If you had a piece of land, what would you do with it? However, before you made good use of it, you would have to know one thing first, which is “land-use zoning.” Land-use zoning refers to the segregation of land into use for different areas for each type of use. For example, land for construction or for agriculture and husbandry. When an area of land is classified as a forestry land, a great deal of difficulty could be expected if one wishes to suit it for other purposes.


In accordance with Articles 5 and 6 of the Logging Ban Compensation for Lands Reserved for Indigenous Peoples Act, once lands reserved for indigenous peoples are delineated as no logging areas, landowners are eligible for the logging ban compensation. To be more specific, owners of lands that were originally reserved for indigenous peoples, but later on, are designated as forestry land or eligible for control as forestry land, as a conservation area or water resource area, as the domain of a national park, or are determined by the competent authority as necessary for a logging ban, can be granted a compensation of NT$30,000/hectare annually. Although the amount of compensation per household is not impressive, it, to some extent, shows the limit inflicted on indigenous peoples to use their land is now being recognised. It also makes us think: why is a compensation issued?


Since the enforcement of the Regional Plan Act in 1974, the land offices throughout Taiwan had proceeded to divide lands. Non-urban areas had been divided into 10 zones with 18 types of land use including lands for agriculture and husbandry, for construction, and for forestry, etc. However, restricted by the techniques and manpower at that time, much land-use zoning was not carried out accurately. This is especially true in mountain areas. Farmlands scattering in the woods or fallows were designated as forestry land, forcing alternate use of agricultural land and forests to come to a halt. Land use had been greatly limited. There was not a comprehensive platform for indigenous peoples to file complaints, and all they could do was see their land being taken away.

Take the slash-and-burn approach adopted by Bunun people as an example. It has occurred to some scholars that it is a crucial farming method employed by the indigenous peoples to adapt to the environment as well as to enable the sustainable use of forests and farmlands.


In the past, a large number of indigenous peoples made a living by logging and forest by-products. Though the scale was small, and the earning was meagre, it was a very important income source at that time. Affected by the full-scale ban on logging forests in 1991, the lands reserved for indigenous peoples were then delineated as forestry land, and were not likely to generate economic value. Faced with financial problems, all indigenous peoples could do was break laws by farming on the forestry land.


In 2008, the Council of Agriculture of the Executive Yuan promulgated the Forestation and Afforestation Award Programme in order to encourage people to plant trees. The problem lies in the duration of the award, which is 20 years. As soon as the award duration comes to an end, the planted trees might be cut down. To sustain the forestation, the logging ban has been devised as one of the solutions.


Based on the facts depicted above, the Legislative Yuan passed “The Indigenous Forest Conservation Act for Logging Ban Eco-Compensation and Reforestation Payback Reward for Lands Reserved for Indigenous Peoples” in 2015, for the purpose of compensating the indigenous peoples for land use limit, as well as achieving homeland security and ecological conservation. The Act was amended and renamed as “The Logging Ban Compensation for Lands Reserved for Indigenous Peoples Act” in 2019 to separate afforestation award and logging ban compensation. The amended act adds and specifies areas for logging ban, so that the Logging Ban Compensation Act has become clear and precise.



The total area of lands reserved for indigenous peoples covers 260 thousand hectares with forestry land accounting for 75%. In the past, the only income source for indigenous peoples was through afforestation; but since the logging ban compensation policy was enacted, indigenous peoples whose lives were affected by the land use limit have received a compensation amount, as an extra income source. Up until 2018, 46 thousand hectares of indigenous land have been included for logging ban, and approximately 30 thousand indigenous peoples have been eligible for, and claimed compensation. Indigenous peoples have finally been compensated for the freedom to use their land, and their life has hence been ameliorated.


To make two ends meet, the forestry land had been used illegally, which also posed a threat to the ecology and environment in which indigenous communities are. Fortunately, the enforcement of the logging ban compensation act has improved these situations. Year on year, the number of applications has hit a record high, and the environmental problems have become less severe gradually. For indigenous communities, forests and water sources are vital water sources for agriculture as many communities have not built tap water system. Forests and natural water sources ensure the availability of water for life. At the same time, excavation of mountain slope has also alleviated. 


Many people in the past wanted their land to be designated as farmlands in exchange of economic agricultural crops. However, due to the fact that the population has aged, farming is laborious, and production volume is unpredictable, elders who can no longer work on the farms can only lease land out to contractors, who in turn mass produce cabbage, ginger, and other crops with high added value. In recent years, on account of the logging ban compensation, senior indigenous peoples have tended to claim compensation more than leasing land out to contractors.


Complicated historical reasons along with the difficulty with dividing the right proportion of land to each household, many pieces of lands had not been claimed as private indigenous lands. What is more, the price of these pieces of forestry land was not high, so many people simply chose to put the land aside. As soon as the Logging Ban Compensation for Lands Reserved for Indigenous Peoples Act was announced, disputes over inheriting lands reserved for indigenous peoples have come to prominence. Examples include disputes between different families or proportion problems that have long been ignored after a family inheritance was divided. Driven by compensations, privatisation of lands reserved for indigenous peoples has accelerated.


If you had a forest, what would you do with it? According to the existing laws, actually you could not do much. Come to think of this question then. What would you choose if you could own either a piece of forestry land of 1.5 hectare or 0.3 hectare of land for agriculture and husbandry?

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