This week an important milestone was reached in the effort to save portions of the precious Leuser Ecosytsem in Indonesia.
Covering over 6 million acres of intact lowland and mountainous rainforests The Leuser is considered by many scientists and conservationists to be among the most important forests left in Southeast Asia. It is home to the densest population of orangutans left anywhere, and is the last place on earth where orangutans, tigers, elephants, rhinos and sun bears share the same habitat.
This fragile and irreplaceable ecosystem and the extraordinary life it supports are imminently threatened by industrial development. One of the biggest threats has been the expansion of illegal palm oil plantations within the boundaries of the Leuser Protected Ecosystem. However, local organizations and communities have been fighting back by working to physically remove 25,000 acres of illegal plantations from within the boundaries of Leuser.
The Leuser is also home to carbon-rich peatland swamps, where a consistent layer of water keeps the carbon in the ground and out of the atmosphere. However thanks to the deforestation from the expansion of palm oil plantations, these swamplands are being systematically drained -- releasing a virtual carbon bomb into the atmosphere and making Indonesia one of the biggest carbon polluters on the planet.
But there is hope.
Protect-an-Acre grant recipients Leuser Conservation Forum (FKL) -- led by 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Rudi Putra, and Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh -- recently relayed the news to us that they have been able to convince the local government in Aceh Tamiang to participate in a joint effort to physically remove the illegal plantations in order to allow the natural forest to recover.
This is great news because previous work by these organizations removing over 1,000 acres of these illegal plantations resulted in the return of wildlife, including elephants, to those areas within a very short time period. Communities that live near the Leuser Protected Ecosystem also benefit from this project because the restoration of deforested hillsides will help reduce the threat of flooding and mudslides. Now that local government officials are onboard the remaining plantations targeted by their efforts can be removed.
This week a ceremony was held to begin the work of cutting down the remaining illegal, non-native crops and to launch the restoration process. The LLeuser Conservation Forum (FKL) and Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh teams also sent huge thank you to the RAN community for supporting their work.
You too can help support projects like these that help local community-led efforts to protect rainforests around the world by supporting RAN’s Protect-an-Acre program.
On the night of December 2, 2002, with temperatures below zero, two sisters and young Indigenous mothers from the Grassy Narrows First Nation drove from their reserve, located in the southern fringe of the vast Boreal Forest in northern Ontario, to a logging road just a few miles from their home and felled trees over the road to protest unwanted logging on their land. Their protest was the spark that ignited their small community of 1,000 to launch the longest standing logging blockade in North America, which continues to this day.
In June 2008, the people of Grassy Narrows celebrated victory when AbitibiBowater (now Resolute Forest Products), one of the largest paper companies in the world, agreed to stop logging on 1 million acres of Grassy Narrows traditional territory in the Whiskey Jack Forest. However, in late 2013, Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources finalized and approved a new 10-year Forest Management Plan, which again calls for clear-cutting forests on Grassy Narrows territory without consent.
To help address this latest threat, RAN’s Protect-an-Acre program is supporting a project being led by Asubpeeschoseewagong Oshkaadiziwag Kagobewat-- a community-led group whose name translates to Grassy Narrows Youth Organization. GNYO is a new organization formed by Indigenous youth and have been participating in the Grassy Narrows blockade for years and learning skills at annual youth gatherings where Elders have taught traditional skills and knowledge about how to use the land and to help reclaim Anishinaabe culture and continue the struggle against unwanted logging. Some GNYO members were not yet teenagers when RAN began supporting these efforts by the Grassy Narrows community.
This grant is supporting the Save Keys Lake Campaign, which has the goal of removing the Keys Lake cut block from the logging plan and to have it declared a protected area. This campaign is intended to serve as a catalyst for GNYO to build confidence and capacity. In planning and running the campaign, a new group of Indigenous youth are getting the opportunity to put into place various traditional organizing models, build relationships in the community, continue to learn traditional skills from Elders and to establish themselves as leaders in their community.
This campaign is part of the overall “trapline strategy” being employed by Grassy Narrows, which seeks to combine land protection and cultural resurgence as a single process through building traditional structures on family traplines to demonstrate ongoing use of land throughout Grassy Narrows territory. The big picture goal is to leverage the Save Keys Lake Campaign together with other community-led efforts in order to force the outright cancellation of the 10-year Forest Management Plan.
