From Conflict to Friendly Coexistence, Effective Results of Payments for Ecosystem Services, Formosan Black Bear Now Added to the List

Under the presence of Minister Chen Chi-Chung of the Council of Agriculture, the Forestry Bureau presented the results of the Payments for Ecosystem Services for Endangered Species and Critical Habitat Promotion Program today (12th). It was also announced that the Formosan black bear will now be added to the target list of Payments for Ecosystem Services. The Forestry Bureau began to promote Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) since 2021, where the government would pay “ecosystem wages” to producers and local residents who assist with ecosystem preservation for the habitats of endangered species. It means that the cost of conservation will no longer be borne by just the farmers or local residents alone. Today, the ten municipal governments, farmers, and communities participating in the PES program joined the event and they shared their journey from conflict to friendly coexistence with wildlife.
Director General Lin Hwa-Ching of the Forestry Bureau emphasized that people are becoming increasingly concerned about the survival of wildlife in recent years. However, the habitats of many endangered species lie within farmland ecosystems, and while society expects farmers to be environmentally friendly to wildlife that use farmland as habitats, this may result in costs to the farmers such as reduced agricultural production and restricted land use, which often makes farmers view these endangered species as a burden or discourages the local residents from engaging in conservation work. The original purpose of promoting PES was to show that conservation is for public good, and its costs should naturally be shared by all people, not just by specific individuals. Therefore, with the support of Minister Chen Chi-Chung, the Forestry Bureau is subsidizing all county and city governments to implement the “Payments for Ecosystem Services for Endangered Species and Critical Habitat Promotion Program.” The program will pay “ecosystem wages” to environmentally-friendly producers and local residents in the designated areas who cooperate with the system as a reward for their mindful management of the land and for upholding and conserving public welfare values on behalf of all people.
Minister Chen Chi-Chung of the Council of Agriculture said that agriculture and conservation are inextricably linked, and that only through doing conservation work properly can sustainable production be achieved. PES is an important part of Taiwan’s Green Environmental Payment Program because agricultural land not only serves a production function, it is also the habitat of many species. The PES for leopard cats, grass owls, Eurasian otters, and pheasant-tailed jacanas, as well as their habitats have shown positive results, and now the Formosan black bear has also been added to the list. If there is a need to add on other species in the future, they will be included on the list with the full support of the Council of Agriculture.
The ten municipal governments, local mentoring teams, as well as the farmers and communities that participated in the first phase of the PES program also attended the press conference today. Some of the participants shared the results of their participation in environmentally-friendly production or community patrol, as well as the changes in their interaction with the environment. These include Ms. Chen Chu-Ying who runs an eco-farm in Miaoli, Mr. Lee Huan-Sheng who grows crested floating-hearts (an aquatic plant) in Meinong, Kaohsiung, Mr. Lin Yung-Hung, a young Bunun farmer of the Lamuan tribal community in Hualien, and Mr. Lee Chun-Lung who is the executive secretary of the Guningtou Community in Kinmen.

Ecosystem Wages Support Local Residents and Communities to Implement Sustainable Production and Ecological Conservation
Ms. Chen Chu-Ying runs an eco-farm on a hill near the southern shores of Liyutan Dam in Zhuolan Township, Miaoli. Her farm sees frequent visits from leopard cats due to the typical low-elevation mountain terrain and the rearing of chickens and ducks. After gradually losing around 30 poultry, she set up trapping cages and discovered that there were leopard cats. She reported this to the county government and was introduced to the PES program. Leopard cat disturbances ceased after the chicken coops were reinforced and she gradually recognized the importance of leopard cat conservation. She called on the community to set up patrol teams to protect the foothill environment shared by both people and wildlife.
Lee Huan-Sheng grows crested floating-hearts in Meinong, Kaohsiung. The floating leaves of the crested floating-heart provide wintering pheasant-tailed jacanas with a habitat for resting and breeding. To ensure that pheasant-tailed jacanas can reproduce without any disturbances, he works hard to maintain the vegetation environment of the crested floating-heart paddies by not chasing away wild birds and not sowing pesticide-coated rice, thus maintaining the ecosystem while engaging in agricultural production.
Mr. Lin Yung-Hung, a young Bunun farmer of the Lamuan tribal community in Hualien, found that his hometown, which is surrounded by mountains and abundant water, was full of conventional farmland as far as the eye could see, and thought it was quite a shame. As a result, he began engaging in eco-friendly agricultural practices after he returned to his hometown. He also participated in the PES program, leading his community to understand the ecological values brought by the changes in the farming environment. His dedication has made the rice paddies of the Lamuan tribal community a sanctuary for Taiwan’s endemic fish species—the Kikuchi minnow and the critically endangered yellow pond turtles. His efforts have brought back tribal traditions and the wisdom of coexistence with nature to the public eye.
The Eurasian otters of Taiwan are only found in Kinmen, but in the past, many Kinmen residents were unaware of their existence and uniqueness. The Guningtou Community began to participate in the PES program in 2021. Lee Chun-Lung, the community executive secretary, and Chen Wei-Wu, a teacher at the Guning Elementary School, partnered up to train the teachers and pupils of the school on how to patrol and take records. They maintain the otter-friendly environment of the community and keep records of the otters’ tracks, defecation, and habitat. This allows the pupils to develop conservation awareness from a young age and unites the community to maintain a living environment where people and otters can coexist.

