Shri Virbhadra Singh said that about 15 per cent of the total geographical area of the state had been brought under Protected Area Network (PAN) while National average was about four per cent. He said that rationalization of boundaries of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries was done and 775 villages had been excluded thereby benefiting a population of over one lakh in the State. At the same time, wildlife area had increased from 13 per cent to 15 per cent.
Chief Minister said that efforts were being made to conserve the rich flora and fauna of the State. Effective steps were taken to protect State Bird Western Tragopan, State Animal, Snow Leopard, Cheer Pheasant, Monal, Vultures etc.
He lauded the efforts of the State Forest Department for successfully breeding the rare endangered Western Tragopan in captivity at Sarahan in district Shimla, which was a pioneer effort in the world. He said that 27 Western Tragopans have been bred at Sarahan Pheasentry. The State had also succeeded in conserving the rare species of Cheer Pheasant at Chail and six pheasentry. Similarly, Monal breeding project was also being initiated at Manali.
Shri Virbhadra Singh said that rare species would help in conserving ecological bio-diversity of the region and would attract tourists and nature lovers to the State. The State Wildlife Wing was working on Rs. 5.15 crore project to protect the rare endangered Snow Leopard in the area of Lahaul and Spiti.
He said that Himachal had very good sites like Great Himalayan National Park, which had been identified as probable UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Chief Minister said that the monkey sterilization programme was started in February 2007 during his previous regime to tackle monkey menace in the State and about 76 thousand monkeys had been sterilized till last November. He said that seven monkey sterilization centres were operational in the State and three more would be opened soon at Kuther in Kangra, Ispur in Una and Bithel in Shimla district.
Moreover, a multi pronged strategy would be adopted to control the monkey menace in the State and efforts were being made to declare monkey as vermin and steps for plantation of broad leaf and wild fruit species in the forests. He directed that meeting of State Wildlife Board should be convened at least twice in a year.
Chief Minister also awarded Narayan Datt Award for conservation of nature to Shri Dilbag Singh and Shri Virender Sharma, Forest Guards, Shri Mukesh Dhiman, Bird Watcher, Shri D.S. Dhadwal, ACF and Shri A.K. Gulati, former PCCF Wildlife for their meritorious services.
Forest Minister Shri Thakur Singh Bharmouri said that there were two National Parks and 33 Wildlife Sanctuaries in the State but after rationalization, now there were five National Parks, 26 Wildlife Sanctuaries and three Conservation Reserve. He said that 5 crores were spent to eradicate lantana in the State. He said that Brown Bear Conservation Project and second phase of conservation breeding of Western Tragopan would be started in the Chamba district.
Principal Secretary Forest, Shri Tarun Shridhar thanked the Chief Minister and Forest Minister and other Members of Board including MLA Shri Mohan Lal Brakta, Shri Vijay Bhushan, Shri Ashish Dass Gupta, Shri Rattanjeet Singh and Vice Chairman Himachal Forest Corporation Shri Kewal Singh Pathania for attending the meeting. Representatives of Wildlife Institute of India, Botanical Survey of India, Zoological Survey of India and senior officers of the State Government were also present on the occasion.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife)-cum-Chief Wildlife Warden Dr. Lalit Mohan welcomed the Chief Minister and gave a detail presentation of the activities being carried by the department.