Monrovia – The Liberian Senate concurrence for the passage into law for the establishment of the Gola Forest National Park marks the establishment of the country second national park.
The motion to have the Act pass was raised by Lofa County Senator George Tengbeh and seconded by Margibi Senator Jim Tornolah.
The Act is intended to adhere to numerous protocols and other international instruments with the aim of curbing the devastating consequences of climate change, which threatens the existence of humankind.
Despite the relative size of Liberia, the country contains a significant amount of biodiversity of over 2,900 different vascular plants.
This biodiversity has uniquely placed the Gola Forest among the world’s biodiversity hot-spots, and as such, the act for the establishment of the Gola Forest National Park will guarantee long term benefits for the people of Liberia, particularly the local forest edge community.
The report from the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries states that the Government of Liberia shall have the right to prospect for mineral and conduct scientific research in the park with the acquiescence of the park authority; and if the land for which the Gola Forest National Park is established is deeded, the government will compensate the communities that have deeds to said land.
“Upon thorough examination of the Gola Forest National Park Act, the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries envisions the benefits to be accrued nationally by the government, in terms of the preservation and protection of our natural habitats, in addition to adherence to international commitments/protocols to which the government is signatory.
The Committee is of the opinion that this Act will set the proper borders and safeguards international conventions/protocols on the country’s biodiversity,” Committee added.
“In view thereof, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recommends that the Liberian Senate Concurs with the Honorable House of Representatives for the passage into law of this act.”
The final creation of the park would clear the way for concluding the establishment of a trans-boundary international park with Sierra Leone.
Liberia contains more forest than any other of the seven countries sharing the Upper Guinean Ecosystem with 4.52 million hectares of its remaining forest representing over 50% of what remained in the region compared to Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana – the countries with the second and third remaining Upper Guinean forest respectively – Liberia had the largest contiguous forest.
The Gazettement of the Park required by the 2006 National Forest Reform Law of Liberia proposed this category of protected areas according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
A national park is one of 5 categories of protected areas in the world. Other categories include Nature Reserve, Multipurpose Nature Reserve, Strict Nature Reserve and World Heritage Sites. Liberia now has a network of protected areas consisting of the Sapo National Park (SNP), East Nimba Nature Reserve (ENNR) and the Lake Piso Multipurpose Nature Reserve (LPMNR). The GFNP passage into law makes it a part of network of protected areas (PA) in Liberia.
The Gola Forest Park contains species of plant and animals (fauna and flora) which are endangered, endemic and/or threatened, with extinction. The park will protect species that might disappear from the surface of the earth.
The National Forest Reform Law of Liberia requires setting aside at least 30% of Liberia’s total forest area for conservation. Furthermore, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) requires that each member country converts its conservation area to a network of Protected Areas (PA).Presently, Liberia has only 6% of its area relatively protected.
In February, 2006 President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government demonstrated strong political will by issuing an Executive Order #1 (One) which cancelled all forest concessions and established a road map for a national forest reform program.
The willpower of government paved the way for the United Nations Security Council to lift the sanction on exports of Liberian logs and timber to member countries of the United Nations.
The ultimate outcome is that there are 1 million hectares of forest under Forest Management and Timber Sales contracts licenses.
Another 1.14 million hectares are set aside for conservation while community forest management prospects emerging all around the country.
In May 2009, two Mano River Union Heads of State (Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ernest Bai Koroma) met in a little village in Sierra Leone and signed a Declaration to make the Gola National Forest a cross-border peace park.
Sierra Leone has long since adopted a law declaring her side of the Gola Forest as a National Park, but the sub-regional goal of a Peace Park cannot be achieved without the Liberian Gola Forest declaration of a National Park.