11.19.08

Statement On Agreement To Protect Forests And Wildlife In Sumatra

Mr. President, I want to take a moment to call attention to the Government of Indonesia’s recent action to preserve the endangered rain forests and ecosystems of Sumatra.

 

On October 10, 2008, the Indonesian Government, in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), announced an agreement between the 10 provincial governors of Sumatra to protect biodiversity on the world’s sixth largest island.  Although long overdue, this is an important first step towards conservation of a unique habitat at a critical time.

 

Sumatra is the only place on earth where tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans co-exist.  It has also gained a reputation for having lost almost half of its natural forest cover since 1985.  The rapid expansion of palm oil and pulpwood plantations, as well as rampant illegal logging, have been largely to blame.  These activities have contributed to the precipitous decline in numbers of these endangered species, whose habitat has become a patchwork of disconnected small parcels of forest.

 

This action to protect the forests is important not only for Indonesia, but for the rest of the world.  Thirteen percent of Indonesia’s remaining forests grow on peat soil, which emits large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when trees are felled.  Further destruction of these forests will contribute to global warming at a time when we should be doing everything possible to reduce greenhouse gases.

 

This agreement represents a significant change of attitude and policy, for which President Yudhoyono and his government deserve credit.  Implementing the agreement will be difficult, requiring additional resources for alternative economic opportunities for people living in these areas, and for enforcement, and I urge the U.S. Agency for International Development and other donors to support it. 

 

# # # # #

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693