At the invitation of the Governor of Kyoto Prefecture, Mr. Keiji Yamada, IMFNS Executive Director Peter Besseau traveled to Kyoto, Japan from January 19 – 21, 2004, to discuss the possibility of establishing a model forest in the prefecture. The area under discussion includes Japan’s largest lake – Lake Biwa – and the Yodo River Basin, which are located neighbouring Shiga and Osaka Prefectures, respectively.
Over the past decades the watershed has been subject to intensive urbanization, continuing pressure from development throughout the lower elevations, and ongoing threats to water quality and biodiversity. In higher elevations, the region is densely forested with cedar plantations and natural forests, however the combination of cheaper lumber imports and out-migration of young professionals has brought crisis to the forest sector that is mirrored throughout much of the country.
In discussions with Besseau, government representatives said that they were interested in the IMFN experience in innovative partnerships and possibilities for linking Kyoto to other model forests. There was also strong interest in looking more holistically at how planning and management can be undertaken on a watershed level when multiple resource management issues are involved. Further, Kyoto’s rich cultural heritage would hold an equal place in planning together with environmental, social, and economic considerations of sustainability.
“The meetings and discussions showed a consistent and high level of concern for the fate of the area’s forests and the rural traditions that sustained Japan’s communities in the past, but which are now being lost,” said Besseau. “The Lake Biwa Watershed sustains the lives of over 15 million people and has very challenging management constraints.
“The IMFNS was invited to Kyoto to explore, with regional representatives, how the experiences of the IMFN and the model forest approach itself could shed light on these problems and perhaps serve as a tool to identify solutions. Based upon our discussions, and the seminar held with local stakeholders, there is clearly an opportunity to do this”.
Dr. Fusho Ozawa, President of JOFCA (Japan Overseas Forestry Consultants Association) of Tokyo, was instrumental in building awareness with key stakeholders in Kyoto Prefecture and in facilitating the visit. Besseau also met with Kyoto forestry and environmental management specialists, university researchers, and visited a Japanese Cedar plantation and cultural/historical sites.
Further discussions will take place over coming months, including recommendations on a course of action regarding creation of the Kyoto Model Forest.