Already decimated by illegal palm oil corporations, a proposed new spatial plan by the Aceh government would reduce total forest cover by about a quarter. The plan says conservation groups, could force 'charismatic species' into extinction.
With the exception of Aceh and Papua, Indonesia's forests are already struggling said Mike Griffiths, a former coordinator with the Leuser Ecosystem Management Authority. In an interview with Michael Bachelard of the Brisbane Times, Griffiths said that with most of the country's forests already gone, Aceh is also under threat based up the resumption of commercial logging being proposed by Aceh's new Governor.
The new spatial plan could drastically reduce the total forest cover in the Aceh province, a protected area that contains the Leuser Ecosystem, one of the richest expanses of tropical rain forest in Southeast Asia, and the last place on earth where sumatran elephants, rhinoceros, tigers and orangutans are found within one area. The plan, which would allow the resumption of commercial logging, could see Aceh's forests reduced from about 68 percent to 45 percent. As a result, said Griffiths:
We’ll see the extinction of all the charismatic species in 10 to 20 years. The rhinos will be heading towards extinction in six months, the elephants will last perhaps 15 years, the tigers maybe 20. The orangutans will go quite quickly because they live in the lowlands.
Sumatran wildlife is already critically endangered because of habitat loss and hunting. According to One Green Planet.org:
31.1 % of all species in Indonesia are endemic with 9.9% of the total number of species threatened by poaching, logging and agricultural development.
The diversity of Indonesia’s rainforests makes them one of the most important ecosystems in the world. At the turn of the 20th century, One Green Planet said, "170 million hectares of dense primary rainforest covered the archipelago. Less than 98 million hectares remain and 700,000- 850,000 hectares are destroyed each year."
Back in 2007, former Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf, banned commercial logging in Aceh and helped establish the Ulu Masen REDD project, together with Fauna and Flora International and Carbon Conservation. But writes Chris Lang at Redd-Monitor.org, Irwandi lost the elections in Aceh last year and new governor, Zaini Abdullah, "is planning to allow logging in 54,593 hectares of protected forest."
This Ulu Masen REDD project involved Fauna and Flora International (FFI), the Aceh government, Australian company Carbon Conservation and US bank, Merrill Lynch. The project sought to reduce baseline deforestation and provide ongoing forest and carbon monitoring, with the promotion of sustainable community forest management by local communities.
Now writes Lang:
The Ulu Masen REDD project is at a complete standstill. In 2011, Carbon Conservation sold 50% of its shares to a Canadian mining company, East Asia Minerals. The Government of Aceh considered this to be unacceptable and since then Ulu Masen has been stalled. Fauna and Flora International has distanced itself from Carbon Conservation and the Ulu Masen REDD project.
The new Aceh Governor, Zaini, has said that “everything to do with Ulu Masen was now under review”.
Aceh and its peat swamps are critical habitat for Sumatran orangutans, and one of the largest remaining natural habitats in the world. Their destruction scientists say, would spawn substantial greenhouse gas emissions. Peat-swamp forests contain large amounts of stored carbon so when they are cleared or drained, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane are released into the atmosphere.
The new logging proposal came to light last October when Aceh's new Governor wrote to Indonesia's Minister of Forestry proposing the conversion of protected forests said a report by Greenomics Indonesia.
Greenomics is urging people to pressure the Aceh Governor to withdraw the proposals and in turn, ask Indonesia's Forestry Minister to reject them. "While the letter only contains proposals," Greenomics said, "the motivation involved needs to be quickly nipped in the bud by the Ministry of Forestry." If this is not challenged the report suggests, it could "lead to the legalization of destructive practices in the protection forests of Aceh."