Gov’t Moves To Save Sarpo National Park

By: Martin C. Benson


The Inquirer
Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

August 20, 2004

The National Transitional of Government of Liberia (NTGL), has mobilized monitors and agents from the Ministry of Justice to move in to evict encroachers in the Sarpo National Park who, recent reports say, are carrying out illegal activities within the national forest reserve.

Land, Mines and Energy Minister Jonathan A. Mason who made the disclosure yesterday at a joint meeting with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), the Liberian Forest Initiative (LFI), which is an international partner working in the forestry and representative from UNMIL, declared that his ministry has never issued any claims to anybody for mining purposes within the park, therefore anyone residing in the park was doing so illegally.

Recently, reports in the local media quoting Mr. Alexander Peal of Conservation International/Liberia said ex-fighters of MODEL under the command of one General John Nyan have established villages in the park and are arbitrarily carrying out mining and hunting activities.

However, Minister Mason in a rather serious mood though he had initially debunked the media reports saying “it had no iota of truth”, declared that it is a shame for anyone to plunder the park, because as soon as humans enter there, they would pollute the natural reserve in the environment”.

He said the Sarpo National Park like the Gola National Forest in Upper Cape Mount and Lower Lofa, are protected areas and if there is any mining activity there such will and must be stopped because it is illegal, so Government will do everything to make sure it is cleared of encroachers..

Also speaking, the Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Mr. D. Eugene Wilson, in welcoming the news of government through the ministries of Justice and Lands and Mines to move into the area, said the issue of illicit activities in the Sarpo Park of late, is of serious concern and therefore, is appealing to international partners including the Liberian Forest Initiative, philanthropists as well as the business community for support for a sustained regulation and monitoring of activities within the Sarpo National Park.

Mr. Wilson said the FDA is functional as a public corporation that generates revenue, but is quite unable to sustain its own operation. “We are running into the fourth month that our people have not been paid because our subsidy has not been forthcoming”, he explained and wondered “how do we take those persons who have been back in four months without pay to the park to monitor as the Ministry of Lands Mines and Energy as well as the Ministry of Justice will be doing?”.

Making a disclosure about a comprehensive report by the FDA as to what will be needed for the deployment of Rangers in the Sarpo National Park, the FDA Deputy Managing Director for Conservation, Mr. Anthony Tarplah told the gathering that US$35,805 will be required as an initial amount for the development of the Park.

For his part, Mr. John Woods, the Director of Liberian Development Initiative, urged the Central Government to make a policy statement to the international community about its stance on the protection of the Sarpo National Park.

Ms. Anyaa Vohir, project manager of Fauna and Flora International said the security problem has been impeding their efforts.

© 2004: This article is copyrighted by The Inquirer newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved.