Sacrificing the forest revenue to save the forest


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah though may have lost substantial revenue from the forest and its resources, it has achieved many milestones in forest management and conservation.

“Due to deliberate conservation measures and economic diversification, forest revenue today accounts for only four percent or less of the total state revenue,” Sabah Forestry Department Director Datuk Sam Mannan told Bernama.

However, he said, conservation measures caused high opportunity costs.

For example, land with good palm oil potential in the Ulu Segama-Malua Sabah Forest Management (SFM) and Forest Stewardship Council (SFC) certified areas, demand a current market price of at least USD10,000 (RM42000) per hectare, excluding the timber resources on the land.

“This translates to a capped potential financial return on land value alone of at least USD20 billion (RM80 billion).

“This is a mind boggling opportunity lost in the cause of conservation. Despite this loss, the forests are no longer exhausted but managed for sustainability,” he said to Bernama.


In line with the state’s deliberate conservation measures and economic diversification, the State Government has phased out short term annual logging licences inside Forest Reserves (FR).

“In a historical decision logging in Ulu Segama-Malua was phased out completely in December 2007, after nearly 50 years of continuous logging.

“Thus eliminating some 50 years of non-sustainable, politically driven timber allocation policies of the past.

“This has helped to ensure that timber harvesting in Sabah is now planned with governance and addressing sustainability at the same time,” he said.

The ulu Segama-Malua area that holds about 30 percent (3,500-4,000) of Sabah’s total Orang Utan population was given Class 1 (Protected Forest Reserve) protection status and Totally Protected Areas (TPAs) in Nov 2012.


On reforestation measures in Sabah, Mannan said as of Dec 2014 the state had planted naturally treated and rehabilited natural forest covering an area of about 550,000 hectares.

This, since 2005, translates to an annual average outcome of 20,000 hectare  of silviculture and 3,000 hectares of natural forest rehabilitation planting.

The establishment of 6,000-10,000 hectares of new forest plantations of fast growing exotics and natural species each year has been maintained.

It is forecasted that Sabah would produce 5 million cubic metres (m3) of certified plantation timber (exotics and natural species) and natural forests harvesting of 500,000 m3 by the year 2030.

“This will be more than sufficient to support a robust timber industry, employing modern technology to produce high quality products,” he said.

The products include fancy plywood, garden furniture, cellulose-based plastics, and green fuel, pulp and paper, ethanol and truck bodies, amongst others.


In a move to build Sabah’s reputation as the pioneer of compelling undertakings in tropical forest conservation and management, the state has established an extensive network of collaboration with several renowned foreign institutions.

These institutions include the Royal Society of the United Kingdom (UK), a prestigious research organisation that has been working in Danum Valley since 1985.

Other research institutions engaged in bio-diversity research in Sabah are Kyoto University, Cambridge University, the University of London (since 2011) with the collaboration from Royal Society, Imperial College London and Sime Darby.

Sabah pioneered Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) in the 1990s for Dipterocarp forests, with research undertaken near Danum Valley, a 1,900 hectares compartment with assistance from the Royal Society Research Programme.

The state is the home to the largest research project assessing land-use changes at Kalabakan called SAFE (Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystem).

“Its finding will be of world importance in other wet tropics,” Mannan said.

The epitome of Sabah’s high profile and phenomenal achievement in the management and conservation of its old world tropical forests is the Heart of Borneo (HoB) concept.

Central to the HoB was the state government policy to increase TPAs to 30 percent of Sabah’s land mass over a 10 year time period (2014-2025).

With the present TPAs covering about 24.2 percent of Sabah’s total land area or 1,779,030 hectares, the East Malaysian state now has the largest network of TPA in the country and arguably leads the world.

This means the most important undisturbed lowland Dipterocarp forests on the island of Borneo, encompassing 123,390 hectares, now have legislative protection and the security of tenure.

Sabah has also received world recognised certification of forest management, starting with Deramakot Forest Reserve (DFR) in 1997.

As of December 2015 the certified forests of Sabah, either partially or fully certified, has increased to 1,070,127 hectars with 547,559 hectares of SFC certified forests.


The state government has also created “Kampung Tauke” programmes to uplift the living standard of the natives (rural community) living on the edge of forests or within them.

Under this initiative, natives are given contracts to treat and rehabilitate thousands of hectares of forests.

Those employed to carry out field operations can earn up to RM3,000 each per month, thus eliminating abject poverty in the process.

Sabah is the only state in the country that sets aside a portion of forest revenue directly to address poverty in the forested areas through forest management,” Mannan said. –Bernama