Indonesia: Rehabilitation of Fire-affected Forests in East Kalimantan (IFFN No. 23)

Rehabilitation of Fire-affected Forests in East Kalimantan

(IFFN No. 23 – December 2000, p. 41-44)

Guiding Principles

After the 1997/98 fires, the project “Promotion of Sustainable Forest Management in East Kalimantan (SFMP)” developed a concept for the rehabilitation of fire-affected areas, which is in line with valid criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management (FSC, Lembaga Ekolabel Indonesia – LEI). This became necessary because since 40% of SFMP’s partner concession PT Limbang Ganeca was burnt and many other concessions faced a similar fate in East Kalimantan. The guiding principles for rehabilitation activities are basically:

SFM Principles for the Rehabilitation of Fire-affected Forests:

    • Maintaining the forest area
    • Sustainable management of forest resources:

Economically sound management targets should be defined and agreed to by the concession’s stakeholders giving consideration to the local conditions and forest functions. Appropriate silvicultural treatments should be performed to reach these management targets.

    • Ecological Sustainability

Management targets should be directed towards the type of forest that is native to the area. Silviculture activities should have minimal negative effects on the remaining stand and soil and should prioritize:

  • Management of the residual stand
  • Natural regeneration
  • Mixed planting using local species suitable to the site
    • Forest Protection:

The forest is the foremost asset so it must be protected from pests, disease, illegal logging, fire and other disturbances.

    • Community participation

to increase community welfare through benefits from forest resources and support efforts to protect the forest.

Main Technical Aspects

The technical steps listed in Table 1 need to be accompanied by organizational adjustments. Depending on the size of the area affected, rehabilitation projects can mean huge changes to the organizational structure of logging concessions: a significant amount of manpower needs to be added and trained. Furthermore, it requires a gradual shift from a functional towards a regional organizational structure. In the end, a paradigm shift from loggers to planters needs to take place.

Local people’s participation becomes a more and more pressing demand in Indonesia’s era reformasi even for once powerful timber concessionaires and so for future rehabilitation schemes. A lot of models are meanwhile under discussion, which are not yet consolidated and some of them are already subject to misuse. These models range from hiring local labourers or cooperatives as contractors via participatory buffer zone activities to granting shares to local cooperatives. In the partner concession, a participatory buffer zone scheme mainly outside of permanent production forest is presently under discussion, while hiring local cooperatives and labourers faces difficulties due to differing livelihood schemes of the surrounding population.

Tab.1. Main technical aspects of rehabilitation of fire-affected forest. Source: G. Weinland, c/o Forestry Department Headquarters Peninsular Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.

  1. Orientation Survey
  • Delineation of burnt areas using Landsat or Radar satellite images
  • Orientation survey to assess the degree of damage, the potential of the residual stand and the potential for salvage felling. Design: line-plot sampling survey, Unit of assessment: whole partner concession area (burned and unburned) as a basis to adjust the annual allowable cut to a sustainable level
  1. Master Plan Formulation
  • Definition of areas and goals for salvage felling / rehabilitation
  • Time and spatial arrangement of areas for rehabilitation
  • Fuel break planning: along main roads, particularly in fire-prone areas. Fire strips are to be planted with fire-resistant species (e.g. Gmelina arborea) or, if closer to settlements, with agro-forestry and plantation crops to be managed by local people
  1. Salvage Felling
  • Aim: utilization of dead, but usable timber before it is rotten
  • Simplified procedure compared to the conventional Indonesian selective cutting and planting system (TPTI) to save time
  • In the partner concession, reduced impact logging was introduced in order to reduce the damage to the residual stand and thus, reducing the area in need for rehabilitation
  1. Rehabilitation Planning
  • Done per compartment (100ha) and sub-compartment (˜ 25ha) by extensive inspection from existing roads, which are to be used with natural boundaries as sub-compartment boundaries
  • Criteria for silvicultural treatments:

