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A forest record others can't match
Published on: Friday, November 25, 2016

Kota Kinabalu: The State Legislative Assembly on Thursday passed an amendment to the Forests (Constitution of Forest Reserves and Amendment) Enactment 1984 that is envisaged to increase Totally Protected Areas (TPAs) to 30 per cent of Sabah's land mass by 2025.It is the only such concerted action undertaken by any State Government in Malaysia and possibly in the Asean region to preserve the natural environment for posterity and accentuates Sabah's position as an ecotourism destination of global standing.

It was recently confirmed by independent researchers that Sabah had all 50 of the world's tallest tropical trees, most located in the vicinity of the Danum Valley Conservation Area. The tallest reached 309ft into the sky.

It was a feat that even the Amazon rainforest in Brazil could not match.

Speaker Datuk Syed Abas Syed Ali announced the passing of the Bill that will be cited as the Forests (Constitution of Forest Reserves and Amendment) (Amendment) Enactment 2016 and take effect on Dec. 31, this year.

Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister Datuk Ellron Angin who tabled the Bill said the amendment was to excise, constitute and reclassify identified forest reserves in the state.

"Eight identified forest reserves with total acreage of 19,494.92 hectares would be excised and 18 forest reserves with total acreage of 8,522.38 hectares would be constituted. Nine Forest Reserve Class II (Commercial Forest) and Forest Reserve Class V (Mangrove Forest) with total acreage of 87,337.05 hectares would be reclassified as First Class Forest Reserve (Protection) and all these areas would later be sub-divided into 14 areas of First Class Forest Reserve (Protection)," he said.

With this amendment to the Forests (Constitution of Forest Reserves and Amendment) Enactment 1984, Ellron said the acreages of the State Forest Reserves are expected to undergo changes.

"The Forest Reserve Class 1 (Protection) will increase from 1.26 million hectares to 1.35 million hectares increasing by 7.43 per cent and the Forest Reserve Class II (Commercial) would be lesser from 1.75 million hectares to 1.668 million hectares accounting for a drop of 4.7 per cent.

"The Forest Reserve Class III (Domestic) will remain 4,673 hectares and Forest Reserve Class IV (Amenity) would increase from 11,149.170 hectares to 11,386.45 hectares, rising by 2.13 per cent while the Forest Reserve Class 5 (Mangrove) will be lesser from 280,002.270 hectares to 256,009.27 hectares, dropping by 8.57 per cent.

"The Forest Reserve Class VI (Virgin Jungle Reserve) will increase from 106,812.314 hectares to 107, 013.914 hectares, rising by 0.19 per cent, Wildlife Forest Reserve (Class VII) increase from 137,991 hectares to 139, 240.97 hectares with a 0.91 per cent increase," he said.

Overall total forest reserves after the process of excising, constituting and reclassifying, Ellron said would be 3,540,274.214 hectares and there would be a decrease of 0.31 per cent compared to 2015 (3,551,246.754 hectares).

"However, the total acreages of Totally Protected Areas would increase to 1,874,061.544 hectares equivalent to 25.46 per cent from the Sabah's land mass compared to 2015 with 1,779,030.3144 hectares (24.17 per cent)," he said.

Hence, Ellron said he is confident that the State Government's target to achieve the 30 per cent TPAs by 2025 can be realised.

He said about 19,494.92 hectares comprising several classes of forest reserves were proposed to be excised for land reserves for the purpose of community development and the state's economy as there are many village settlements and land titles in the forest reserves.

Furthermore, he said the proposal to excise the forest reserves also took account of the condition of the forest reserves where some are degraded forests due to unplanned logging and repeated forest fires and past encroachments.

He said rehabilitation of the forest reserves would involve high cost and the Government does not have special funds for forest rehabilitation.

Among the forest reserves that were identified to be excised, Ellron said, are:

1. Kg. Hindian Forest Reserve Class IV (Amenity), Beuafort – a total of 83.62 hectares to be excised for settlement of villages such as Kg. Maraba Laut, Kg. Andian Maraba and Kg.Banting Maraba. Land titles within the forest reserve have been taken out before the forest reserve was gazetted.

