Indonesian Forest Gem on the Precipice

DSC_0528It’s hard to escape the news that Indonesia’s rainforests are disappearing at an alarming rate. A recent study calculates that in 2012 Indonesia topped all other countries, losing 840,000 hectares of irreplaceable old-growth rainforest.  While numerous efforts are underway to preserve the country’s remaining natural forests there is one incredible forest region in Northern Sumatra that is teetering on the brink of destruction and as a result, gaining international attention.

Elephants, Tigers – and humans

The Leuser Ecosysteman area of forest located in the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra, covers more than 2.6 million hectares in a rich expanse of tropical rainforests. It is one of last places on earth where the Sumatran elephant, rhinoceros, tiger and orang- utan are all found within one area.  But the Leuser doesn’t just provide habitat for endangered wildlife species. The ecosystem acts as a life support system for approximately four million people who depend on the healthy, intact forest to supply a steady flow of water, soil fertility, flood control, climate regulation and pest mitigation.

Deciding the Forest’s Fate

The Leuser Ecosystem is officially designated by the Indonesian government as a National Strategic Area for Environmental Protection, forbidding any activity that could reduce environmental protection or ecosystem function. However, the provincial government of Aceh has proposed a new spatial plan for the area that would allow extensive industrial development.  The proposal would open up huge areas of Aceh’s ecologically sensitive forests, including the nationally protected Leuser Ecosystem, to mining, timber and plantation concessions. The forest fragmentation associated with such projects will severely impact Sumatra’s last remaining large tracts of lowland forests, their unique biodiversity and the life support they provide in the form of critical ecosystem services to millions of Acehnese people. The central Indonesian government has critiqued the legality of numerous aspects of the plan.

Time to Walk the Talk

Indonesia has recently had an election. Soon a new president will begin his term. However, current President SB Yudhoyono, in the time he has remaining in office, could ensure protection of Leuser is secured for the future.  President Yudhoyono promised early in his term to help “sustain and enhance” the forests of Indonesia. Now, before he leaves government, it’s time to fulfill that promise and protect the Leuser Ecosystem.

You Can Help

President Yudhoyono needs to know the world is watching and that he has strong, global support to protect the Leuser Ecosystem, its rich carbon-absorbing forests, endangered species and the life-giving services it provides to millions of people.

Take a moment to send a letter or an email to: president@presidenri.go.id

Voice your support now and help change the future for one of Indonesia’s most important and endangered forests.

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