Forest Condition
Silvicultural treatment

Non-burnt, lightly burned areas and areas with sufficient living trees (>25 trees / ha >10cm dbh)

No planting, but natural regeneration

Sufficient commercial Non-Dipterocarps available (>100 trees / ha)
Enrichment planting with Dipterocarps (100–200 trees / ha)

Pioneer vegetation not available or smaller than 1m
Planting postponed for one year

Pioneer vegetation higher than 1 m
Ready for planting with Dipterocarps (200 – 400 trees / ha)

  • (Re-)marking of compartment boundaries
  • Species choice and mixture: faster-growing native species should be reflected in the species choice using previous inventories as information source, if available. In each sub-compartment, at least 2 to 5 species should be planted. Each species is to be planted in strips e.g. 3 to5 planting lines wide
  1. Plant Production
  • Adjustment of nursery capacities considering as well the time needed for plant production (4 to 6 months)
  • Sources of plant material: seeds, wildings and cuttings
  • Dipterocarp seeds and wildings need to be acquired from outside, since most of the mother trees and seed stands are burnt and there was no flowering season since the fires
  • Production of seedlings for the fuel breaks
  1. Planting, Weeding and Tending
  • Dipterocarps planting without intensive site preparation only by opening up planting lines. Green spots and areas with still existing mother trees are spared out
  • Weeding and tending is to be done intensively in the first years in order to ensure the success of the plantation
  • Fire breaks are planted densely after intensive site preparation

Frame Conditions and Risks for Successful Rehabilitation Schemes

After the 1997/98 fires, the Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops (MoFEC) ordered the concessionaires to rehabilitate the burnt areas. SFMP contributed significantly to the development of such a policy. However, it was enacted with delay and its implementation is hampered by overall problems related to law enforcement in Indonesia. The uncertainty of keeping a concession at all is another fact, which significantly hampers the willingness of concessionaires to conduct such long-term investments, since the government is presently embarking on restructuring the concession landscape. Apart from this, an increasing number of land claims on concession land requires to be handled in a partner-like way. However, until now, both, companies and the government are rather confused how to approach this. The project tries to assist here in developing a participatory boundary determination process.

Fire provides another increasing risk in the future, given global warmth, changes in the regional climate and a huge amount of fuel after the 1997/98 fires. This requires integrated company- and community-based forest fire management systems, which are presently developed by the Integrated Forest Fire Management (IFFM) Project.

Given the huge size of the area in need for rehabilitation, funding becomes a prevalent issue to make rehabilitation efforts feasible. Based on project inputs, MoFEC introduced a compulsory “levy and grant” of 8 US$ per m3 for salvaged timber, which is to be used for rehabilitation purposes in the concession. This scheme, however, covers only those concessions where salvage felling was carried out. For other areas, other schemes need to be developed. One option could be to make “Clean Development Mechanisms” for carbon sequestration available for rehabilitation efforts.

Project Strategy

After the fires, SFMP immediately started the discussion and the activities with the partner company and with MoFEC to deal with the aftermath of the 1997/98 fires. Meanwhile, technical guidelines for the orientation survey, for salvage felling and for rehabilitation in concession areas were developed and partly issued as government decrees. The central and the provincial government are assisted in policy development and in raising awareness about the scope of the problem by building on the experience gained in the field.

Together with the partner concession, technical procedures are refined while trying them out. Hard, but extremely useful lessons are learnt in a permanent dialogue with the partner company’s management about the practical and the political obstacles and implications to put such a long-term efforts into practice. Gradually, support for sustainable forest management and certification increases and thus, the motivation for rehabilitation activities. In the future, these valuable experiences can be increasingly shared with other concessionaires.

Contact address:

Gottfried von Gemmingen
Promotion of Sustainable Forest Management in East Kalimantan Project (SFMP)
P.O.Box 1087
Samarinda 75001 KalTim

Tel: +62-0541-733434
Fax: +62-0541-733437


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