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Former logger planted over 1 million trees in 20 years

(People's Daily Overseas New Media)    15:03, January 14, 2019

Zhang's hands are rough due to years of hard work. (Photo: People's Daily)

Zhang Yingshan, a 62-year-old forestry worker in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, has planted over one million trees over the past 20 years to make the mountains green again.

Zhang has spent his entire life surrounded by the woodland around Yichun, China’s “forest capital,” a city with 4 million hectares of forest that used to be known for its lumber industry.

Back in the 1970s, Zhang worked as a logger in Yichun’s vast woodland, cutting down towering trees to fuel the city’s booming lumber industry. Yet even the most abundant resources can dry up. Coverage of natural forest began to recede since the turn of the century.

“It takes decades and even a hundred years to grow a tree into a towering one, yet it only takes us one minute to cut it down,” said Zhang, adding: “We can’t keep doing this and leave future generations with nothing.”

After years of effort to reduce logging, Yichun announced in 2011 that it would permanently halt the practice. It released a guideline on ecological protection and economic restructuring. Within two years, all commercial logging was banned.

One way to reduce logging is to plant more trees. In 1981, Zhang, then 25, signed a contract with the state-owned natural forest enterprise he was working for to plant trees in the mountains. 

The tree planting period is very short, especially in cold, snowy mountain areas. If it starts to freeze before the root system has had a chance to develop, the tree will not be strong enough to survive the cold weather.

When spring arrived, Zhang would begin his day of work at 2 o’clock in the morning, carrying saplings on his shoulder and hiking in the rugged mountains for two hours.

He would plant as many as 1,000 trees a day. The work made his hands rough, since it is impossible to use machineries in the deep mountain areas and all he would use are some simple tools and his bare hands.

After 20 years of hard work, Zhang planted more than one million trees on over 320 hectares of forest land. In 2011, Zhang retired, but he still lives near the forest he has planted and will take care of the trees now and then.

Thanks to the hard work of Zhang and many others, the forest coverage in Yichun reached 84.4 percent in 2017, an increase of 17 percentage points over that of 1978, according to the local government.

With the greener mountains, Yichun’s natural landscape attracts many visitors each year, which creates a predictable market. Last year, the city’s tourism industry generated an income of 11.3 billion yuan, up from 2.5 billion yuan in 2010.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Yang Yang, Bianji)

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