The February 6th issue of Jinja Shinpō had another article about OECMs. These are, to recap, areas of land that are not set aside as nature reserves but, because of the way they are used, serve as a significant refuge for biodiversity. The article reported on two meetings: the latest meeting of the government working group, and a meeting at Jinja Honchō.
The government meeting discussed the details of the proposed system for registering OECM areas in Japan. The trial period is coming to an end, and the system will be formally introduced from April. The designation process will be basically the same as it was in the trial period, and designated sites will be reassessed five years after designation. The meeting also discussed the need for economic incentives for people who owned and managed such areas. The details are still under investigation, but this could end up being extremely important for rural jinja.
The meeting at Jinja Honchō was between the president and department heads and representatives from the Environment Ministry. Jinja Honchō asked about the benefits to jinja of registering. This is a reasonable question, because the application will take at least some effort, and the sacred forest will be preserved anyway — the benefits to biodiversity will come whether the jinja is registered or not. The answer was not as good as one might like.
First, a jinja would be able to publicise the fact that it was recognised as contributing to biodiversity. Second, that recognition would draw people and groups who wanted to support such areas. The government officials did also say that they were looking into structures and organisations to make it easier to find such support, and to broaden the range of such support.
Revd Tanaka remarked that he thought the sacred forests of jinja were pretty much ideal sites for OECMs (which really does seem to be true), and indicated that he hoped that jinja would be able to support the movement, while finding a means of participation that was appropriate.
The fact that Jinja Honchō organised this meeting is significant, because it shows that they are taking the possibility seriously. I think it probably means that they are in the process of developing guidance for jinja on how to get registered as a “Nature Coexistence Site” (my first stab at a translation of the official Japanese term). That is really important, because without such guidance and assistance, most jinja will simply not have the resources to apply.
At any rate, current developments seem promising.