Bosnian foresters learn about warfare's effects from UAF study

Posted: Monday, October 09, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Officials from the Republic of Bosnia are meeting at the University of Alaska Fairbanks this week to discuss the future of the forest in that war-torn European country.

The ministers of forestry for the Serbian, Croatian and Muslim factions among others are in Fairbanks through Wednesday to look at research done by UAF scientists.

The work, commissioned by the United Nations, began in 1992.

''We were asked by the U.N. to look at the ecological consequences of warfare,'' said Harry Bader, an associate professor of resource management at UAF.

What Bader, fellow university scientists and a bevy of graduate students found is being entered into a computer.

''What we're doing is developing a database that provides the basis for Bosnia to develop its own management plan,'' Bader said. ''They've been told what to do for five years. It's our goal to give them enough information so they can make their own decisions.''

The conference, which will be closed to the public, will draw a total of six representatives from Bosnia and one researcher each from NASA, Yale and the University of Washington.

Bader said UAF was approached because of its experience as a land-grant institution, and because the school has unique tools that make information gathering easier, such as remote sensing technology that incorporates lasers to take measurements.

Bader and his graduate students spent parts of the last eight years in Bosnia, living on military meals-ready-to-eat and gathering information as they traveled the ravaged country in an armored vehicle. Accomodations were few and far between.

''We just slept in the armored vehicle,'' Bader said.

The Bosnian forest is similar to the kind of woodland found in northern New York, Vermont and New Hampshire with plenty of spruce, fir, oak and beech. Though the country was hit with many of modern warfare's more destructive weapons, it was the lack of attention to the forest in the past several years that did much of the damage in the last decade, Bader said.

Pests, including the spruce bark beetle, have made inroads.

The U.N. came to UAF with the idea of studying the effects of warfare on the planet's ecology with the loose idea of setting up a list of environmental war crimes. From there, the idea of assisting Bosnia with forest management grew with the World Bank chipping in the $172,000 to carry out the program.

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