Sierra Leone & Liberia create major trans-boundary park18/05/2009 23:17:31 Trans-boundary Rainforest Park will be a symbol of peace and stability
May 2009. The Presidents of Sierra Leone and Liberia met in the Gola Forest, Sierra Leone, to announce the establishment of a new Trans-boundary Peace Park, to protect one of the largest remaining blocks of intact forest in the Upper Guinea Area of West Africa.
250,000 hectare reserve created
The local communities in Sierra Leone, through their traditional chiefs and Members of Parliament, have both expressed their support for the conservation of the Gola Forest and its designation as a national park.
Upper Guinea Forest Ecosystem - 70% has disappeared
25 threatened bird species
50 mammal species
They are also internationally important for carbon sequestration. Both Governments have expressed interest in carbon trading and in the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) process. The Peace Park will provide the potential to raise tens of millions of dollars over forthcoming decades, ensuring sustained funding for protected area management and community development.
The establishment of the Peace Park will ensure that the long-term conservation of the forests, their biodiversity and global carbon storage benefits is secured through national and international partnerships for improved forest governance across the Sierra Leone-Liberia border.
The Governments of the world need to halt the destruction of the world's forests, which is responsible for about 20% of current global carbon emissions. This is a major component of the discussions in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will be held in Copenhagen this December.
H.E. President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone said: "The long-term benefits of the conservation of the Gola Forests far outweigh the short-term benefits of extraction and destruction. As I have said since I was elected in 2007, the Gola Forests will become a National Park in Sierra Leone and mining will not be permitted".
H.E. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia said: "This launch of the Sierra Leone-Liberia Trans-boundary Peace Park Project will serve as a symbol of our renewed commitment to peace, stability and biodiversity conservation in this region."
Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson, BirdLife's Regional Director for Africa, who has worked for more than 20 years on the protection of Gola Forest said: "The establishment of the Trans-boundary Peace Park is a tribute to the success of the governments of both countries in putting their recent history of civil war behind them. I wish to congratulate both Presidents for this far-sighted initiative. In the run up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen later this year, they have shown their wholehearted commitment to taking the measures needed to reduce the threats of climate change and increase collaboration in the conservation of their Nation's natural resources."
The work to establish the Peace Park has involved several conservation organisations in the BirdLife International Partnership, the two national BirdLife Partners (Conservation Society of Sierra Leone and Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia), the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), Vogelbescherming (BirdLife in The Netherlands), working together with the Forest Development Authority (FDA) of Liberia, and the Forestry Division in Sierra Leone.
The BirdLife Partnership, which is already working on a 4.2 million Euro project to protect Sierra Leone's Gola Forest, funded by the European Union (EU) and FFEM (French Government), has secured an additional 3.2 million Euros to fund the four-year project to establish the 200,000 ha protected area from the EU, with the balance made up from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), and the Sustainable & Thriving Environments for West African Regional Development (STEWARD) Program of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Forest Service, International Programs. CEPF is a joint initiative of Conservation International, the French Development Agency, the government of Japan, the Global Environment Facility, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank.