On a recent trip into the rainforests of the Indonesian part of Borneo Island, our team got first-hand accounts of the effects, causes—and the possible solutions—to rampant illegal logging.
Indonesia has nearly 70 million people living in or near forest land, many of them living on less than US$1 per day. Illegal logging operations cause widespread destruction of forests and, although it does earn short-term gains for a few, it destroys the livelihoods of people who depend upon the forests.
Just after we left, Indonesian officials cracked down on smallholder illegal logging in the region. But having smallholders thrown into jail is not necessarily a success. Many of these imprisoned are people living under a US$1 per day. They often live in miserable circumstances and are trying to make a living. They are not the buyers or the people who are driving the illegal deforestation. Undoubtedly, as soon as the police leave, new illegal loggers will replace the old ones and the long-term gain will still be missing.
Law enforcement is needed, but it must be done with smart planning and development—not by simply throwing people out or arresting them.
The field trip was interesting and the team I traveled with looked beyond short-term fixes and more towards better understanding the forestry issues Indonesia is struggling with in remote places and looking for ways to combine U.S. and Indonesian expertise to work towards solutions.
Our trip was part of a follow-up of the agreement signed in November 2006 by President George W. Bush and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to promote sustainable forest management, improve law enforcement, and build markets for legally harvested timber products.
The team visited several forestry operations—including a logging company, a national park, and a community—all deep in the interior of Borneo. At these places, discussions were held with local government officials, farmers, and concessions holders on legality standards, boundary and land-tenure issues, and Indonesia’s new small-holder plantation policy.
It was clear that illegal logging was a major problem in this areas we visited. Small-scale illegal loggers and illegal saw mills were common scenes along the roads and rivers we passed. Besides the rampant illegal logging, the team had many observations from the field trip, including:
During the trip, several possible solutions to achieve enhanced planning, law enforcement, and cooperation between stakeholders were discussed, including:
As a follow-up to the field trip, the U.S. and Indonesian forest services are developing a program for West Kalimantan that involves mapping for better planning, law enforcement, and communication between various levels of government.