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7. Simple measures with substantial impact: implementing RIL in one forest concession in East Kalimantan - Alexander Hinrichs, Rolf Ulbricht, Budi Sulistioadi*, Yosep Ruslim**, Irwan Muchlis and Djwa Hui Lang***

* Promotion of Sustainable Forest Management in East Kalimantan (SFMP-gtz-MoF), P.O. Box 1087, Samarinda 75001, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, Tel.: ++(62 541) 73 3434, Fax: ++(62 541) 73 3437, E-mail:

** Mulawarman University, Samarinda, East Kalimantan, E-mail:

*** P.T. Limbang Ganeca, Jakarta and Samarinda East Kalimantan


Forest management is affected negatively by excessive environmental damage caused during harvesting operations. Several studies on the effects of harvesting in Indonesia indicate that felling and skidding, based on the Indonesian Selective Cutting and Planting System (TPTI), cause, on average, 20-45 percent damage to the residual stand and open up about 20-35 percent of the area depending on harvest intensity, topographic conditions and machinery (Bertault and Sist, 1997; Elias, 1998).

Reduced impact logging (RIL) has been tested recently in Indonesia in several forest concessions. Research results indicate that RIL implemented in a practical manner can raise forest-harvesting performance (Klassen, 2000). The implementation of RIL fulfils several key indicators of the Indonesian standard for forest certification in natural production forests (Agung and Hinrichs, 2000).

The cornerstones of RIL are the planning of skid trails based on information from topographic and tree location maps, opening up of the skid trails prior to felling, directional felling and log extraction with winches (FAO, 1999). These measures aim to:

Implementing RIL should also have a positive impact on efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Some private forest concessionaires in Indonesia, especially those considering or already preparing for forest certification (ecolabelling), perceive these benefits. However, most concessionaires remain reluctant to adopt RIL because they believe that it requires major changes to field operations and well-trained staff. Many questions regarding the economics of RIL also remain. Finally, neither the Indonesian Government nor civil society encourages or pressures the private sector to implement RIL.

This paper discusses three years of experience with the implementation of RIL in one private forest concession in East Kalimantan. The private company was willing to test and implement RIL under the following conditions:

These are typical needs of private companies. Avoiding re-engineering and major investments will only be possible for companies currently operating on flat or slightly undulating terrain. Logging operations in the mountainous regions of Borneo have to consider skylines or equivalent cable systems, especially if forest certification is the aim. The following discussion does not cover such conditions.


In 1998, the management of P.T. Limbang Ganeca/East Kalimantan and the Sustainable Forest Management Project (SFMP-gtz) launched a RIL pilot project. In a first step, a RIL implementation team was established at camp level, comprising the camp manager and the heads of the logging and planning divisions (Kabid Perencanaan and Kabid Produksi). To implement RIL effectively, the planning and production teams need to cooperate closely. In-house training for the planning and production teams was conducted, focusing on necessary changes and additional tasks. The company developed computer software for topographic data analysis.

In 1999, a comparative study was conducted in five 1-hectare plots of two compartments. The effects of conventional logging (CL) versus RIL were evaluated, with regard to damage, efficiency, productivity and costs (Ruslim et al., 2000). At the same time, the cutting block for the next year was prepared by the planning division following RIL requirements. Several in-house training courses for logging crews (foremen, operators) and external courses for the division heads were conducted. By the end of 1999, RIL was understood completely at all levels in the company and RIL guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOP) were prepared (Ruslim et al., 1999, Ulbricht et al., 1999). Implementation started in 2000 on a 2 350 ha annual cutting block with ongoing monitoring/evaluation by the company, SFMP-gtz and a joint implementation team from the Ministry of Forestry the company and SFMP-gtz. The results are currently being analysed.


RIL was defined as consisting of six major elements (Figure 1). Two years before felling (Et-2), in addition to the standard pre-harvest inventory, a detailed topographic survey is conducted. Six months before logging (Et-06), a tree location map is prepared (GIS-based), on which the optimal locations of the skid trails, according to ten agreed upon principles, are planned and marked. The marking of skid trails in the field and opening up take place prior to felling. The principles of the skid trail determination are explained in the SOP.

The felling team is advised to conduct directional felling whenever possible and reduce logging waste to a minimum. Safety measures are required such as escape routes, flexibility in felling direction and personal safety equipment. Skidding is allowed only on the planned skid trails, resulting in a winching corridor of 30 m on both sides of the skid trail. Blading is avoided whenever possible (on all skid trails with slopes less than 20 percent).

The foremen of the production section conduct supervisory and routine controls. After the completion of logging, tractor operators close skid trails to reduce erosion. Joint teams (production and planning) assess the quality of work in order to determine premium wages.

Figure 1. The six elements of RIL

The planning teams are responsible for:

The production teams have the following tasks:

The joint tasks of both teams are:

For the block inspection, task indicators - grading scheme and field evaluation sheets - were developed. Based on a sample of 30 trees and 2-3 skid trails per sub-compartment, the performance (work quality) of each operator team was evaluated. It is proposed to combine the block inspection results with the payment scheme (base wage plus additional quality premium) to secure workers’ interests. Table 1 provides an example of the internal evaluation of the activities by the chainsaw operator and assistant.

