Wednesday, 19th November 2014, three Indonesian men climbed the big stage. The three of them were wearing blue batik, lined up facing around 6,000 delegates from 170 countries who attended the World Parks Congress held by the world conservation agency, IUCN, in Sydney, Australia.
Sukianto Lusli, Yusup Cahyadin, and Agus Budi Utomo were three Indonesian conservation figures who were present to receive the Kenton Miller Award. IUCN gave this prestigious award because the three of them were considered successful in carrying out innovative approaches in the conservation and protection of ecosystems in Indonesia, especially through the Hutan Harapan program in Sumatra.
The idea of restoring productive forest ecosystems was initiated by Sukianto Lusli, former Executive Director of Burung Indonesia, together with Yusup Cahyadi. At that time, the idea was not popular considering Indonesia’s second largest foreign exchange came from wood production in production forests.
The results of a study in 2000 encouraged Burung Indonesia to conserve natural production forest ecosystems. The study stated that Sumatra's lowland forests will soon be depleted if no rescue action is taken. The richness of biodiversity in it is threatened. The community of Suku Anak Dalam—ingenous people—Batin Sembilan was in danger of losing the sky and the ground where their children play in the rain.
Through the advocacy efforts and hard work of the three, the Ministry of Forestry (now: Ministry of Environment and Forestry) issued a decision on the Business Permit for Utilization of Timber Forest Products-Ecosystem Restoration (IUPHHK-RE) in 2004, which allowed the management of natural production forests that are not productive for conservation purposes. It was this permit that opened new hope for the last lowland forest in Sumatra.
The issuance of IUPHHK-RE was recorded in the history of Indonesian forestry because for the first time there was a policy that allowed production forests not to be cut down so that they could function again as ecosystem balancers. However, the permit had to take three years of struggle until finally in 2007 the permit to manage a production forest covering an area of 53,000 hectares in South Sumatra was successfully obtained. PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (REKI) was appointed as the manager.
When Sukianto passed the assignment to Agus, the spirit to expand the ecosystem restoration area prevailed. That spirit came to a fruitful end. In 2010, PT REKI received another permit to manage 50 thousand hectares of production forest in Jambi. These two concession areas are now known as Hutan Harapan.
The Kenton Miller Award is certainly not just any award. It takes excellent leadership values and a passion to innovate in the world of conservation in order to qualify for the award recipients. Sukianto Lusli, Agus Budi Utomo, and Yusup Cahyadi certainly reflect the same spirit as conveyed by Kenton Miller, a conservationist who is passionate about promoting innovation and learning regarding the planning and management of national parks and other protected areas. This award was thus named after him.
The publication of this article is part of a series of publications celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Burung Indonesia. On every 15th of every month in 2017, we will publish various articles about the best achievements that Burung Indonesia has achieved during 15 years of working at the home for 1769 bird species: Indonesia.