Washington, D.C. - Two global conservation groups and the U.S. forest products industry have formed a unique partnership to help the tsunami-stricken people of Indonesia rebuild their lives without destroying the already threatened tropical forests of Sumatra.
Under a memorandum of understanding signed by the American Forest & Paper Association, World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International, the partnership will seek donations of U.S. timber to be shipped to Indonesia's Aceh province for use in temporary shelter and in reconstructing homes, schools, hospitals and businesses in the devastated region.
The unusual alliance is a response to Indonesia's appeal for donated building materials, particularly timber, under the government's recent commitment to environmentally sustainable rebuilding. By arranging a supply of donated timber, the partners will help Indonesia in a time of crisis while preventing the increased destruction of unique tropical forest that is habitat for endangered species such as the Sumatran orangutan and Sumatran tiger, as well as some of the highest diversity of plant species on Earth.
"This kind of partnership represents conservation at its best - business and the environment coming together to help people in need and save the endangered rain forests of Sumatra at the same time," said Carter Roberts, Chief Conservation Officer and COO of World Wildlife Fund.
The three organizations are working jointly to mobilize an initial pilot shipment of lumber and plywood from North American sources for use in reconstruction of shelter in Aceh. In addition to requesting contributions of building materials from the American forest products industry, the partners are seeking government or private sector sponsors to cover the costs of shipping donated building products from the United States to Indonesia. AF&PA, CI and WWF also intend to work in collaboration with leading humanitarian relief organizations capable of handling the secure receipt and distribution of donated lumber arriving in Aceh.
"We are conducting the pilot program to ensure that the donated timber will arrive and be used appropriately by those who need it most," said W. Henson Moore, President and CEO of AF&PA. "Once that is established, we will have a proven means to provide a long term supply of responsibly and legally harvested wood for the reconstruction of Aceh. "
The December tsunami hit hardest along Aceh province on Indonesia's island of Sumatra. Greenomics, an Indonesian research institute, estimates that at least 1.1 million cubic meters of logs will be required for reconstruction over the next five years.
Domestic timber harvested from legal Indonesian sources can meet only a small fraction of the demand. Without imported timber, pressure will increase to illegally log the remaining tropical forests, threatening their existence. The loss of such biological treasures and the species they harbor would be a conservation tragedy, and increase the risk of mudslides and flooding that uncontrolled deforestation invariably causes.
"One of the biggest challenges of the 21st century is to provide opportunity and hope for the world's needy, in this case the millions who lost their homes and villages to the tsunami, while protecting the natural assets of biodiversity that are crucial for life on Earth," said CI Chairman and CEO Peter Seligmann. "We recognize that imported timber donations are only one piece of a much larger strategy to assure enduring conservation and sustainable reconstruction in Aceh."