The National Forest Inventory Report (NFIR) tells us that of the country’s total area of 3,839,400ha, 71 percent is under forest cover with an estimated tree count of 816.5 million. This is about 0.02 percent of the total global tree count. The report, which was released recently, follows the Pre-Investment Survey that was carried out between 1974 and 1981.

The report also gives us clear picture of dzongkhag-wise forest cover percentage. Forest cover area is highest in Wangdue; Tsirang has the lowest. With 82,773,731 standing trees, Trashigang has the highest number of trees among the dzongkhags. Bumthang, Mongar, Wangdue, and Zhemgang are the other dzongkhags with more than 55 million trees.

NFIR also contains vital information about biodiversity, forest pests and diseases, forest disturbance and soil carbon, among others. The report is an important document in that it provides baseline information required for strengthening science-based forest management that will enable us to maintain the Constitutional requirement of at least 60 percent of our country under forest cover at all times.

The report is also timely. It is important that we have clear picture of our forests at a time when we are experiencing rapid economic development. Almost 70 percent of Bhutanese still depend on forests for their livelihood. Among the many benefits, our forests ensure that there is food security and help us alleviate poverty.

We may have the best environmental policies and legislations, but without true picture of quality of our forest and forest cover, our conservation efforts could suffer. As yet, though, Bhutan’s conservation network is composed of 10 protected areas, one botanical park and eight connecting biological corridors, covering 51.44 percent of the country.

As development activities increasingly enter the rural pockets of our country, forest protection and conservation will become challenging. That’s why getting clear picture of our forests and forest cover is important.