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Indonesian Court shuts down legal challenge to Aceh land-use plan

​29 November 2016 / Mongabay.com

A defeat for those who had hoped to secure the protected status of the archipelago country’s Leuser Ecosystem, one of the region’s last great swaths of intact rainforest.

Indonesian court shuts down legal challenge to Aceh land-use plan

  • The Central Jakarta District Court ruled against a class-action lawsuit filed by nine plaintiffs from Indonesia’s westernmost Aceh province.
  • The lawsuit had asked the court to force the Aceh government to include the nationally protected Leuser Ecosystem in its allegedly illegal land-use plan.
  • The Aceh government has characterized Leuser’s protected status as an imposition on its right to develop and argued that it can zone the province how it likes, without Jakarta’s approval.
  • The plaintiffs said they would appeal.

In a blow to rainforest conservation on Indonesia’s main western island of Sumatra, a court today dismissed a class-action lawsuit aiming to force the Aceh provincial government to mention the Leuser Ecosystem in its land-use plan.

The decision is a major roadblock for conservationists across the world and for citizens of Aceh who had hoped to secure the protected status of what is one of the archipelago country’s last great swaths of intact rainforest, home to critically endangered rhinos, tigers, elephants and orangutans.

Five million people rely for clean water on Leuser’s forests, which also constitute a bulwark against natural disasters. Deforestation in Aceh Tamiang district, for example, caused flash floods that displaced tens of thousands of people in 2006.

International notoriety around the plan to undermine Leuser’s protected status increased earlier this year when Leonardo DiCaprio visited the area and was threatened with deportation after calling for its conservation on social media. The rainforest was featured in DiCaprio’s recent documentary about climate change, “Before the Flood.”

From 2001-2014, the region comprising the Leuser Ecosystem lost 145,000 hectares of tree cover, according to Global Forest Watch data. This includes both deforestation and tree plantation harvesting. The region lost around 63,000 hectares of primary forest, which is about 3 percent of its primary forest cover.
From 2001-2014, the region comprising the Leuser Ecosystem lost 145,000 hectares of tree cover, according to Global Forest Watch data. This includes both deforestation and tree plantation harvesting. The region lost around 63,000 hectares of primary forest, which is about 3 percent of its primary forest cover.

The central government in Jakarta has designated the Leuser Ecosystem as a “national strategic area.” But the Aceh government has ignored that mandate on the grounds that its “special territory” status, earned after a decades-long separatist war, allows it to zone the province how it wants.

Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah’s administration has characterized the protected status as an imposition from Jakarta that undermines the province’s right to develop.

The plaintiffs argued that the Aceh government had broken the law by failing both to obtain Jakarta’s approval for the plan and to legitimately consult with the public before pushing it through.

Leonardo DiCaprio, right, posted this photo on his Instagram page after his visit to Leuser last weekend. Farwiza Farhan, left, chairs Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh (HAkA), an NGO, and Rudi Putra, center, is a biologist who received the prestigious Goldman Prize in 2014.
Leonardo DiCaprio, right, posted this photo on his Instagram page after his visit to Leuser last weekend. Farwiza Farhan, left, chairs Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh (HAkA), an NGO, and Rudi Putra, center, is a biologist who received the prestigious Goldman Prize in 2014.

The Central Jakarta District Court based its decision on its determination that Leuser did not need to be included in the land-use plan because it was already zoned as a conservation area. Such areas are protected from development unless the Ministry of Environment and Forestry chooses to open to them up.

The court also asserted that a class-action suit cannot be used to challenge a provincial zoning law, because that is the domain of Indonesia’s Constitutional Court. Plaintiff Farwiza Farhan disputed that logic because her side had only asked the court to force the Aceh government to include the Leuser Ecosystem in the plan, not to cancel it entirely.

“We will definitely appeal,” Farhan, who also chairs Forest, Nature and Environment of Aceh (HAkA), an NGO, told Mongabay.

Every kid in a park initiative via Wilderness Society

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Students hold their “Every Kid in a Park” passes, which grant fourth graders and their families free public land access for a full year.

 

Credit: Department of the Interior, flickr.

America is celebrating the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016 by trying to get more kids playing and learning outdoors. We’re proud to support President Obama’s “Every Kid in a Park” initiative as part of that effort.

Hundreds of millions of Americans visit our beloved national parks each year, but that doesn’t mean everyone is getting in on the action. Modern kids tend to spend less time outside and more time glued to a television or other screens, and too many at-risk kids and marginalized communities of color are likely to miss out on the wonders of our public lands.  

More on Every Kid in a Park and the benefits of outdoor play

That’s why President Barack Obama’s Every Kid in a Park initiative, which officially launched in September 2015, is so important. This project aims to get more kids playing and learning outdoors by providing 4th grade students and their families free admission to all national parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year, plus educational resources for students and teachers. Additionally, nearly half-a-million kids will have their school trips to national parks paid for. More than 1,000 events and field trips have already been held to support the Every Kid in a Park initiative. 

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Not enough kids get the chance to explore our public lands and enjoy nature, a deficit that Every Kid in a Park aims to address. Credit: Alejandro De La Cruz, flickr.

The Wilderness Society is proud to be a part of the Every Kid in a Park initiative through the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, and part of the national effort break down barriers and connect more young Americans with their wild places.  

Guest blog: Why getting kids outdoors helps to protect wilderness

Throughout the spring–going through May–Every Kid in a Park has been hosting events across the country to help kids connect with special wild places. Check the Outdoors Alliance for Kids website to learn more about the Every Kid in a Park “Spring Tour.” 

If you know a fourth grade student, ask their teacher whether the school will be offering an Every Kid in a Park activity during the year. You can also ask a park ranger from your local park about Every Kid in a Park programs in the area.  

More: 12 incredibly kid-friendly national parks