FDA Declares Sapo National Park a “No Go Zone” for Illegal Miners

SINOE, Wacaba District-The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) backed by the national traditional council of Liberia, the southeast branch has finally declared the Sapo National Park a “no go zone” to illegal miners.

The move follows a recent K-NEWS investigation of over 5,000 illegal miners in the Sapo Nationa Park, Liberia’s largest protected area located in the southeastern region. These illegal occupants give their localities the names of wealthy and powerful countries and places such as America, Dubai, China, and Philadelphia, among others. These names indicate the lifestyle of the people who have settled in the middle of the forest to seek greener pastures.

However, the FDA with support from partners commenced outreach awareness involving elders and chiefs, women and youth Representatives from Sinoe, River Gee, and Grand Gedeh as part of the counties holding a portion of the area to protect the Sapo National Park.

During the consultation, the surrounding towns and villages agree to work with the FDA and partners to protect the park as long they are included.

Speaking with reporters, the head of the national traditional council in Sinoe County, Emmanuel Wesseh lauded the FDA and partners for incorporating them to help protect the park. Chief Wesseh acknowledged that the Sapo National Park is Liberia’s heritage and needs every level of protection by all.

He encouraged every citizen, especially surrounding communities to serve as “watch dogs” to the Park.

The influx of illegal miners continues to undermind conservation at the Sapo National Park, but speaking in an interview with reporters, FDA Technical Manager for Conservation, Jerry Yonmah said the removal of the illegal occupants will help protect the integrity of the Sapo National Park.

Yonmah encourages Liberians to discourage foreigners from entering the park- a move he said is against government policy.

“Having people who are anti to government’s policy doesn’t speak good for the country and that such anti behavior needs to be prohibited”, Yonmah said.

He wants citizens to help protect the park and obey the laws instead of leading illegal miners in the Park for little or nothing.

Meanwhile, the FDA has announced that anyone caught within the beltway of the park “should be prepared to face legal charges through prosecution”.

Communities play a major role in protecting its forest. In October 2009, a law was passed by the government of Liberia that enables them to take legal ownership and management of the natural resources that can be found in some parts of the forest. The law is titled: ‘An Act to establish the community rights law of 2009 concerning forest land’.

However, FDA, charged with the responsibility to manage the Park has proven less capable of doing so. The Authority has, however, attributed its incapacitation to a lack of adequate financial and logistical support to monitor the forest sector.

In a recent interview with K-NEWS, The FDA through its Park Warden at the Sapo National Park, Burton Kawa disclosed that despite the FDA’s plans to work with communities, the lack of logistics to carry out its monitoring activities remains a major challenge to the institution. Currently, at the Park, there is only one Toyota pickup for operations.

Mr. Kawa noted that with more logistics and more manpower, the institution’s monitoring arm will be strengthened, and noted that on several occasions, the few park rangers have met stiff resistance from illegal miners who are often seen with firearms.

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