Peace in Aceh Has Opened Previous 'No-Go' Areas to Logging

Aceh’s Leuser ecosystem suffered considerable damage from logging during the 1980s. Intensified conflict after the late 1980d made it largely impossible for logging concessionaires to keep operating. But with peace restored, previously inaccessible areas of forest have opened up once more.

Post-tsunami reconstruction is driving up the need for timber. Aceh reconstruction requires an estimated 1.4 million cubic feet of lumber, outstripping legal supplies. But few of the international aid groups in Aceh have the expertise to ensure that they are not buying timber cut illegally. Lumber prices have jumped, forcing delays and suspensions in some construction efforts.

The Leuser ecosystem has some of the richest rain forests in Southeast Asia and is home to endangered species. Mike Griffiths, who helped found the private Leuser International Foundation in 1994, told reporters from the U.S. National Public Radio that “If you lose the Leuser ecosystem, you don’t only lose the last real chance for the tiger, for the orangutan, for the elephant and for the rhino. You lose the basic foundations for the welfare of 4 million people—that is how many rely on this place for water, flood protection and erosion protection.”

According to the Leuser International Foundation, at least 120,000 metric tons of illegal logs were trucked out to Medan, Sumatra’s biggest city, in 2005. The biggest threats to Leuser are logging of valuable tropical hardwoods, oil palm plantations, and roads that facilitate growing human encroachment and slice the habitats of animal populations.

The Leuser International Foundation’s Mike Griffiths hopes to establish buffer zones around the periphery of Leuser that will allow some logging and plantations while protecting the core of the ecosystem.

Michael Casey, “Tsunami Boosts Illegal Indonesia Logging,” Associated Press, 5 August 2006.
Michael Sullivan, “The Green Heart of Sumatra,” Radio Expeditions, National Public Radio, 8 August 2006.