Protecting the forest is our job, says Forestry D-G

PENINSULAR Malaysia Forestry Department director-general Datuk Dr Abd Rahman Abd Rahim stressed that the department was not there to restrict access to the forests but to control and monitor instead.

He said the door to his department was always open, and they welcomed nature-loving individuals and NGOs as long as they engaged with the authorities.

“A Permanent Forest Reserve is a protected area. Just like someone’s house, you have to say ‘hello’ when you enter the house.

“If you enter without permission, it is an offence,” he said.

He explained that the forests in peninsular Malaysia were divided into three categories, one of which was Permanent Forest Reserves that are protected and prohibited areas under the National Forestry Act 1984 (Act 313) to ensure sustainable forest management.

The Forestry Department is the custodian of Permanent Forest Reserves and entry without permit is trespassing and can be penalised under the Act.

The second category is State-land Forests which are on state government reserve land and the Kota Damansara Community Forest falls under this category.

The third category is Alienated Forests which are privately owned.

The latter two categories are governed by the National Land Code and are under the purview of the Land and Mines Department.

Time and again, tragedies happen because members of the public do not bother seeking permission from the department before entering Permanent Forest Reserves, Dr Abd Rahman said, citing the incidences at Bukit Tagar.

He said it would involve only a simple process — writing a letter to the state director-general (the gazetted officer) stating the intention of the visit and giving the department about a week to 14 days to check on the ground for suitability before they give an official response.

“We need to check if it is safe to enter the requested forests.

“Among the factors we consider are rain fall and leptospirosis risk.

“We also want to try to send forest rangers to accompany the visitors,” he said.

Or, just go to one of the 11 functional forests (Hutan Lipur/Taman Rimba — amenity forest/state-park forest) in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur if one finds it too troublesome to apply for entry permits. (See attached infographics)

Dr Abd Rahman said these functional forests constituted only 5% of Permanent Forest Reserves in Peninsular Malaysia but he had no intention to increase the number even if the department was given more resources.

“I would rather use the resources to enhance facilities in the existing functional forests while protecting the rest from intruders.

“The pasar malam culture of the visitors is really a headache, they will just leave their rubbish behind and that is also among the reasons for leptospirosis,” he said.

He said the department would be releasing a directory on functional forests, which would be an upgraded version of a compendium published in 2011 under his directive. The directory will even include information on phone reception and ATM services.

He added that they were also looking into making the permit application available online.

Likewise, he advised non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and nature lovers to engage with the department before building trails and railings in the forests.

“Even with good intentions, volunteers many disturb the stability or ecology of the forests.

“So, please consult the department first,” he said, adding that he had advised state forestry directors to pay close attention to public input.

Related story:
Green space access

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