Since 1993, RAN’s Protect-an-Acre program (PAA) has distributed more than one million dollars in grants to more than 150 frontline communities, Indigenous-led organizations, and allies, helping their efforts to secure protection for millions of acres of traditional territory in forests around the world.
Rainforest Action Network believes that Indigenous peoples are the best stewards of the world’s rainforests and that frontline communities organizing against the extraction and burning of dirty fossil fuels deserve the strongest support we can offer. RAN established the Protect-an-Acre program to protect the world’s forests and the rights of their inhabitants by providing financial aid to traditionally under-funded organizations and communities in forest regions.
Indigenous and frontline communities suffer disproportionate impacts to their health, livelihood and culture from extractive industry mega-projects and the effects of global climate change. That’s why Protect-an-Acre provides small grants to community-based organizations, Indigenous federations and small NGOs that are fighting to protect millions of acres of forest and keep millions of tons of CO2 in the ground.
Our grants support organizations and communities that are working to regain control of and sustainably manage their traditional territories through land title initiatives, community education, development of sustainable economic alternatives, and grassroots resistance to destructive industrial activities.
PAA is an alternative to “buy-an-acre” programs that seek to provide rainforest protection by buying tracts of land, but which often fail to address the needs or rights of local Indigenous peoples. Uninhabited forest areas often go unprotected, even if purchased through a buy-an-acre program. It is not uncommon for loggers, oil and gas companies, cattle ranchers, and miners to illegally extract resources from so-called “protected” areas.
Traditional forest communities are often the best stewards of the land because their way of life depends upon the health of their environment. A number of recent studies <-Needs link add to the growing body of evidence that Indigenous peoples are better protectors of their forests than governments or industry.
Based on the success of Protect-an-Acre, RAN launched The Climate Action Fund (CAF) in 2009 as a way to direct further resources and support to frontline communities and Indigenous peoples challenging the fossil fuel industry.
Additionally, RAN has been a Global Advisor to Global Greengrants Fund (GGF) since 1995, identifying recipients for small grants to mobilize resources for global environmental sustainability and social justice using the same priority and criteria as we use for PAA and CAF.
Through these three programs each year we support grassroots projects that result in at least:
- 10,000 acres of forest, held in customary ownership by Indigenous groups, is entered into the process of securing official land title recognition, providing communities with legal grounds to protect their traditional territories.
- 10,000 trees planted, often as buffer zones around protected areas and/or as part of income and resource-generating permaculture projects that help stop land degradation.
Truck carrying raw logs in Myanmar. Photo courtesy of the EIA.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has released a shocking new report, Data Corruption: Exposing the true scale of logging in Myanmar, detailing pervasive illegality and controversy connected with forestry in Myanmar.
Based on forestry and trade data, the report exposes widespread illegal logging, timber smuggling, and government corruption within Myanmar. This information from the Myanmar Government points to billions of dollars worth of illegal logging and timber exports each year.
Official export figures for 2000-13 suggest that 72% of log shipments from Myanmar were illegal. This level of illegal logging activity points to large-scale, institutional corruption.
Furthermore, EIA research shows that these crimes have been occurring throughout the country, including in areas fully under the control of the Myanmar Timber Enterprise.
This activity mirrors many of the practices underway in other parts of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia. Across many countries without strong forest governance, concessions are linked to corruption and other irresponsible forest management practices. Purchasing illegal timber is in direct violation of the Lacey Act and creates great risk not just for the forests, but for customers as well.
The Government of Myanmar has acknowledged these issues by proposing a log export ban to start April 1, 2014, an attempt to curb the vast rate at which the country’s forests have been looted and sold.
We stand by EIA, and encourage the Government of Myanmar to vigorously enforce the log export ban, effective earlier this month, and significantly increase transparency in the management of forest resources.
