Sarawak implements internationally recognised sustainable policies
Under the Rio Summit, the Malaysian Government has pledged to keep at least 50% of land cover under forest and Sarawak has always maintained this pledge. In fact, systematic management of the forests in Sarawak began in 1919 with the establishment of Forest Department Sarawak. Since then the State has introduced other laws to protect the forests, from Forest Order in 1934 to govern protected forest to the Forest Policy of Sarawak 1954 and most recently the Forest Management Certification in 2013, which is mandatory for all long-term forest timber licences today.
“There is a need for balance between conservation, economic practices and social needs of the local people when it comes to forest management,” said Director of Forests Sarawak, Hamden Mohamad. “These are the basis on which sustainable forest management can be implemented successfully and be practical as well. The State policy has clearly set aside forests under PFEs
(Permanent Forest Estates), TPAs (Totally Protected Areas) and State land for other uses whereby timber production is systematically managed to comply with internationally recognised standards for sustainable forest management,” he added. These include good management in timber production areas, selective felling systems with detailed harvesting plans and diameter cutting limits. The Forest Management Certification was first applied in 2013 to all licence holders within the Heart Of Borneo area before being extended to all long-term forest timber licences
Under the system, all Forest Management Units operate under direct supervision of the Forest Management Certification provisions to carry out Forest Resource Assessments, establishment of Permanent Sample Plots, assessments on environmental and social impact as well as High Conservation Value Forests. In addition, committees have also been set up to address issues from the local communities under the forest management areas, which include safety and conflict resolutions in a comprehensive Forest Management Plan. The other international standards used for forest certification include Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme, which is endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification and the Forest Stewardship Council, which are the standards used by certification-accredited bodies internationally. The main benefits to having third party verified sustainable forest management system include sound forest management practices, habitats protection as well as cultural assets. Through compliance with all these certifiable practices, timber sourced from these certified forest areas will meet the demand for certified logs thereby benefiting all parties in the process. As such, certification and sustainable practices working together for the betterment of all is a holistic approach, which brings rewards to all involved as well as the society, country and our planet Earth. Presently Sarawak has 423,000 hectares of certified natural forest with an additional 101,000 hectares of planted forests certified.
“Currently, Forest Department is working on a manual for Forest Management Certification in the State that includes guidelines on matters related to all aspects of forest management in the State,” the director added. With such policies in place, the forest will continue to provide invaluable resources to the State and its people in the future. Naturally these policies and conditions will change over time but the core essence of protecting these forest resources will remain through sustainable practices. “It will be a sad day should the next generation wake up to find the forest gone and pinpoint us as the ones responsible for the loss. Therefore it is our responsibility to ensure that our forests will continue to flourish for now and the future.”