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Forestry Dept marks centennial joy
Published on: Monday, November 10, 2014
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Chris MaskiloneKOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Forestry Department celebrates its centennial anniversary with key milestone achievements, particularly in its Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) programmes that saw 53 per cent of about 3.9 million hectares of the State's land mass become permanent Forest Reserves, Protection Areas and Wildlife Conservation Areas.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said this showed the SFM introduced in 1997 by the Forestry Department as a turnaround plan has come to fruition.

"It has been made a policy that any de-reservation of these protected areas must be replaced with equal or better forests," he said at the launch of the Sabah Forestry Department's centennial celebration at Padang Merdeka, here, Sunday.

Additionally, he said Sabah has placed about two million hectares of commercial Forest Reserves under the Sustainable Forest Management Licence Agreement (SFMLA).

Some 30 licence holders were subscribing to the highest order of forest management standards, such as those set by the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Musa said it must be noted that Sabah has restored and planted forests well over 500,000 hectares, presumably the largest such undertaking in the tropics, and designated Ulu Segama-Malua (USM) totalling 241,000 hectares as a protected area to support the orang-utan habitat, which is dubbed as the largest in the world and a model for Unesco's Great Apes Survival Project programmes.

"We have and will continue to promote Sabah as the hub for tropical rainforest research involving renowned international research organisation such as The Royal Society of the United Kingdom as well as key local higher learning institutions, and Sabah has pioneered several innovative initiatives such as carbon sequestration or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), and bio-banking," he said.

"We have declared some 1.3 million hectares or 20 per cent of the State's land mass as Totally Protected Areas (TPAs), surpassing the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s requirement of 10 per cent. And we have set a target of 30 per cent of TPAs within the next 10 years," he said.

Other visionary steps taken were the development and implementation of Reduced Impact Logging, which has been made mandatory since 2011.

"We pioneered Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for tropical forests, with Deramakot being the first and longest FSC certified forest in the world.

"Sabah has embarked on key conservation initiatives of regional importance such as the Heart of Borneo (HoB), involving some four million hectares or about 20 per cent of the total area within Borneo designated for this initiative," he said.

"I am pleased to report that we improved forest governance through the introduction of third party auditing and provision of other safeguards, increasing the credibility of the department and state on forest law enforcement, governance and trade," he said.

He commended the Sabah Forestry Department for successfully projecting the good name and efforts of the State's forestry programme internationally, attracting international organisations, donors and NGOs to support and assist in the State's endeavours.

"Currently, there are about 31 Agreements and Memorandum of Understandings entered into with at least RM75 million worth of external funds invested into the development of forests in the State," he said.

Musa said a hundred years of existence was significant not only for the Sabah Forestry Department but also for the people of Sabah, especially those who are closely associated with or depend upon the forest and forestry since colonial days.

In line with this celebration's theme — "For the Greatest Good, and for the Greatest Number, in the Long Run," it was only apt to take reflect on the significance of forests being the greatest good that led to the birth of the Sabah Forestry Department in 1914.

According to him, commercial exploitation of the forest escalated only after Sabah gained independence in the 60s, and the high dependence on forests for revenue then was inevitable as Sabah was in dire need of resources to support its socio-economic development agenda in its formative years.

As a result, coupled with unsustainable harvesting practices, Sabah's forest was depleted leaving behind secondary forests that were low in productivity in terms of quality timber yield.

If left unchecked, the repercussions would have been widespread and devastating affecting the economic viability of the forest and putting at risk the many functions of forests that are crucial for sustaining life such as water and biodiversity, he said.

Eventually, it led to the Sabah Government diversifying its income base, focusing on the priority areas of tourism, agriculture and manufacturing.

"While efforts were then put in place to recreate a healthy and productive forest that would be able to support further development and use of the forest to generate optimum and sustainable benefits to the State.

"This is achieved through rebuilding the timber resource base, promoting greater use of non-wood forest produce, establishing a foundation for the capitalisation of environmental services, exploration of biodiversity and biotechnology and diversification towards a value-added forest-based industry," he said.

"This development agenda remains relevant and we believe that with sufficient resources, the forest can be fully revived in 20 years time."

Musa paid tribute to the strong leadership of current Sabah Forestry Department Director Datuk Sam Mannan and his able staff.

From a humble beginning with only six staff when it was first formed in 1914, the department has grown over the years and at present is a proud organisation of 2,000 staff with 27 District Forestry Offices, which was necessary to assume broader responsibilities in tandem with changing landscapes of the forest and the forestry sector.

"I believe the department will continue to further excel and move on to greater heights. Let me assure you that you have my support as Chief Minister, including to further expand on initiatives that safeguard Sabah's forests.

CAPTION: Musa, together with former PM Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and wife Tun Jeanne Abdullah and Sabah Forest Department Director Sam Mannan touring an exhibition booth at Padang Merdeka.


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