parks have their own unique natural views. Development is heavily restricted. Shoushan National Nature Park was officially open on December 6, 2011. It is the first “community-takes-the-initiative” national nature park founded by local conservation groups.
IV. Forest reserves (6 locations):
In order for the Forestry Bureau, Council of Agriculture to protect the different ecological systems and rare animals and plants in the national forests, according to the Forestry Act, we established national forest forest reserves. After reviews of all the protected areas, most of them were designated as nature reserves, wildlife refuges, or major wildlife habitats by the Council of Agriculture according to the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act or Wildlife Conservation Act. Currently, only Xue-ba Forest Reserve, Jia-xian Sih-de Fossil Forest Reserve, Shih-ba-luo-han-shan Forest Reserve, Costal Range Taitung Cycas Forest Reserve, Guangshan Formosan Date Palm Forest Reserve, and Dawu Taiwan Keteleeria Forest Reserve have been announced as forest reserves according to the Forestry Act. We still conduct outdoor surveys in all the forest reserves. Other than carrying out the usual ecological resources surveys and surveillance protection work, and collecting all the basic ecological information, we also focus on the implementation of monitoring plans regarding endangered, rare and valuable species. We have established management and monitoring stations. In addition, in response to the need for promoting ecological knowledge, we also established educational exhibition halls in or near to some forest reserves. We also provide natural and ecological education guidance services, in order for people to gain more knowledge regarding ecological preservation.
According to the statistics of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, IUCN, the main reasons for extinction of species include: 67% were interruption or damage of original habitats, 37% were excessive hunting, and 19% were threats caused by the invasions of alien species to indigenous species. (The total is over 100% because there are overlapping percentages). According to the statistic above, the best way to protect species is to protect the habitats, set up protected areas and reinforce management, so the species can live and reproduce in natural conditions.
The nature conservation work under the existing policies and regulations, other than reinforcing promotion, should adapt to international conservation trends. We should be more actively involved with promoting the preservations of the habitats and landscapes of endangered wild animals and plants, strengthening educational advocacy for the citizens and upgrading the concepts of preservation, and in the meantime we also actively participate in all kinds of international conservation events, establish international channels of exchange, and share the responsibility as part of the international society.
Currently, all the protected areas were established according to the related regulations. We even stipulated the regulations regarding protected areas long before the ICUN launched the Protected Areas Categories System. In 1974, we established Chuyunshan Forest Reserve according to the Taiwan Forest Management Plan. In 1982, we implemented the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act and designated 22 nature reserves. In 1989, we implemented the Wildlife Conservation Act and designated 20 wildlife refuges and 37 major wildlife habitats. The ICUN standards were stipulated in 1994. Our current protected areas already contain the six major categories designated by the ICUN, making our types of protected areas up to par. The nature reserves set up in accordance with the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act already contain Category I (Ia. strict protected areas and Ib. wilderness areas, such as Dawushan nature reserve), Category IV (nature memorial areas, including Jiujiu Peaks nature reserve), and Category V (landscapes/marine reserves, for example, Miaoli Sanyi Huoyanshan and Wushihbi Coastal nature reserves). The eight national parks founded according to the National Park Act belong to Category II, which is consistent with the ICUN standards. The wildlife refuges and major wildlife habitats established according to the Wildlife Conservation Act fulfill the definition of the ICUN’s Category IV - habitats/species management areas. Parts of the wildlife refuge are designated as sustainable use areas, which fulfills the definition of the ICUN’s Category VI - resources management protection areas.
Currently, we evaluate the effects of protected area management through the following four methods: expert and scholar reviews and evaluations; regular reviews by competent authorities and us; on-site evaluations by expert scholars, Wildlife Conservation Advisory Committee members and Natural Landscape Evaluation Committee members in all the protected areas; and daily monitoring evaluations by competent authorities. In the future, we plan to gradually and proactively establish all the management evaluation indices according to the basic information gathered, as reference for the long-term management strategies of protected areas.
As for the long-term monitoring of protected areas, other than hiring experts and scholars to gather basic information in the annual plans, training on-site staff with surveying and monitoring skills is also important. By establishing a comprehensive monitoring system, and adjusting the managerial directions and techniques of protected areas according to the monitoring results, the effectiveness of conservation of animals, plants, and habitats is increased. Therefore, the strengthening of the establishment and monitoring of protected areas will remain the focus of our work.