9 Dec 2014

Liberia takes another leap forward in biodiversity conservation

SCNL is a key conservation organization in Liberia: working with a variety of stakeholders from government to local communities (Photo: Michael Garbo/SCNL)
By Obaka Torto

The National Wildlife Conservation and Protected Areas Management Act was finally endorsed by Liberia’s Lower House of Representatives on Tuesday 11th November 2014, and is now waiting for ratification by the Upper House, the Senate. The bill will then pass to the President of Liberia for signature within 20 days and subsequently be printed on handbills before it becomes law of the land. Only a few more weeks remain for this highly important process to be completed.

This legislative action represents a major leap forward and another big boost to the conservation of biodiversity in Liberia. The country has little choice but to adopt robust strategies, policies and laws which set the course for sustainable forest and environmental management. Liberia hosts about 40% of the intact tropical forest remaining in the Upper Guinea Ecoregion of West Africa.  The biodiversity of the Liberian forest is rich with endemic and endangered species, creating a very high level of conservation concern. The fauna and flora include at least 2000 flowering plants, 150 mammals, 600 birds, 74 reptiles and amphibians, and 1000 insect species. These wildlife resources that must be preserved in areas of appropriate habitat and ecology protected by law to ensure well informed and sustainable use, providing benefits for present and future generations alike.

The Gola Forest: a biodiversity hotspot in Liberia (Photo: Annika Hillers/RSPB)

The struggle for conservation of natural resources exemplified by the passing of this latest Act started in 1986, when the Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia (SCNL) was founded, with the aim of promoting the wise use of natural resources through education, publication and research. SCNL is today one of the most vibrant non-governmental conservation organisations in Liberia, affiliated with Birdlife International and implementing conservation projects with financial support from the Aage V. Jensen Foundation, the European Commission, Arcadia, the RSPB and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Since 2005, SCNL has been working with other national and international NGOs to reform the forestry sector in Liberia. The outcomes of these reform efforts include the National Forest Reform Policy, the National Forest Reform Law, the Community Rights Law with respect to Forest Lands, the Acts establishing the Lake Piso Multiple Use Reserve and the recent move towards gazettment of the proposed Gola Forest National Park, a cross-border protected area between Liberia and Sierra Leone. SCNL and partners have spearheaded the development of this last effort to the extent that a Gazettment Act is prepared and ready for submission by the President of Liberia to the National Legislature for endorsement before January 2015. This will hopefully bring into fruition the political will demonstrated by the two heads of state when Presidents Ernest Bai Kroma of Sierra Leone and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia launched the Across the River Trans-boundary Peace Park Project on May 15 2009 in Lalihun, Sierra Leone.

Story by the Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL)

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