China recruits 2 million forest rangers that protect ecological barriers

By Chang Qin, Source: People’s Daily

“I was born in the forest and raised in the mountain. I have a deep feeling for the woods,” Pan Weiping told People’s Daily.

Opening a mobile application specially designed for forest rangers, the man, dressed in camouflage and holding a loudspeaker, started a patrol mission along a rugged mountain road in Sanqiao township, Jingzhou Miao and Dong autonomous county, Huaihua, central China’s Hunan province.

After becoming a forest ranger in 2014, Pan has left his footprints on almost every corner of the mountain. He knows everything about the mountain like the back of his hand, and that’s why he is nicknamed the “living map” by his fellow villagers.

Forest rangers are a profession that has emerged with China’s targeted poverty alleviation efforts. It’s an innovation that ensures both ecological protection and poverty reduction.

At present, there are over 2 million forest rangers working in the woods across the country, and each one of them works 22 days a month on average. They not only provide early warning of disasters, but also are on-site discoverers of pests and illegal felling.

Some forest rangers assist local forestry departments with the control of forest and grass diseases and pests. Yu Jiansun from Shangtang township, Nancheng county, Fuzhou, east China’s Jiangxi province, has joined local efforts to combat pine wilt disease.

In addition to daily patrols, Yu also disseminates knowledge about the disease and pest control among local villagers. Thanks to the joint efforts of forest rangers and forestry technicians, pine wilt disease has been effectively controlled in the county.

The profession has also boosted the locals to escape poverty. Huang Chunqin from Cangwu county, Wuzhou, south China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region became a forest ranger in December 2018. The job has significantly improved the living standard of Huang’s family that was once trapped in poverty.

Cangwu has recruited 330 forest rangers in the county, which has helped more than 300 local households increase their income through stable employment.

“The protection of lucid waters and lush mountains brings us invaluable assets,” said Gao Jingfang, an official from the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.

According to Gao, since 2016, the authorities nationwide have recruited forest rangers from impoverished households, providing stable job opportunities for more than 1.1 million families. The country has added nearly 900 million mu (about 600,000 square kilometers) of forests and grasslands under protection, making remarkable progress in both ecological conservation and poverty reduction.

Statistics show that of China’s over 2 million forest rangers, 1.1 million were previously impoverished. After shaking off poverty themselves, these forest rangers have helped more than 3 million people climb out of poverty.

So far, China has achieved the goal of implementing a forest chief scheme nationwide by June 2022. To give further play to the roles of forest rangers, local authorities in China are actively building a grid management system in hope of solving the “last-mile” problem in the conservation of forests and grasslands.

Besides, local authorities are also inputting information about forest rangers into digital platforms for targeted management of forests and grasslands. So far, 39,496 forest rangers from Anhui province, 22,381 from Jiangxi province and 57,135 from Hunan province have been incorporated into the platforms under the forest chief scheme.