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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - April 19, 2002: World’s Forests Endangered - 2002-04-18

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Many of the world’s forests are quickly disappearing because of increased development. The World Resources Institute, based in Washington, D-C, recently completed a report about the problem. It says forty percent of the world’s undeveloped forest areas could be lost in ten to twenty years.

The report includes the results of a two-year study of almost half the world’s forests. It includes forests in Chile, Venezuela, Indonesia, Russia, Central Africa and North America. The study is based on maps produced by a group linked to the World Resources Institute called Global Forest Watch.

The maps combine satellite technology with information from the ground. The maps show illegal tree cutting, mining and road development in areas once thought to be undamaged forest land. The report says most of the threat is a result of bad economics, poor supervision and dishonesty.

The World Resources Institute says Russia is one example. Russia has the largest forest area in the world. Yet, only twenty-five percent of forests in Russia today remain undamaged. Global Forest Watch says Russia’s forests are disappearing because of tree-cutting, fires set by people and other activities.

In Indonesia, about seventy percent of trees are cut illegally. In Venezuela, tree cutting and mining activities threaten natural forest areas. Central Africa also was named in the report as another example of poor land management.

Global Forest Watch says government policies often support short-term economic gain, instead of long-term efforts to protect forests. In Chile, for example, government policies urge people to plant new trees by clearing native forests that are thousands of years old. As a result, ancient forests and the second- oldest living trees in the world are in danger.

The report notes that many countries have passed new laws to better protect forests. However, such laws are not always enforced.

Some companies are beginning to make better business decisions designed to protect the environment. They promise to avoid wood products that are cut illegally or in a destructive way. Global Forest Watch says the health of the world’s remaining forests will depend on how well countries supervise and protect those areas.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.