By Hana Namrouqa – Feb 10,2016

A view of the Dibbeen Forest Reserve. Forestry lands amount to 1.5 million dunums, 350,000 of which are nature reserves, according to the Agriculture Minsitry (Photo courtesy of Royal Society for Conservation of Nature)

AMMAN — A total of 479 trees were chopped down illegally last month, according to the Agriculture Ministry, which said the violators were caught and referred for legal action.

Figures indicate that illegal logging cases and wildfires have dropped compared to the same period last year, Issa Shobaki, the ministry’s assistant secretary general for forestry and pastures, said on Wednesday in a statement e-mailed to The Jordan Times.

“Fifty-one illegal logging cases were registered during January,” Shobaki noted.

Meanwhile, Nimer Haddadin, the ministry’s spokesperson, said the area of land affected by the illegal logging cases stood at three dunums, mainly in the north of the country.

Haddadin underscored that the ministry is pressing ahead with its plan to restore forest lands and remove violations, which include cultivations, quarries and construction.

During the past month, three quarries operating without a licence on forest lands were shut down, he said, adding that the ministry has also removed two violations on state-owned lands.

A total of 1,982 violations on forest lands have been registered since 2002, when an agriculture law was drafted with penalties on those who allocate, designate, sell or barter forest lands, according to the ministry.

The ministry has said it plans to remove all violations on terrains registered as forest lands, whether covered with forest trees or not.

Forestry lands amount to 1.5 million dunums, of which 250,000 dunums are bare, 400,000 dunums are natural forests, 500,000 dunums are planted forests and 350,000 are nature reserves, according to the ministry’s figures.

Under environmental regulations, those who cut down forest trees without a licence face a three-month prison term, a JD100 fine for each tree chopped down from state-owned land and a JD50 fine for each one from private land. In addition, their equipment is confiscated.

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