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Six important roles forest reserves play in the lives of citizens

Forest Wood Log Nature Brown Tree Roughhou
A forest reserve refers to a forest that has been accorded a certain level of protection against unauthorized usage by individuals and groups of individuals. Such reserves are usually protected under the laws of the particular country where it is situated. In other words, activities such as hunting and grazing are strictly prohibited except by express permission from relevant traditional and or government bodies. Examples of forest reserves include, Tongass National Forest in Alaska, Coconino National Forest in Arizona, all in the United States of America. Other examples are the Asubima Forest Reserve, Draw Diver Forest Reserve, Krokosua Hills Forest Reserve, all in Ghana. Forest reserves in Nigeria include the Akure Forest Reserve, the Idanre Forest Reserve, the Oba Hills Forest Reserve and the Okumu Forest Reserve.

Writing about the functions of the forest reserve, the functions shall be segregated under three broad areas, the ecological, social and the economic.

Protection of species from extinction
One of the reasons for the existence of forest reserve is that it helps to protect animal species from going extinct as a result of myriads of reasons. For example, in Chad, the black rhino population was wiped out into extinction through poaching since 1968, about fifty years ago. It is only now that they are being re-introduced by human intervention with the help of South Africa.

Maintenance of animal species
Forest reserves also serve as places where a viable population of animal species can thrive. In many cases where the natural habitat of the specific animal is disturbed, some or all of the species have to migrate to other places to be able to survive. Where they do not find any suitable alternative habitat, they are likely to die off over time. This contributes to the extinction process. The existence of the forest reserves helps to maintain their population, at least, even if they are not able to increase considerably in number.

Forest, Trees, Nature, Landscape, Path
Habouring of sacred sites
Sacred sites are areas that are set aside by traditional authorities using customary laws. These sites are usually set aside for religious and social reasons. For example, agricultural activities of any kind, such as hunting and harvesting of wood for fuel are prohibited in these sacred sites. Many sacred sites in West Africa have deities, worshiped by some of the local people. The Osun-Oshogbo Sacred Groove, for example, has a deity that is worshiped by the adherents since 1370.

Another phenomenon, albeit a recent one, is the use of forest reserves as prayer grounds for different faiths. This is so because forest reserves are much quieter than other places and can enhance the most conducive environment for longer undisturbed prayer sessions.

Reservoir of medicinal plants
Forest reserves are important because they are rich in plants used as herbs. Every part of a medicinal plant, such as the leaves, the roots and the barks are relevant for their therapeutic value. It is estimated that about 25% active ingredients used by pharmaceutical companies of the world today, are obtained from the plants in the forests. So far, only 1% of the plant species of the world have been tested for their medicinal potency. This makes the preservation of the forest reserves of even more importance. The existence of the forest reserves, therefore, affords the greatest opportunity for the pharmacological potency of the rest of the plant species of the world to be tested and developed into potent medicine for the use of the world.

Landscape, Field, Nature, Agriculture 
Revenue from tourism
Forest reserves serve as important sources of revenue for the state and are able to stimulate local economies of the places where they are located. The Iguazu Falls National Park, on the borders between Brazil and Argentina, for example, plays host to two million tourists each year. All of these tourists add a few more income to the national coffers of the country. The aggregate of these is a huge income for the state from tourism. The Osun-Oshogbo Sacred Groove in Nigeria and the Kakum National Park in Ghana, receives thousands of visitors annually. This helps to stimulate the local economies of the people. Any destruction to these forest reserves therefore, results in a great loss of revenue to the state.

Source of employment
Forest reserves also serve as important avenues of employment for both skilled and unskilled labour. The forest reserves need to be protected from encroachments; this is why forest guards and rangers are needed to protect the place. The reserves need to be maintained, hence the need for foresters. Where the reserve serves as a tourist destination, there is the need to employ people to issue tickets in the absence of e-ticketing. The Mayan Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala is said to have provided employment for about 7000 people. So forest reserves create employment.

NOTE: is there a forest reserve where you live? What is the name of that reserve? What memorable experiences have you had in that forest reserve as an individual or as a group? You can share these experiences in the comments section.

1. a. What is a forest reserve?
    b. Highlight six important roles forest reserves paly in your country.

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