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China approves guidelines to enhance forest protection

BEIJING, June 9 (Xinhua) -- The State Council, China's cabinet, approved guidelines Wednesday that protect, restore and ensure the sustainable use of forests for the 2010-2020 period.

Participants at the State Council meeting, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, reviewed and approved the guidelines for forest protection and utilization for the 10-year period.

The guidelines say China will lift its forest coverage to 223 million hectares by the end of 2020, or 23 percent of the national area.

In China, forest are woods covering an area of more than 1 mu (0.667 hectares) and having a crown density -- a measure of skylight blocked by plant material -- at or above 20 percent, according to the State Forestry Administration (SFA).

The guidelines set a goal of increasing the nation's woods-covered areas to 312 million hectares, or more than 32.5 percent of the national area, by the end of 2020.

Great importance must be attached to forest protection, especially shrublands in ecologically-vulnerable regions, to ensure the area of forests occupied and requisitioned is equal to the area of afforestation, the guidelines say.

The guidelines urged more efforts on afforestation and rehabilitation of degraded forest lands.

China pledged in 2007 to lift its forest coverage to 20 percent by the end of 2010. Its forest coverage stood at 20.36 percent at the end of 2008, two years early.

China will also endeavor to deepen reforms of collective forest rights and state-owned forest farms, the guidelines said.

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