DAXING’ANLING, August 25 - The Daxing’anling and Xiaoxing’anling mountains in Heilongjiang province are the forest ecological zones and the strategic reserve base of timber resources in China. As an important ecological protection belt in northern China, the forest zones in the mountains help protect more than one-tenth of China’s farmland and grasslands and help ensure the ecological safety in China and the Northeast Asian region. In the past 60 years, the forest zones produced a total of 1.05 billion cubic meters of timber and paid 29 billion yuan in taxes to the central and local finance.

On December 16, 2010, the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Forestry Administration jointly issued the Plan for Ecological Protection and Economic Transformation in the Daxing’anling and Xiaoxing’anling Forest Zones (2010-2020). In the three years after the implementation of the plan, the forest zones stopped tree-felling activities and strengthened ecological protection in the forest zones. They developed industries to replace the timber industry and have embarked on an ecologically friendly road of economic development, with focus on tourism and green food production.

At the Wusi Forest Farm under the Suiling Forestry Bureau on the southern side of the Xiaoxing’anling Mountain on August 12, it is a paradise, with flowers growing and blossoming along the road, and workers of the forest farm live an affluent and peaceful life. Qi Zhongyu, director of the forest farm, said that the forest farm completely banned commercial tree-felling in 2013 and planted more trees, set up a special forest patrol team and educated the workers about the importance of this ban. After more than one year of the complete ban, the air has become fresher, and people could see more wildlife such as rabbits, pheasants, boar and deer in the forest farm.

Wang Chunzhi is a worker at the farm who used to fell trees. After the ban was implemented, he opened a soybean processing plant with support from the forest bureau. He now employs more than 30 workers and runs a good business. He recalled the days when he went into the forests to fell trees. “The felling season was usually in the winter, it was extremely cold and he could earn about 70 yuan a day. But now, the net annual income of his plant is about 700,000 yuan.”

Meng Zhaoliang, also a worker of the forest farm, started a bee-keeping business after the ban, and could make more than 30,000 yuan a year now. Meng is happy with his life now. “We lived in shabby houses in the past, but now more than 70% of the forest farm workers are living in spacious two-story houses. We benefited from the tree-felling ban.”

Deng Shijun, director of the Suiling Forestry Bureau, said: “The bureau encourages development of diversified private businesses. After years of development of agriculture, breeding and forest-based industries, the total output of the industries reached 1.09 billion yuan in 2013, exceeding the 1 billion yuan mark for the first time.”

After visiting the Wusi forest farm, the reporter went to the Xinglong Forestry Bureau.

Yang Chongjun, director of the Xinglong Forestry Bureau, said: “When the complete ban was implemented on April 1 this year, we sealed up all felling equipment and closed the timber transport roads to protect the ecological environment. We also stepped up efforts in constructing forest patrol teams.” In the first half of 2014, the bureau cracked down on 98 cases of illegal felling and restored 62 hectares of farmland to forests.

Wu Yanwei, who has worked at the timber yard for 24 years, said: “This used to be a log piling ground. After the ban, rows of greenhouses for edible fungi were constructed, and workers of the timber yard also became workers of the fungi farm.”

In 2013, the Xinglong Forestry Bureau constructed the edible fungi farm with an investment of 5.3 million.

In 2014, the forestry bureau invested another 7 million yuan to expand the business scale of this fungi farm.

The Daxing’anling and Xiaoxing’anling forest zones have taken a new road of development. On August 12, 2014, Heilongjiang province issued the detailed Plan for Ecological Protection and Economic Transformation in the Daxing’anling and Xiaoxing’anling Forest Zones (2010-2020).

Figures speak. The forest area was increased to 14.871million hectares in 2013 from 14.656 million hectares in 2009; the forest coverage rate rose to 72% in 2013 from 71% in 2009; the wood growing stock increased to 1.22 billion cubic meters from 1.14 billion cubic meters; and 71 forest farms were revoked, and 29,400 people were relocated for the purpose of ecological protection. The percentage of added value of non-timber industries in the local GDP increased to 70% in 2013 from 60% in 2009, and the per capita GDP in the regions rose to 24,000 yuan in 2013 from 15,000 yuan in 2009.