Disaster ahead for Sumatra's forests?

Alarm bells are ringing in Indonesia. 

An in-depth article just published by ALERT member Erik Meijaard in the Jakarta Globe suggests that the Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra — the last place on Earth where tigers, orangutans, elephants, and rhinos still coexist — could be greatly imperiled.

Trouble ahead for tigers

Trouble ahead for tigers

The problem is the highly controversial “spatial plan” passed by the Aceh Provincial Government. 

The plan completely omits the Leuser Ecosystem — and according to Meijaard that’s because the Aceh government plans to log, clear, mine, and essentially destroy much of the Leuser environment.

That would be a tragedy wrapped in a disaster.  The IUCN lists the Leuser Ecosystem — a region of 2.26 million hectares rich in rainforests and peat-swamp forests — as one of the “World’s Most Irreplaceable Places”.

Beyond its unparalleled importance for biodiversity, the Leuser Ecosystem also provides vital environmental services for the people of Aceh — such as reducing flooding and droughts, protecting soils, and providing clean water for people, agriculture, and fisheries. 

The forests also store large quantities of carbon essential for limiting global warming.

As Meijaard argues, the natural services provided by the Leuser forests truly are vital. 

For instance, floods in December 2006 affected over 700 villages in Aceh, destroyed over 4400 homes, and killed 47 people.  Damage from the floods was estimated to total US$210 million. 

Imagine the toll from such an event if the Leuser forests — which help to limit destructive flooding — had been largely destroyed.

Meijaard and many others — including 141 scientific, environmental, and social-rights organizations — are urging Indonesia’s federal government to strike down the Aceh government’s ill-advised spatial plan, as the plan can't proceed without federal approval. 

Let’s hope common sense prevails in Indonesia, before one of Earth’s most unique and important ecosystems is lost forever.

ALERT urges Indonesian president to protect imperiled forest

ALERT has joined an international effort to urge the outgoing Indonesian President to protect the spectacular Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra -- the only place on Earth where tigers, orangutans, elephants, and rhinoceros still coexist.

Final refuge for a vanishing world

Final refuge for a vanishing world

The Leuser Ecosystem is severely imperiled by massive road-building and development schemes, as well as illegal logging, mining, poaching, and forest burning. 

In December 2013, ALERT issued its very first press release, its first major conservation campaign, and its first international petition drive in support of efforts to protect the Leuser region.

The Leuser conservation campaign is growing -- first with an outpouring of support from scientists, academics, and economists around the world for nominating the Leuser Ecosystem as a World Heritage Site.

Then came the historic Tripa court case -- which levied a massive fine against palm oil company PT Kallista Alam for illegally clearing peat swamp forest in Leuser.  The company's director was sent to prison.

And then a delegation from the European Union visited Aceh to offer the Governor there support for a more sustainable development plan for Aceh, including the Leuser Ecosystem. 

A key focus of these efforts is cancellation of the so-called "Aceh spatial plan", which is seen as a major threat to the region.

ALERT is co-signing an open letter to the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, urging him to cancel the Aceh spatial plan before leaving office next month.

The letter to the President will be featured in a press release in Jakarta next week, on the eve of the U.N. Climate Summit in New York, which the President will be attending.

The President has frequently claimed to support efforts to protect Indonesia's native forests, which have suffered massively in recent decades.  He now has an opportunity to do so -- helping to save a spectacular jewel of Indonesia before the eyes of the world.

Organizations and influential individuals who wish to co-sign the open letter can do so by immediately contacting leuserecosystemwhs@gmail.com.