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Access restrictions on Taiwan's mountain and forest areas to be lifted

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Premier Su Tseng-chang announced at a press conference Monday that the government has lifted access restrictions on Taiwan's mountain and forest areas. The policy will include five components for implementation: open up mountainous and forested areas, ensure information transparency, serve public convenience, educate the public, and delineate responsibilities.

Many of the world's best countries for mountain climbing—the United Kingdom and Japan among them—are island nations, which have also produced great mountaineers, the premier said. Taiwan is an island nation as well, boasting 268 mountains over 3,000 meters tall and itself home to five million hiking enthusiasts.

Past administrations, however, have largely closed off mountains in their approach to mountain and forestry management. Mountain areas are difficult to reach, service facilities and cabins are poorly maintained or below standard, and lines of authority between central and local governments are blurred. These and other reasons have regrettably kept many from personally enjoying the beauty and magnificence of Taiwan's mountains.

Under the policy, the first implementation component calls for the lifting of all restrictions on public access to mountainous and forested areas, with the exception of military land, fragile or unstable terrain, sacred indigenous locations, and nature preserves, said Premier Su. As for information transparency, one-stop permit applications will be introduced, with all pertinent details made available online.

The public convenience aspect includes a four-year budget of NT$700 million (US$22.9 million) to refurbish or rebuild existing alpine cabins, the premier said. Furthermore, additional cellular service towers will be installed atop many peaks throughout Taiwan, similar to one completed in August this year on Yushan's northern summit to improve remote coverage.

The education component will start with youngsters. Kids will be encouraged to challenge themselves and explore Taiwan's beautiful mountains and forests through such activities as river tracing.

Also emphasized will be clear delineation of responsibilities. Adopting an open access approach, the government will advocate for greater public engagement with nature, while also highlighting the need for self-supervision and personal responsibility on the part of mountaineers and hikers.

Premier Su closed his remarks by saying that Taiwan's mountains are a shared national treasure, and one that he hopes everyone can enjoy up close as they discover the beauty of Taiwan.

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