Forest fires have contributed to a large reduction in India's forest cover since 2009, with the heaviest losses occurring in Andrha Pradesh. The state reported a maximum forest cover loss of 281 square kilometer and a decrease across all states and territories totaling 867 square kilometers. Some of the damage is due to logging, and the state center in Andrha Pradesh blamed the Naxals, a militant Communist group, for felling trees. However, much of the damage is due to widespread fires. According to the Forest Service of India, Andrha Pradesh has seen 506 forest fires in the last two months, almost five times more than any other state. On February 20 alone, there were as many as 169 fires reported across the region. The reasons for the fires range from controlled burning by state officials to illegal ground clearing by tribes and poachers, and environmentalists fear that the fires will continue to damage the state's green cover. "Apart from further receding the state's forest area, these fires are also likely to deteriorate the health of trees," said former India Forest Survey officer Sarvottam Rao. Environmentalists have called for better forest fire management practices. "There is a huge scope for improving fire management in [Andrha Pradesh]," said Farida Tampal, World Wildlife Fund state director. Tampal added that the WWF had offered to help the forest department tackle fire issues, but "our pleas have not been honored." For the full story, see