Think of the timber industry in tropical forests, and the image of heavy machinery reaping large swaths of trees for multinational firms may come to mind.
Indonesia's moratorium on new concessions in primary forest areas and peatlands "completely ignores" the existence of community forestry management licenses, jeopardizing efforts to improve the sustainability of Indonesia's forest sector and ensure benefits from forest use reach local people, say environmental groups.
According to Greenomics-Indonesia, a Jakarta-based NGO, community and village forestry licenses are not among the many exemptions spelled under the presidential instruction that defines the moratorium. The instruction, issued last month, grants exemptions for industrial developers and allows business-as-usual in secondary forest areas by the pulp and paper, mining and palm oil industries.
"The only exceptions in the Presidential Instruction are for big business. In reality, the granting of licenses for community and village forestry development should have been prioritized for exclusion from the moratorium, especially as such activities are not environmentally destructive," said Greenomics Executive Director Effendi Effendi. "This demonstrates beyond doubt that the Presidential Instruction is primarily concerned with promoting the interests of big business."
Unlike industrial plantation development, mining, and logging, community forest management systems in Indonesia typically do not result in deforestation. For example "people's forests" in Java are, for the first time in generations, regrowing. Given a stake in forest ownership, communities in Java have an interest in reforestation for timber production and other benefits afforded by forests.
Deforestation by small-holders in Indonesia is often driven by insecure land tenure — when communities lack clear ownership rights to land, they have little incentive to reject illegal logging or manage forests for the long-term. The model — which has contributed to the abandonment of traditional land stewardship in many areas — has driven large-scale devastation of Indonesia's rich forest ecosystems.
Meanwhile the situation has been exacerbated by Indonesia's system for granting forestry concessions. The bulk of Indonesia's forest is owned by the state, which historically has doled out large concessions — often tens of thousands of hectares in extent — to logging companies. Local communities mostly lose out, leaving some to seek opportunities from illicit timber harvesting.
Now that it has been officially articulated, the moratorium seems to simply extend the status quo, according to Effendi.
"This proves once and for all that the Presidential Instruction fails to take into account the interests of those living in and around the forests."
Beth Gingold and Fred Stolle of the World Resources Institute agree that "the omission of an exemption for community forestry permits... is a major weakness in the decree."
"Community based forest management and monitoring has been recognized as an effective strategy for achieving sustainable forest management and balancing economic, social, and environmental development goals," Gingold and Stolle wrote in an analysis of the moratorium.
Chatham House is assessing the scale and effectiveness of the response to illegal logging and the related trade around the world. Full details of this work, including analysis and data, will be available online soon.