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Environmentalists file suit to block northern deforestation

Date Posted: 2008-02-06

Most of northern Okinawa’s forests are protected by designation as national parks, but some sections are exempt, and are being developed by Okinawa Prefecture.
Environmentalists are more than annoyed by Prefecture construction measures in the Jahana and Ginama areas, projects that require cutting away trees and green zones. To press their point, a group spearheaded by a famed naturalist photographer is taking the Prefecture to court, demanding a stop to construction. Katsuyuki Taira is joined by eight people from outside Okinawa in the suit, which calls for ending construction and restoring the forest to their natural state.
Hokkaido attorney Morihiro Ishikawa, who only last week walked the Okinawa forests and saw bare red clay soil, says “These forests are sick. Really bad looking, and I was shocked to see the current state of the jungles.” Ishikawa complained he didn’t “realize how much damage has already been done, and how trees are recklessly being cut down.” The Prefecture is constructing a series of small, winding roads through the northern forests area.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources is investigating on behalf of the environmentalists, and vice chairman Shoichi Kawano is conducting inspections of the region. He’s seen roads and red clay, and predicts even they will soon collapse as erosion caused by felled trees takes hold. Okinawa Prefecture counters the construction is necessary.
“We have subsidy money for new forests, and roads through the forest,” a Prefecture official explains. “We are also planting new trees which are better trees, not like current big trees.” He added the Prefecture agrees “we need to protect our forests, and we are looking for better ways to do it.” The conservation groups disagree, calling the Prefecture approach “wrong. Nature should have all kinds of trees, and not only one type.” One group says “that’s not nature at all. By planting one kind of trees in the forests, the forests aren’t natural any more.

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