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Re-designation of Regulation Rescues Remaining Rainforest

Indonesia clears the way for rainforest recovery…

The Indonesian Government has made a significant change to its forestry regulations, enabling forest already designated for clearance to instead be restored and managed for conservation.Shortly after the Indonesian Government announcement on 17 June, Prince Charles held a reception at Clarence House in London, where he announced his backing for BirdLife`s Sumatran Rainforest campaign.

In the year 1900, Sumatra had an estimated 16 million hectares of lowland rainforest. By 1997, logging and clearance had reduced this to 2.2 million hectares. As little as 800,000 hectares now remain, and the World Bank has predicted that all Sumatra`s lowland rainforest will have been cleared by the end of this decade, unless there are immediate and fundamental changes in policies and management.As the forest has shrunk, the number of threatened birds, and the rate at which Sumatra`s birds are becoming threatened, have both dramatically increased. In 1994, 17 Sumatran species were regarded as globally threatened (classified as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List), with 27 Near Threatened. Just ten years later this figure has risen to 21 threatened and 85 Near Threatened species.

Much of the remaining Sumatran lowland rainforest has been designated production forest, set aside for private companies to exploit by logging and clearance for oil palm or timber-pulp plantations. The new regulations (Regulation of the Minister of Forestry on Ecosystem Restoration in Production Forest Reserves) will make it possible to manage these forests in a sustainable way.This Decree demonstrates the Indonesian Government`s commitment to managing forest reserves in ecologically sustainable ways, which is good news for wildlife and local communities, both of which depend on forest resources for their survival. said Dr Mike Rands, Director, BirdLife International.

BirdLife is currently working to acquire the logging rights for a 60,000 to 80,000 hectare block of forest, which will be rehabilitated and conserved. 211 bird species have been recorded to date in BirdLife`s target area, of which 202 are forest-dependent species. Of these, 6 are globally threatened and 40 Near Threatened, including Wallace`s Hawk-eagle Spizaetus nanus (Vulnerable) and Storm`s Stork Ciconia stormi (Endangered).The conservation process will begin with a 20-year resting period with research, forest management and rehabilitation, and only the most limited use of forest resources. After this, BirdLife plans to exploit the forest through non-destructive means such as eco-tourism. Eventually, the aim is to allow managed timber extraction and harvesting of non-timber products in selected areas.

Prince Charles said that BirdLife`s Sumatra campaign was one of the most innovative attempts to preserve a large and highly bio-diverse area of forest outside the formal protection system, and that the project will serve as a model for sustainable tropical rainforest management in Indonesia and worldwide. He congratulated the Indonesian Government on its vision in leading the rest of the world in this.

The Prince also commended the Birdlife Partnership for its on-the-ground knowledge of forest conservation and management issues in Sumatra, and its good working relationships with local government, civil society and private companies. The Prince added that he was very pleased to be lending his full support to BirdLife`s work.

4th July 2014