Healthy Forest Project launched to protect Mongolia forests for future generations

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia-The Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia (MET), Rio Tinto Mongolia, and the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) have today signed a comprehensive three-year partnership agreement which aims to tackle and reverse the erosion of Mongolia’s forests caused by the rapid spread of forest defoliators – insects and other pests which feed on plant matter and can cause widespread and significant tree mortality.

The Healthy Forest Project is the first major component to be implemented within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation to Combat Climate Change and Desertification signed between the MET and Rio Tinto Mongolia on June 24 this year.

This public-private partnership project will draw on international expertise to pilot and introduce new higher efficacy treatment techniques as well as build long-term national capacity to promote sustainable forest management. The Project aims to build on, and complement, existing efforts to restore Mongolia’s forest areas as part of the national One Billion Trees initiative.

Mongolia’s forest-covered area is currently 7.9 percent of its territory. According to research conducted by MET’s Forest Research and Development Centre in 2021, Mongolia’s forests are experiencing severe outbreaks of forest defoliators. This study estimated a total impacted area of 300,000 hectares in nine provinces, as well as the Bogd Khan Mountain National Park. Without immediate action, an estimated 1.1 billion trees will be lost and up to 126,000 hectares of forest area will be severely degraded.

Rio Tinto Mongolia will contribute MNT 7.4 billion (~US$ 2.3 million) funding to support the Project, which will be overseen by MET and implemented by ICCF’s internationally recognized forest practitioners. Over the duration of the partnership a total of 300,000 hectares of at-risk forest areas will be treated. The project will introduce innovative and efficient international techniques which will increase the efficacy of treatment to more than 90%.

Alongside this, the project will build national capacity to protect Mongolia forests, through:

  • Strengthening national academic research capability in entomology and related fields
  • Co-ordinated research efforts between MET, Mongolian Academy of Science and National University of Mongolia
  • Development of dedicated university programs to train forest pest and management specialists.
  • Sharing of international best practice on sustainable forest management.

Taken together, these measures will assist Mongolia in the development of long-term approach to support and conserve the country’s forests for future generations.

Launching the Partnership, Minister of Environment and Tourism B.Bat-Erdene said: “Under this partnership, we will aim to save a billion trees by reducing the growing spread of forest defoliators driven by climate change, develop the capacity of our human resource in forestry, and introduce innovative technologies.”

Rio Tinto Mongolia Executive Director Kh. Amarjargal said: “Caring for our environment and communities is a core priority for Rio Tinto and we are proud to co-design and fund this innovative project which will help protect Mongolian forests and create a green future together. We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Ministry, and with the assistance of ICCF’s international recognized experts to deliver on our joint goal to tackle climate change and desertification.

International Conservation Corps Executive Director Todd Koenings said: “The ICCF Group will bring in world class experts to support Mongolia in improving the health of national forests. This strategic public-private partnership promises to develop proven methods to combat forest pests and build domestic capability within Mongolia to take control as responsible stewards of healthy forests.”

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