KUCHING: Sarawak now has 72.5 per cent of its land mass, or 4.35 million hectares, as Permanent Forest Estates, said Chief Minister Adenan Satem.
The state government has a target of six million hectares as Permanent Forest Estates and one million hectares as Totally Protected Areas, of which 0.85 million hectares have been set aside.
He said the state’s land use policy took into consideration all aspects of economic development, social well-being and environmental balance and integrity. This policy includes three main sectors, namely forestry, agriculture and other land uses.
Forest land designated as totally protected comprises national parks, nature reserves and wild life sanctuaries.
“The state government has declared war against illegal logging and has reviewed and repealed the Forests Ordinance, 1958 to provide for effective measures against illegal activities in our forests,” he said in a speech to mark World Forestry Day.
The Sarawak Forest Department had taken several initiatives and stern action to combat illegal logging.
He said that since taking over as Chief Minister in 2014, he had made relentless efforts to curb illegal logging which resulted in 241 cases with 90,873 cubic meters of logs seized in 2014.
The number, he said, had significantly dropped to 208 cases with 47,060 cubic meters of logs seized in 2015, signalling the beginning of the end of rampant illegal logging activities.
He said 33 sawmills were forced to close after being deprived of cheap illegal log supply and up till now, eight people had been convicted and penalised for various forest offences and 27 suspects had been arrested in 2015.
Adenan said he believed in the idea of sustainable forest management, and made it a must for the big six timber companies in the State to have at least one of their Forest Management Units (FMU) to be certified under the accredited certification body by 2017 in order to sustain perpetual forest resources. He said as of now, 33 forest timber licence holders with an area of about 2.5 million hectares had indicated their intention to be certified.
The future outlook of the forests, he added would transcend beyond timber, meaning there would be an opportunity to transform the dependency on timber production to capitalising on ecosystem services as a new source of wealth for the State.