2. Bonggaya Forest Reserve Class II (Commercial), Beluran – This forest reserve under a Forest Management Unit (FMU) 18 (Silam Forest Products Sdn Bhd/Arus Sawit Sdn Bhd) that is situated in Beluaran. A total acreage of 1,174 hectares was proposed to be excised for the purpose of village settlements such as Kg. Basai, Kg.Rungus Baru, Kg. Cenderamata, Kg. Kokos, Kg. Tolongan, and Kg. Bayok/Mekaniok. These areas have also been toiled with various agriculture crops.

3. Karakit Forest Reserve Class VI (Virgin Jungle Reserve), Kudat – Eight hectares forest reserved is proposed to be excised because it has been given land ownership.

4. Sg.Lasun Forest Reserve & Pulau Evans Class 1 (Protection), Lahad Datu – Total acreage of 499.30 hectares to be excised as these areas have been given land ownership before the forest reserves were gazetted.

5. Paitan Forest Reserve Class II (Commercial), Beluran – Total acreage of 2,041 hectares to be excised for village settlements as these areas have been toiled with various crops.

6. Pensiangan Forest Reserve Class II (Commercial), Nabawan – Total acreage of 5,000 hectares to be excised as State land reserves for the community development and State's economy.

7. Sugut Forest Reserve Class II (Commercial), Beluran – Total acreage of 5,689 hectares to be excised as land reserves for the community development and State's economy (5,000 hectares) and villages areas (689 hectares) involving Pantai Boring, among others that has long existed.

8. Kuala Tomani Forest Reserve Class II (Commercial), Tenom – 5,000 hectares of the forest reserve excised as State land reserves for the community development and State's economy.

Ellron said there are 18 State land reserves with total acreage of 8,522.38 hectares to be forest reserves to replace identified forest reserves areas that have been proposed to be excised.

"These State land reserves comprise those lands that have been surrendered to the government, reserve lands belonged to Sabah Forest Development Authority (Safoda), lands that were procured through acquisition by the Sabah Forestry Department for recreational activities and existing government land and some are land swap villages within the forest reserve that have been excised.

"It also includes three proposed water catchment areas in new State lands to be gazetted as forest reserves namely in Ulu Kalang, Tenom, Tindikon and Tikolod in Tambunan," he said.

Those proposed forest reserves, Ellron said have among the best ecosystem mangrove forest and high conservation values as well as being the habitat and corridor to wildlife and protection places for several species of flora.

"There are also unique wildlife species such as the yellow sea otter that is endemic in one of the proposed areas namely the Rabin Wildlife Forest Reserve (Additional II) Class VII," he said.

On nine forest reserves involving total acreages of about 87,337.05 hectares, Ellron said that this would be reclassified as Forest Reserve Class 1 (Protection) and subdivided into 14 new forest reserves from the Forest Reserve Class II (Commercial) and Forest Reserve Class V (Mangrove Forest) in Sabah.

The upcoming 14 new forest reserves Class 1 (Protection), he said would involve a total of 15,438.3 hectares of the Lingkabau Forest Reserve Class II, a total of 2,181.74 hectares from the Sg. Pinangan Forest Reserve Class II, 1,127.05 hectares from the Kalabakan Forest Reserve Class II, and 23,993 hectares from the Kuala Segama Forest Reserve Class II and Kuala Maruap Forest Reserve Class V, among others.

He said the 14 new forest reserves included 62,611.05 hectares that were surrendered by the Sustainable Forest Management Licence Agreement (SFMLA) holders such as the Sabah Foundation (17,293.75 hectares), Anika Desiran Sdn Bhd (12,241 hectares) Timberwell Bhd (15,438.30 hectares) and Eco-Plantation Berhad (17,638 hectares) to the State government for conservation purposes.



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