Legal rights to harvest
Any company or person wishing to take or remove timber from a forest area must first have a valid Harvesting license. The first step to securing a Harvesting license is to obtain approval from the state authorities or the relevant state forestry departments. Both are involved when issuing licenses for concessions. There is no requirement to get approval for harvesting on private land if the timber is not going to be traded.
Only companies or persons registered with the state forestry departments are eligible to apply for the Harvesting license. Concession licenses are awarded through open tender or by direct award by the State Forestry Department. In Peninsular Malaysia, concessions are categorized by size, each with its own length of tenure. Concessions up to 1,000 hectares are allocated for 1–2 years; 1,001–2,000 ha concessions are allocated for 1 - 5 years; 2,001 - 20,000 ha concessions for 10 - 30 years; and those exceeding 20,000 ha for 20 - 30 years.
A licensee-to-be must prepare a Forest Harvesting Plan for the approval of the state forestry departments before a license is issued for the Permanent Reserved Forests (PRF). The Licensee must then register its Classification mark with the relevant State Forestry Department.
A Forest Harvesting Plan is not required for privately-owned forest land. But a Harvesting permit from the State Forest Department is required for harvesting timber on either private and state land.
The following harvesting permits can be obtained (Note: “Licence” is often spelled as is in the regulations, when used as a noun):
- Timber Licence (Form 1) - Licence to take forest produce), applicable for PRF and State land;
- Minor licence (Form 3) - Minor Licence to take major forest produce not exceeding 70 cubic meters or any minor forest produce, applicable for PRF and State land;
- Removal licence (Form 5): To remove timber from private land and reserved forest.
Parties wishing to commercially harvest timber shall be legally registered with the Sabah Forestry Department. Any company or person/organisation who intends to harvest forest produce from a forest area needs to have a valid Harvesting licence which, in Sabah, can be in the form of:
- Sustainable Forest Management License Agreement (SFMLA) / Long-term License Agreement (LTL) for concessions on PRF;
- Form I license: a short-term license for logging activities in forest reserve or State land;
- Form IIB: Normally issued for transporting logs harvested from alienated (privatised) land, where timber can be harvested for land clearance for agricultural purposes (mostly oil palm, rubber and other short-term crops).
Concession areas are subdivided into coupes and compartments. Under the principle of sustainable forest management (SFM), one company is permitted to harvest only a few compartments at any given time in accordance with the Forest Management Plan (FMP), Comprehensive Harvest Plan (CHP) and Annual Work Plan. The Coupe permit validity is normally 15 years depending on the conditions of the license. The Company is not permitted to operate in any area for which it has not yet been issued a Coupe permit even though that area may be within its concession.
All concessions must have an approved 10-year Forest Management Plan (FMP) and/or 10-year Plantation Development Plan (PDP). The FMP describes the long-term management and land use for the SFMLA areas, based on forest types, terrain and current conditions of the forest management unit (FMU). The FMP and PDP identify areas for conservation and production along with social issues and schedule for harvesting and site preparation. The licensee (SFMLA/LTL) must then have an approved Annual Work Plan (AWP) containing maps and description of areas and types of operations to be carried out during the year. The licensee is required to obtain approval for the AWP based on the schedules defined in the FMP / PDP.
Currently, parties wishing to commercially harvest timber shall be legally registered with the Forest Department Sarawak (FDS). The Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation Ordinance of 1973 also requires those involved to establish, manage or operate any mills or manufacturing, sale, distribution or marketing activity of timber and timber products, to register with STIDC. Timber may be harvested in Sarawak from Gazetted Forests meant primarily for sustainable timber production and agriculture plantation. There are three types of harvesting licenses in Sarawak:
- Forest Timber Licence (FTL)
- License for Planted Forests (LPF)
- Occupation Ticket (OT) Licence (clearing of forest for plantations and native land)
- Mangrove and Belian (Iron Wood) Licence
Each forest concession area must hold a Forest Timber License (FTL), which can be obtained from the Director of FDS (often referred to as the 'Director of Forests'). Attached to the FTL is the Forest Management Plan (FMP) that sets out management and harvesting prescriptions. When issuing concessions, there could be a call for tender; however, the Director of FDS has the power to issue licenses and permits under conditions as he deems appropriate. Thus, information relating to the allocation of concessions is not publicly available. The license period of timber concessions is at the discretion of FDS and generally is for a period of 25 years but it has been up to 60 years in cases where the Licensee had received MTCC certification.
The FDS issues the FTL in conjunction with an approved General Harvesting Plan (GP), which has been prepared by the concessionaire. The GP shows the layout and size of coupes, the harvesting sequence, proposed road networks, camp sites, log yards and other general planning particulars.
Before extraction can commence, the permit holder is also required to prepare a Detailed Harvesting Plan (DP) and to submit it for approval. The FDS processes and approves the DP, which contains operational prescriptions at coupe level, the layout of logging blocks, surveyed road networks, and protected or conservation areas as well as the proposed harvesting methods.