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Saving Ecosystems in Central Asia

Colorado Rocky Mountains. (file)
Colorado Rocky Mountains. (file)

The U.S. Forest Service hopes to assist Central Asia implement sustainable natural resource management practices.

When it comes to geography, ecosystems and natural resources, the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have much in common with parts of the Western United States. They both include steppe and grasslands, desert and mountains, alpine forests, lakes, and tundra. They also face some the same environmental issues, such as controlling invasive species, managing water scarcity, erosion, and land degradation, the loss and degradation of forests, and the threat of climate change.

Because of these similarities, the U.S. Forest Service saw an opportunity to help, and in the process, through working with partners in Central Asia, to learn first-hand about other techniques for managing natural resources in dry climates.

In collaboration with other U.S. government agencies, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development; non-governmental organizations; and other donors and organizations; the U.S. Forest Service hopes to assist its regional partners in implementing sustainable natural resource management practices.

The Forest Service began work in March of this year by conducting a region-wide assessment with USAID (a requirement under section 118/119 of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act) designed to identify the major threats to biodiversity conservation in these 5 countries, and examine the impact of global climate change for the region. The assessment tested the links of biodiversity to economic development, food security and water management, as well as other environmental issues.

In concert with our Central Asian partners, U.S. Government agencies are now working to incorporate this new information about natural resource conservation into U.S. foreign assistance activities for the area, further ensuring both an environmentally and economically sustainable future.

Through this partnership, 4 officials from Kazakhstan's Committee of Forestry and Hunting, who are working on forest restoration in their country, travelled to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains to study the U.S. approach to private forestry and fire management. In return, U.S. Forest Service officials will travel to Almaty, Kazakhstan, in October, to take part in a workshop that deals with management of watersheds, natural resources and biodiversity through a market-based approach.

Such international cooperation brings benefits to both the U.S. and its partners. The 5 Central Asian countries benefit from U.S. experience, technology and expertise, while the U.S. brings important research knowledge and technology know-how back to the United States.