Friday, 19 February 2010

Environment Watch: Illegal loggers target community forests

Fri, 02/19/2010 10:49 AM | The Archipelago The Jakarta Post

Illegal loggers in Lampung have extended their grab beyond the Bukit Barisan Selatan and Way Kambas national parks and are now pilfering from reforestation areas managed under community forest programs, say officials.

West Lampung Forestry Office head Fauzi said huge volumes of illegally logged timber had recently been found originating from forested areas run by local communities.

“This finding means the logging has also taken place in community forests where local people put in a lot of hard work,” he said.

He added the community forest program in West Lampung was regarded as the country’s second most successful after Yogyakarta’s.

Fauzi said that since the program served as a role model for an ideal forest rehabilitation project, forestry experts from various countries had visited Way Tenong in West Lampung.

Since 2000, 6,537 farming families living around protected and production forests in West Lampung have been involved in the community forest program.

They reforest land stripped bare by conversion and illegal logging, and growing different crops in critical areas as well as conserving the forest.

Besides being a key source of livelihood for the farmers, the protected forest spanning 12,000 hectares in Register 45 in Bukit Rigis and Register 34 in Tangkit Tebak — previously critical and barren areas — have been turned into dense forests.

Under the community forest program, the local forestry office provides five-year permits to residents to manage critical areas in production and protected forests, on the condition they form groups and carry out forest conservation.

The groups must also have a management system and a good set of organizational rules.

”Bukit Rigis is included in West and North Lampung regencies,” Fauzi said.

“The Bukit Rigis forest in West Lampung has been kept safe for the past 10 years because residents around the forest monitor it closely and arrest all illegal loggers.”

Coffee farmer Jamaludin, whose land borders the Bukit Rigis forested area, said he had often seen illegal loggers at work in the forest.

”I recognize them, but I’m afraid to stop them because they carry sharp weapons,” he said.

“I’ve told the authorities about it repeatedly, but they only followed up last week in a raid led by the Way
Tenong district chief.”

He added he had been on the lookout for illegal loggers for the past decade.

“I report them to the Way Tenong district chief because I don’t want to be accused of being an illegal logger myself,” Jamaludin said.

“I also want to join the community forest program so I can get involved in managing the forest. I’ll register for it at the West Lampung Forestry Office this year.”

Police have questioned 11 residents of Fajar Bulan as witnesses in the illegal logging case in which dozens of trees were felled.

The illegal loggers made off with the bulk of it, leaving behind only 1.5 cubic meters of timber.

The distance between the forest and the highway is only a few kilometers, making transportation by truck the main scenario.

The Indonesia Crisis Center’s West Lampung secretary, Satori M. Baki, blamed the widespread illegal logging on lax law enforcement.

He said many illegal loggers in Lampung had been arrested, but most were then released due to insufficient evidence.

”At the end of December last year, the Kotaagung District Court in Tanggamus regency released an illegal logging suspect,” he said.

“Some are punished, but they only get light sentences because they’re charged with theft, and that doesn’t serve as a deterrent.

“They should face the more severe charges as stipulated in the forestry law,” he added.