Nairobi — President Kibaki has signed into law the Forest Bill 2004.
The Bill which was rejected by Parliament last year, was recently reintroduced and approved by MPs.
The Act provides for the development and management of forests and their conservation and rational use for economic growth.
A statement from State House, Nairobi, said yesterday that the presidential nod showed the Government's commitment to the protection and proper use of the natural resource.
And a former assistant minister for the Environment, Prof Wangari Maathai, welcomed the enactment of the law, saying it would lead to better conservation of forests.
"However, I am concerned that the establishment of plantations in the forests will open up the areas to destruction," she told the Nation.
The forested mountains, which act as water catchment areas, she said, should be under tight State control.
The new law provides for the establishment of the Kenya Forest Services and the Kenya Forest Board to enforce it.
The service will manage all indigenous State forests, while the board will run it.
The latter will include the permanent secretaries for the Environment and Finance, the National Environment Management Authority and the director of the Kenya Forestry Research Institute, among others.
The Act prohibits felling of trees and burning or the removal of plant products from the State or local authority forests.
It also prohibits putting up buildings, cultivation or livestock grazing and erecting enclosures in the forests.
People who build roads or paths and collect honey or bee wax will also be guilty of an offence.