Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Reduced Impact Logging in Indonesia

Learn more about Bambang and how surprisingly simple changes can yield more intact forests, healthier and happier local villagers, and more trees sequestering carbon and fighting climate change.

Protecting Berau's Forests

The Nature Conservancy is working throughout the Berau district to develop a road map for creating direct economic incentives to maintain forests.


"The Government of Indonesia highly supports the Berau Forest Carbon Program." 

Dr. Ing. Ir. Hadi Daryanto, the Secretary General of Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry

By CJ Hudlow 

In rain boots and a red hard hat, Bambang Wahyudi hoofs his way through the Bornean forest. It’s not raining, but he’s spent enough time in these forests to know that it always pays to be prepared.

Over the course of his 20-year career in the logging industry, Bambang Wahyudi learned everything there is to know about conventional logging. He also saw the negative impacts of over-harvesting the forest — from the destruction of vital wildlife habitat to the impoverishment of local communities.

Bambang knew there had to be a better way.

That led him to join The Nature Conservancy. He's now helping his country find a better way to live off their forests without losing them forever.

Today Bambang is helping refine and promote a promising solution: reduced-impact logging (RIL). Surprisingly simple changes to how a company logs a forest can yield more intact forests, cleaner water, healthier and happier local villagers and — on a global scale — more trees sequestering carbon and fighting climate change.

Cleaning Up a Dirty Job

Working for a logging company in Indonesia is not an easy job: it often entails long, hard hours in hot and humid conditions, months away from your family in remote areas and exposure to dangerous diseases like malaria and dengue fever. But it's a regular source of income in a region where livelihood options are limited.

Logging — compounded by mining and the rapidly growing oil palm industry — is carving away huge swaths of the region's forests at a rate faster than anywhere else on Earth. Since 1990, more than 64 million acres of Indonesia’s forests have been cleared — an area larger than the state of Oregon.

Given that deforestation around the world accounts for about 15 percent of carbon and other heat-trapping pollutants each year, forest loss in Indonesia is a global issue. Indonesia is a leading emitter of carbon — and 80 percent of Indonesia’s emissions are due to deforestation.

Healthy Forests for Healthy People

Bambang is now teaching loggers in the 5.4 million-acre Berau district on the island of Borneo to reduce their impact on forests mirroring similar Conservancy work in California and Bolivia.

Companies participating in RIL target only commercially valuable trees, taking care not to damage young trees and other nearby species when felling and extracting timber. That helps the forest — and carbon stores — regenerate more quickly.

“This approach benefits the livelihoods of the local communities — it keeps river water clean,” explains Bambang. “This means fresh fish remain for villagers, and animals and plants remain in the forest where they belong.”

“We get all of our medicine from the forest. The roofs of our buildings, our huts on the field, they all came from the forest. So our lives depend on the forest,” says Lung Bu, village leader of Long Oking — a village inside the Berau district.

“My hope is that the local communities will be a player to manage their own forests with their local wisdom for the purpose of continuing their livelihoods,” Bambang says.

While Bambang’s on-the-ground work with RIL is earning exciting local results, it is also part of the Conservancy’s global-scale efforts to stem deforestation and fight climate change.

Local Trees, Global Significance

The Conservancy is working throughout the Berau district and regionally in East Kalimantan to develop a roadmap for creating direct economic incentives to maintain the forests.

This effort — one of the most ambitious of its kind globally — is also a key component of the Conservancy’s strategy to prove the worth of concepts and policies being globally discussed as climate change solutions.

The approach is called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD)+ and it's about providing alternatives to over-harvesting forests. Instead of locking up trees, the idea is to protect them in a way that brings direct benefits to the communities, logging companies and governments.

The Conservancy-supported REDD+ project in Berau — which includes RIL and multiple other carbon emission reduction strategies — will likely be the biggest effort to protect a forest for its carbon in the world. And success in Indonesia could spur other nations to introduce carbon conservation programs that reward them for keeping their forests intact while strengthening local economies.

Berau is one of four official pilot projects to be included in the Indonesian government's REDD+ program, which was cause for both celebration and hope at the recent Copenhagen climate talks.

“Indonesia is showing important leadership through its support of this program," says Andrew Deutz, the Conservancy's Director of International Government Relations. "By confronting these challenges in a comprehensive way, the Berau program is finding solutions for reducing deforestation emissions that will provide clear examples to the rest of the world.”

“The Government of Indonesia highly supports the Berau Forest Carbon Program,” says Dr. Ing. Ir. Hadi Daryanto, the Secretary General of Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry. “In this readiness phase of REDD+, the program has offered significant lessons learned from a ranging of activities that have already been implemented on the ground, including improving forest management, mapping of local communities and the development of carbon accounting and other processes that improve spatial planning and governance. All of these experiences can help move Indonesia down a pathway towards national success in the implementation of REDD+.” 

If forest destruction worldwide accounts for 15 percent of the problem, protecting woodlands could represent nearly 15 percent of the solution.

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