It’s time for Myanmar to stop favoring established cronies and ensure civil society involvement in the planned restructuring of the Forestry Ministry. Myanmar must investigate and prosecute companies or Government officials involved in illegal logging and timber smuggling.
|1. WALL STREET TURNS ITS BACK ON MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL COAL MINING Eight of Wall Street’s biggest banks committed to limit funding to mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining projects. This was a major step in curbing the practice of blowing up America’s historic mountains and poisoning drinking water all for tiny seams of coal. This particular victory also landed RAN in a front-page article in The New York Times.|
|2. EIGHT BOOK PUBLISHERS PROTECT INDONESIA’S RAINFORESTS Eight top children’s book publishers pledged to eliminate controversial Indonesian paper fiber from suppliers Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) from their supply chains after RAN released our “Rainforest-Safe Kids’ Books” scorecard.|
|3. GENERAL MILLS LEADS CALL FOR RESPONSIBLE PALM OIL RAN’s campaign against General Mills concluded in September 2010 when the company issued one of the strongest palm policies to date. General Mills has committed itself to getting all of its palm oil from responsible sources by 2015, supporting the call for a moratorium on peat forest conversion, requiring free prior and informed consent (FPIC) from impacted communities, and canceling contracts with controversial suppliers.|
|4. CHEVRON MARKETING CAMPAIGN PUNK’D RAN “punk’d” Chevron, squashing the launch of the oil giant’s multimillion-dollar “We Agree” ad campaign. Ad Age called it one of the top 10 marketing fiascoes of the year, along with the flight attendant who inflated the slide on a JetBlue plane, the Apple employee who lost his Iphone4 prototype, and Christine O’Donnell.|
|5. CARGILL GETS REAL ABOUT RAINFORESTS After being the target of three years of campaigning, Cargill, the world’s largest privately owned corporation, initiated a full supply chain assessment as well as certification audits of all its palm oil plantations. That's one big step forward for this corporate giant!|
|6. EPA TAKES A STAND ON MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL The EPA issued a landmark decision strengthening the guidelines it uses to approve MTR permits. This was the most significant administrative action yet taken in the US to address the issue. The EPA also announced its intent to veto the permit for the largest MTR mine site in West Virginia, Spruce Mine. This is the first time the EPA has flexed its veto power.|
|7. GUNNS TIMBER COMPANY STOPS LOGGING OLD GROWTH Australian timber giant Gunns broke ranks with Tasmania’s forest industry, stating that it will pull out of native old-growth forest logging altogether.|
|8. UNITED STATES ENDORSES UNDRIP With President Barack Obama’s announcement in December that the United States will “lend its support” to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the U.S. has at last joined the global consensus on this critical human rights issue. Activists across the country have been working towards this for over 30 years. But, as many Indigenous leaders are saying, the U.S. supporting UNDRIP is something to celebrate, but much work remains to be done.|
|9. RAINFOREST ACTION NETWORK TURNS 25 IN STYLE For the last 25 years, RAN has taken on corporate titans and secured real wins for the forests, climate and human rights. While our strategies have evolved and our staff has grown, we’ve always maintained the bold edge and nimble approach that makes us one of the savviest environmental action groups in the country.|
|10. HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS TAKE ACTION TO HOLD CORPORATIONS ACCOUNTABLE Over the year, RAN inspired and mobilized literally hundreds of thousands of people to take action both online and offline. In addition to our incredible, ever-expanding activist and donor networks, RAN’s Facebook community tripled in 2010 and @RAN’s Twitter following grew by five times. This means tens of thousands of people are staying up-to-date and taking action daily to protect forests, communities and the climate.|
Happy World Rainforest Week![caption id="attachment_9209" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Indonesian Rainforest, Sumatra. Photo courtesy of RAN"][/caption] How will YOU celebrate rainforests from October 17-24? Please add your ideas, activities, and commitments as a comment to this blog to keep our thoughts and actions fresh with new ways to think global and act local. Here are some ideas from our staff, friends, and activist like YOU about how they will be honoring and sharing the beauty and importance of our world's precious rainforests all week (and beyond!)
1 Be A Rainforest HeroVisit RainforestHeroes.com with the kids and youth in your life to learn about rainforests and their awesome inhabitants. Sign up for yourself or your class to be Rainforest Heroes today! [caption id="attachment_9316" align="aligncenter" width="313" caption="Rainforest Heroes"][/caption]
2 Watch GreenWatch the films GREEN and Orang-Rimba: Happiness Lies in the Forest with your friends or family. GREEN is a powerful, beautiful film that documents orangutan habitat loss in Indonesia through the eyes of one of its victims. The second film documents the impacts of deforestation on Indigenous Peoples, such as the nomadic Orang Rimba who live in the Jambi and Riau provinces of Sumatra. Then, write a letter to one of the companies destroying Indonesia's rainforests telling them to change their practices.