Two Years of Promotion Efforts See Over 500 Hectares of Habitat Under Environmentally-Friendly Management
The Forestry Bureau said that after years of piloting experience and evaluation of the effectiveness of wage payment for farmland ecosystem preservation that was carried out for the rice terraces in Gongliao, pheasant-tailed jacanas, and leopard cats, the “Payments for Ecosystem Services for Endangered Species and Critical Habitat Promotion Program” was formally implemented in 2021. It includes two major payment targets: “endangered species” and “critical habitats.” The former targets four species: leopard cats, grass owls, Eurasian otters, and pheasant-tailed jacanas, while the latter targets four critical habitat types: rice paddies, rice terraces, land-based fish farms, and private protection forests.
In 2021, the government of nine counties and cities participated in the program, including New Taipei City, Miaoli County, Taichung City, Nantou County, Tainan City, Kaohsiung City, Yilan County, Hualien County, and Kinmen County, while in 2022, Pingtung County also joined in the implementation of the PES program for grass owls. In 2021, 63 townships, 65 communities, and more than 1,700 people participated in conservation efforts through the PES program, including 553 hectares of farmland and habitat cultivated and managed through environmentally-friendly methods and 247 habitats that received further improvement. The automated cameras set up by the PES program have successfully monitored endangered species such as the leopard cat in 201 of the participating farms or communities. These concrete results have gradually shifted the mindset of the local residents and communities from resistance to delight in being neighbors to wildlife, and they have developed a sense of honor in participating in conservation efforts.

Forestry Bureau Added on Payments for Ecosystem Services for Formosan Black Bears to Reduce Human-Animal Conflicts
With their habitats protected by the ecological corridors in the national forests of the Central Mountain Range, coupled with the effective suppression of commercial hunting and the public’s increased conservation awareness, Formosan black bears have started to appear around some of the villages in the foothills. Therefore, there have been occasional incidents of bears going into settlements or invading farms in recent years. According to the Forestry Bureau, after strengthening conservation promotion, many tribal or community residents have been willing to take the initiative to report and help rescue bears if there are sightings or injured animals. It also shows that there is a strong correlation between the effectiveness of Formosan black bear conservation and the awareness and attitudes of the mountain villages and communities. After gathering bear conservation demands, as well as bear sighting notification records and rescue experience in recent years, the Forestry Bureau added the Formosan black bear to the PES program, following the original four species: leopard cats, grass owls, Eurasian otters, and pheasant-tailed jacanas.
According to the Forestry Bureau, the PES for the Formosan black bear includes incentives for two aspects: community patrol and monitoring, and proactive notification of invasion. Payment for patrol and monitoring is made to the patrol teams set up by the local tribal communities, and each team can receive an annual incentive payment of up to NT$60,000. The patrol teams are required to patrol the potential habitats of Formosan black bears, report illegal hunting equipment and wildlife caught in traps, assist in promoting the replacement of old noose-style traps with precision traps, and help with conservation promotion tasks. If a bear is photographed within the patrol area, an award of up to NT$50,000 will be paid each time, up to a maximum of two times per year.
Payment for proactive notification provides an incentive reward of up to NT$3,000 for each site. If members of the public discover a suspected Formosan black bear invasion of a livestock barn/poultry coop, laborer lodging, orchard, or other private farming sites, they should immediately report it to the local Forest District Office for investigation and confirmation without endangering the bear’s life; they should also ensure that food, food waste, or anything that might attract bears has been properly removed or put away. If they also allow the setup of automatic camera monitoring for three months and maintain continuous filming, an incentive of NT$5,000 will be paid after approval.
In addition, in the event of an emergency bear rescue, those who actively participate in the rescue will receive a reward payment on a per case basis.

Community Support: Key to Conservation of Satoyama Species, Making Good Use of PES to Speed up the Integration of the National Ecology Green Network
Nearly 60% of Taiwan’s protected wildlife species live on private agricultural or forest land in the foothills and plains, which are also the areas most vulnerable to the pressures of development and industrialized agriculture. Thus, many Satoyama species, including the leopard cat, grass owl, and pheasant-tailed jacana, have been the first to be affected. In recent years, the Forestry Bureau has continued to work with local governments and ministry departments through the “Taiwan Ecological Network” to implement corresponding conservation strategies for the core species and key areas of conservation in Taiwan with regards to the habitat preservation of the foothills and plains, such as alleviating the road kill situation and the afforestation of river corridors. Supporting farmers on shifting to environmentally-friendly agricultural practices and maintaining the biodiversity of farmland ecosystems in agricultural production areas is critical to connect “forest, river, plain, and sea” corridors into a national biosafety network.
The successful promotion of the PES policy tool for “endangered species and critical habitats,” which provides concrete incentives to encourage farmers to maintain the biodiversity of farmland ecosystems, has allowed the integration of production and ecosystems to become more comprehensive, so that farmlands can become safe havens where wild animals and plants can live and reproduce in peace. When local residents no longer feel negative associations due to the public attention and responsibilities brought by wildlife and plants, they will be able to change their impression and take pride in protecting their habitats and biodiversity, and only then will coexistence and co-prosperity between humans and nature become a reality, enabling the value of healthy ecosystem services to be shared by all people in a sustainable manner.
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