KOTA KINABALU: The next phase for the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative in Sabah will be to promote HoB as world class ecotourism destination.
Sabah’s Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests (Forest Sector Planning), Frederick Kugan, said a total of 37 ecotourism sites have been identified, including nine community-based tourism sites.
He said the move was important to create economy for the community and tapping into the tourism sector to support conservation efforts in the State.
“This is done through the concept of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) conservation finance strategy,” Frederick said in his presentation at the International Conference on HoB here yesterday.
The two-day event, themed ‘A Decade of HoB Initiative: Accomplishments and the Way Forward’, began yesterday at Magellan Sutera Harbour Resort here.
For the past 10 years, Frederick said the Sabah Forestry Department had been focusing on the maintenance of forest connectivity through strengthening of the protected areas network, and establishment of sustainably managed forest corridors connecting these areas.
“Sabah can be proud that we have achieved greatly in terms of increasing Total Protected Areas (TPAs) by 1 million hectares to 1.9 million hectares from 2007 to 2017.”
He said the initiative had also garnered support from partners to the tune of RM100 million through the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
He said the HoB project had received RM38 million funding from the Federal Government thus far, while there was still RM27.5 million remaining from the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP).
Frederick said the next phase of HoB in Sabah would be to look at how to achieve the target of gazetting the remaining four per cent, or 300,000 hectares as TPAs by 2025.
“It can come from forest reserves, state lands and maybe from existing titles or communities.”
He said the Sabah Forestry Department would be engaging with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) and Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) to identify critical areas important for protection and areas good for rehabilitation or restoration.
He said the Sabah’s land use in the future might also evolve over time.
Frederick said this might lead to land swap to better enhance protected areas and to retain at least 50 per cent forest cover in the State.
“With all the conservation measures undertaken in Sabah, we believe that there will be at least no net loss or net gain in terms of biodiversity in the State.”
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