KOTA KINABALU: Sabah foresters will be keeping a watchful eye on helicopter logging activities at Gunung Rara bordering the Maliau Basin rainforest – an area dubbed “the Lost World”.
Chief conservator of Sabah Forests Datuk Sam Mannan said Maliau Basin would be safe from logging in the 15,000ha Gunung Rara Forest Reserve.
The reserve borders Maliau Basin, the internationally renowned conservation area on the east coast of Tawau and one of the remaining untouched forests on the planet.
“Maliau Basin is safe. It is being watched every day,” he said, in an effort to allay growing concerns over the move by the state government to allow Yayasan Sabah to resume logging in the concession areas close to Maliau.
“Any usage of old roads and landings in the buffer zones with Maliau is subject to strict conditions of the Maliau Basin Management Committee, if there is such a common boundary,” he said in a statement.
Mannan said that although helicopter harvesting was expensive, the state government “wants it used as it is the best method”.
He said such an airborne system reduces ground surface damage to just 5%, compared to 70% for conventional tractor logging or 35% for reduced impact logging.
Helicopter logging involves removing cut logs by cable from the air, reducing the infrastructure and trail-cutting needed for ground transportation of timber.
“The soil surface determines the forest regeneration. With little disturbance, re-occupation for regeneration (will be) rapid,” Mannan said.
Among the conditions for logging at Gunung Rara is strict adherence to environmental impact assessment findings, he added.
He said to ensure transparency, the state government had engaged independent international firm Global Forestry Services since 2009 to audit all logging operations.
Any infringements would be detected early for rectification or punitive action, he stressed.
Mannan said all harvesting of timber beyond 250-degree slopes was done only by helicopter logging which was used successfully in Kalabakan in 2014 but stopped owing to poor markets as well Sabah’s policy of turning more forests into totally protected forests (TPA).
Residual forests that can still be logged today in this manner have been reduced to 15,000ha, while 750,000ha of Yayasan Sabah’s 1.1-million-hectare concession area have been turned into TPAs.
“Almost all the virgin forests have been locked up for posterity,” Mannan said.