Mudumalai, Anamalai and Kalakad Mundanthurai tiger reserves will hereafter be governed by Tiger Conservation Trusts which were formed on Tuesday.

Formation of the trusts will enable the three tiger reserves in the State to function on its own with a certain degree of autonomy and plough back funds generated through gate collection, guest house rents and tourism activities for managing the habitat and its biodiversity.

The decision to form trusts for the three tiger reserves was approved at the first meeting of the governing body of the Tiger Conservation Foundation chaired by State Forest Minister N. Selvaraj at the Secretariat on Tuesday.

Explaining the benefits of forming the trusts, R. Sundararaju, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden, Tamil Nadu, said the trusts can frame their own policy relevant to the habitat in consultation with the governing body and executive committee of the respective tiger reserves. Formation of the Trusts also empowers the Field Director to decide the administration aspects of the Tiger reserve with the approval of the Governing body. He will have powers even to recruit staff whenever need arises.

According to forest officials, the trusts can raise funds and receive donations from different sources like corporate sector, business houses and individuals. The funds will be used for better management of the area and for implementing eco-development related programmes, besides helping those living in the fringes.

Till now, both the revenue generated and funds received from the Central and State governments were deposited in the Government treasury. Hereafter, the Trusts can directly receive funds, which will be deposited in the trust account. The Forest Minister will be the Chairman of the governing body; Secretary, Environment and Forests will be the Vice-Chairman and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden will be the Member Secretary in the Governing body.

Apart from the officials and the Minister the body also has an eminent scientist, a non-governmental organisation, local MLAs and Panchayat Chairman as its members. It will be a two-tier system with checks and balances.

The Centre and State governments will continue to fund the tiger reserves. The State government will take care of the salaries of staff in the tiger reserves and recurring expenditure. “The State will have more stake and more say,” said a senior forest official.

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