3 BreatheTake a deep breath. Know that rainforests produce 20% of the oxygen we breath. Say thanks!
4 Meet Tiki
- Become friends with Tiki the Tiger on Facebook
- Follow Tiki on Twitter
- Sign Tiki the Tiny Tiger's petition
- Visit TikiTheTiger.com to learn about the cutest, tiniest Sumatran Tiger in the whole wide world- and how YOU can help save his rainforest home.
5 Eat Rainforest FoodIncorporate sustainably-harvested rainforest foods into a meal and savor a taste of what incredible (and delicious) plants have evolved in such biodiverse tropical areas!
6 Love Indonesia's RainforestsJoin our We Love Indonesia's Rainforests Facebook fan page [caption id="attachment_9317" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Zapara Elder, Ecuador. Photo courtesty of RAN."] [/caption]
7 Protect An AcreDonate to RAN's Protect-an-Acre fund. PAA is a small grants program which contributes directly to forest communities struggling to protect their rainforest homelands and the natural-resource base on which these communities rely. Learn about the Zapara People of the Ecuadorian Amazon, our featured PAA grant.
8 Sleuth at the StoreSleuth out Rainforest-Safe Books at your local bookstore with our free, easy-to-download Sleuth toolkit.
9 Get There Without ChevronSkip the gas station (especially Chevron), ride your bike, walk or take the bus. Learn about what Chevron has dumped in the Amazon and tell Chevron to take responsibility and CLEAN UP ECUADOR.
10 Be Brilliant
We want to hear your ideas for how to celebrate World Rainforest Week. Please comment below and let us know how you intend to especially celebrate rainforests this week!
The Kampar is among the deepest and most valuable peat forest ecosystems in the world. Not only does it provide carbon storage, it is customary land that supports the livelihoods of local communities and it serves as critical habitat for endangered Sumatran tigers and many other species. Although RAN hasn’t seen the details behind this announcement, it’s likely that the area in question should be illegal to clear in the first place. Any further development in this or other parts of the Kampar and neighboring peatlands and natural forests should certainly be subject to the moratorium on new licenses due to be adopted in January as part of the agreement on reducing deforestation and forest degradation between the Governments of Indonesia and Norway. While we support the conservation of the Kampar, this project in no way makes up for the tremendous amount of damage that APP and its affiliates are having on communities rainforests and peatlands across Indonesia. This area represents a small proportion of the remaining natural forests and peatlands in their land bank and without action to protect other threatened areas in the Kampar and elsewhere, the area’s values could be lost and any emissions reductions rendered meaningless due to leakage. APP’s conservation efforts are a drop in the bucket compared to the destruction that their standard business practices are causing across Indonesia. Under no circumstances should APP be praised or compensated for doing something that they should have been doing in the first place. A critical question that needs to be answered in this situation, is whether or not local communities and governments know that this is happening and have a meaningful role in decision-making. If we don’t know that, it’s unclear where benefits will flow from this deal and how durable it will be. RAN maintains that if these types of conservation projects are to be successful, they must have the free, prior and informed consent of local communities and these communities must participate and receive an equitable share of the benefits. What’s really good here is that the Ministry of Forests is stepping up to change the designation of this land use from “clear and convert” to “restore and protect.” If it’s done in the right way, involving communities and avoiding leakage, it could be an important precedent for Indonesia’s government. If Indonesia is going to live up to their agreement with Norway, the government must re-designate licenses somehow and APP holds a lot of concessions with peat and natural forests. We urge the government to involve local communities, settle land claims and, as they appear to be doing with this agreement, and to reallocate all remaining undeveloped peatlands and natural forests to restoration/conservation areas. Finally, this project is a great example of why, before they package carbon as a commodity, private carbon traders should adopt fundamental social and environmental safeguards and require their clients to verify that they’re not involved in the destruction of peatlands and natural forests across all their land holdings.Thought the jury's still out on how this project will land- given APP's track record of deception, corruption and destruction- don't hold your breath.