What could be smallest now in terms of land area as a province may turn out to be the biggest protected area in the entire region as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR] seeks to expand the Catanduanes Watershed Forest Reserve [CWFR] from 26,000 hectares to 48,831 hectares.
The National Mapping and Resource In formation Authority [NAMRIA] and DENR Bicol Land Evaluation Party in their recent field validation found CWFR suitable for proclamation under the National Integrated Protected Areas System [NIPAS] owed to its old growth forest consisting mostly of Dipterocarp or hardwood species.
It also covers ten municipalities including Bagamanoc, Baras,Caramoran,Gigmoto, Pandan, Panganiban, San Andres, San Miguel, Viga and Virac. The watershed forest reserve has potable water that support domestic and agricultural uses and could supply sufficient water for energy generation. It also harbors important plant and animal species in habitats fit for recreation and adventure.
But while the area offers opportunities for growth, it also beset with challenges such as timber poaching, slash-and-burn farming, changing land use, siltation, wildlife poaching among others. These are the same reasons why the government sets aside areas for protection to secure resources required by present and future generations of humans. To expand the reserve would mean greater protection of the reserve and the wildlife plant and animal species present in the area.
It also promote reproduction among endangered animal species since their range of areas frequented becomes larger making possible reproduction, larger area to hunt for food and improve the natural ecosystems functioning since these processes recognize no political boundaries. As bigger areas get protection from poachers, for instance, the adjacent towns are expected to afford the area the same level of protection hence, the species have greater chances for survival against natural calamities and human intrusion.
The CWFR is a protected area by virtue of Presidential Proclamation Number 123 dated June 23, 1987. Penalties apply to those who commit prohibited acts including hunting, destroyin g, disturbing or mere possesion of any plants or animals or products derived therefrom without permit from the Management Board.