Conservation: One of America’s Best Exports

What does the United States export to China?

Big machinery, power equipment, cars, and grains (including rice) all leave U.S. shores in big numbers to Chinese ports.

Yet America sends another interesting product to China—conservation advice.

This exchange was highlighted in recent visits from Chinese government officials to Oregon, Colorado, Yosemite National Park in California, and Washington, D.C. to learn about sustainable forest management and the resulting economic and natural benefits. The Nature Conservancy planned and facilitated the trip for Chinese officials eager to learn how to preserve their nation’s natural diversity.

At one time forests in China covered a quarter of the huge nation; yet large-scale industrialization and development in the first half of the 20th century knocked forest cover down to less than 9%. Besides a loss of wildlife, China has also had to wrestle with the massive water and air pollution that resulted from this rapid deforestation.

With the Conservancy’s help China is looking to turn this around, and has set a goal of reforesting 40 million hectares (an area larger than Montana). To this end they are already making progress, with 18% of China now in a forested state. The Conservancy is offering guidance on how further investments in their forest infrastructure can provide improve natural services, like clean water, and boost regional tourism dollars.

Michael Powelson, The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Energy Programs, led the tour.

“We were incredibly encouraged by the positive response from the delegates, who were enthusiastic and eager to learn about our conservation practices, especially the use of sound science to guide specific management actions,” said Powelson.

Discussions during the tour were far-ranging, but in particular the widespread use of controlled burns in the United States to improve forest health was an eye-opener for Chinese officials. These practices hold the potential to offer great benefits to forests in China’s Yunnan Province, where the Conservancy has plans to help restore nearly 30,000 acres of forest in the coming years.

All told, The Nature Conservancy works in more than 30 countries around the world, and has helped conserve more than 113 million acres. In South America the Conservancy is working to rebuild Brazil’s Atlantic Forest and provide safe drinking water for Bogota, Columbia’s capital city. In Africa the Conservancy is helping protect the Highland Forests of East Africa by sharing methods for enhancing natural resources and boosting the morale of local communities.

Jianwei Chen, Director of China’s Department of Wildlife Conservation and Nature Reserve Management of the State Forestry Administration, expressed gratitude to the Conservancy for sharing knowledge.

“The visit wouldn’t have been successful without the help of TNC, and TNC contributes greatly to the environmental protection and the development of protected areas in China.”

Looking forward, the Conservancy will continue to work with Chinese officials to preserve the diversity of life in their country, and produce the conservation export that makes America a leader around the world.


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