Alhaji Collins Dauda, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, on Wednesday inaugurated an 11-member Board of the Forestry Commission and tasked it to preserve the nation's natural resources by dealing urgently with the activities of illegal timber operators.Alhaji Dauda congratulated the new Board members and said they were being ushered into office at a time when the forestry sector was facing serious challenges pertaining to the sustainable management of forest and wildlife resources.Members of the Board, chaired by Mr Yaw Boamah, a businessman, swore the oaths of allegiance and secrecy. Other members are Mr Attah Nantogmah Alhassan, Osahene Kwakui Aterkyi II, a representative National House of Chiefs, Mr Owusu Amankrah, a representative of timber trade and industry, Mr Gerald Boakye, a representative of the wildlife trade and industry and Dr. Kwame Asamoa Adam, a representative Ghana Institute of Foresters. The rest are Mr Ofori Frimpong, a representative, NGOs involved in forestry and wildlife management, Dr Wordworth Odame Larbie, a representative Lands Commission, and Dr (Mrs) Cecilia Amoah, Mr Siisi Crentsil, and Mr Samuel Kwasi Appiah, all Government Appointees. Alhaji Dauda said current records indicated that the existing forests estimated to be about 1.6 million hectares, would be gone within the next 23 years, if adequate measures were not put in place to stem the high deforestation rate of 65,000 hectares per annum. The Minister attributed the alarming situation to the upsurge of illegal forestry activities, particularly chainsaw operations, wild fires and encroachments in the forest reserves and, in some instances, wildlife protected areas as a result of illegal farming activities. Alhaji Dauda said the situation called for serious efforts to conserve the little that was left and embark on vigorous re-afforestation through large-scale plantation development to restore what had been lost.He charged the Board to, as a matter of urgency, tackle the unrelenting siege mounted on forest reserves by illegal operators. They should do this by involving the local fringe communities in protecting the resource and encouraging them to preserve commercial timber trees in off-reserve areas and also protect wildlife resources in these areas. Alhaji Dauda said dwindling forest resources had affected the finances of the Forestry Commission, particularly internally generated funds that in the past accounted for more than 60 per cent of the Commission's financial requirements. He added that the wildlife sub-sector had a lot of potential for eco-tourism development to generate revenue and foreign exchange for development and poverty reduction. The Minister also mentioned the issue of climate change and global warming, which had negative impacts on forest conservation, and urged the Forestry Commission to explore avenues for appropriate benefit sharing schemes for all stakeholders. Mr Yaw Boamah, Chairman of the Board, said it would ensure that the challenges facing the sector were given urgent attention and tackled with much expertise to save the depleting forest reserves and other natural resources from further exploitation and distraction.