Table 1. Indicators and grading for internal evaluation of felling crews







Contour maps

The contour map is very useful to define the proper felling direction


The contour map is used every day


The contour map is used sometimes


The contour map is never used


Escape routes

Safety first for operator and assistant


Helper always cleared an escape route


Helper sometimes cleared an escape route


Helper never cleared an escape route


Under cuts

An under cut is used to define the felling direction towards the skid trail


Angle of around 45°


Angle of between 15°


Angle of <15°


Hinges and back cuts

The back cut and hinge are very important to define the felling direction and to avoid breaking the trunk


Proper hinge 5-10 cm; height of back cut 5-10 cm


Proper hinge 3-5 cm; height of back cut 3-5 cm


Proper hinge < 3 cm; height of back cut < 3 cm


Stump height for trees without buttresses

High stumps decrease log volume and increase logging waste


Maximum 30 cm


Between 30-50 cm


> 50 cm


Use of the wedge

Proper felling direction towards the skid trail


Wedges always used to cut trees if needed


Wedges sometimes used


Wedges never used


Felling direction towards the skidtrail

Reduced damage to the residual stands from the skidding process


Felling direction of <45°


Felling direction of 45-60°


Felling direction of >60°


Damage to potential crop trees

Potential crop trees for regeneration


Almost no potential crop trees are damaged


Potential crop trees in the azimuth are damaged slightly


Many dead potential crop trees


Reduction of logging waste

Too much timber left behind decreases volume and adds to waste left


Cross-cutting and debranching done


Medium amount of timber waste


Too much timber waste left


Leaving behind trees for no reason

Maximal use of all commercial trees (diameter >50/60 cm)


No commercial trees left behind


Some commercial trees left behind


Too many commercial trees left behind


Method for attaching the labels to the logs and stumps

Labels are needed for timber tracking documentation


Label is always present at bottom of bole and stump


Label sometimes present at the bottom of bole or stump


Label not present at bottom of bole and stump


Number of trees cut per month


Topographic conditions

Stand structure (dense, medium light) Topography (rugged, moderate flat) Soil type (clay, swamp rock)


Number of trees evaluated

Record sum of tree samples

NB: Points 1, 2, 6, 11, are tested when felling is carried out by the chainsaw operator and assistant. Professional judgement is needed by the evaluator.

Source: Ruslim et al. (1999)

Table 2 shows the major differences between the proposed tractor-based RIL and CL in Indonesia.

Table 2. Basic differences between RIL and CL in Indonesia



Contour and tree location maps used by harvesting teams

Tree location maps prepared for legal purposes, but not used by harvesting teams

Skid trails planned and opened prior to felling

No preplanning for skid trails, opening up during felling/skidding operations

Directional felling so that the tree falls at 45° angle to the skid trail

Felling direction determined by the weight of the canopy; wedges not used

Tractor stays on pre-opened skid trail: all logs up to 30 m on both sides of the skid trail are winched to the tractor

Tractor always drives directly to each log

Logging waste reduced as much as possible:

Effort to reduce loggingwaste are limited

· Under cuts placed as low as possible
· Stem breakage avoided
· Maximum use of timber

Skid trail of minimal width, damage to trees on both sides of the skid trail avoided

Tractor manoeuvres with abundant damage

Closure of skid trails after harvesting to reduce erosion (Closing-up)

No closure

Block inspection (quality and quantity control)

No formal block inspection


Study design

The project team conducted a study to compare RIL with CL at P.T. Limbang Ganeca (Ruslim et al., 2000). In two 100-ha compartments, five 1-ha plots were selected for detailed measurements. The overall conditions were as follows:

A time study for felling and skidding was conducted and data on residual stand damage (>20 cm diameter at breast height [DBH]), timber output (net exploitation factor) and forest opening were collected (Figure 2).

Study results

Felling and skidding efficiency and productivity

In the study area, the differences between RIL and CL for felling activities were minor. Concerning skidding, there was a noticeable difference in pure work time. Overall skidding productivity (per day) was calculated based on work time including lost time for meals, private activities and machinery repair.

Figure 2. RIL comparative study

Skidding under RIL required more time and reduced productivity by about 15 percent compared to CL. The main reason is that winching was conducted up to 30 m and tractor log loads were not combined. Reducing the winching corridor to 15 m and allowing combined loads to be skidded would increase skidding productivity, but would also increase damage.

Opening up of forest stands by felling and skidding

Stand openings following RIL were 29 percent lower than after CL. In particular, opening up by tractors was reduced drastically (by 65 percent). The damage caused by tractors usually delays natural regeneration. The large reduction indicates considerable environmental benefits and demonstrates that forest concessions adopting RIL can pass forest certification more easily (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Opening up by logging activities (average of five 1-ha plots)

Damage to the residual stand

The residual stand damage due to felling was not particularly different between the two treatments (dbh of trees measured was 20 cm up). However, damage to the residual stand caused by skidding in CL was far greater. RIL caused 26 percent less overall damage to the residual stand. In particular, RIL reduced residual stand damage from skidding by 55 percent as compared to CL (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Causes of damage to the residual stand (average of five 1-ha plots)

Net exploitation factor

The net exploitation factor in the RIL plots was higher (85 percent) than that in the CL plots (81 percent). Logging waste was reduced by 20 percent, although the CL operators were also instructed to reduce waste. Efforts have been made to increase timber usage efficiently by cutting the buttresses and placing the undercut properly (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Proper felling techniques reduce timber losses


Cost calculations are based on the assumption that in CL one felling and one skidding team (five workers) can complete 30 ha/month (timber production of 1 425 m3/month). Table 3 shows some cost data for harvesting operations.

Table 3. Forest harvesting operational costs (source: internal concession data from 1998)





1 Planning division

Conventional preharvest inventory (ITSP)

100 ha/mth


4 237 000


42 370

RIL ITSP and topographic survey*

100 ha/mth


7 177 000


71 770

RIL topographic survey only

100 ha/mth


4 683 750


46 838

Planning/mapping of skid trails

500 ha/mth


1 428 000


2 856

Marking the RIL skid trails

200 ha/mth


2 245 750


11 229

2 Production and equipment divisions

RIL opening up skid trails, landings + closing up

200 ha/mth


31 852 165


159 260


30 ha/mth


3 070 180


102 339

Conv. skidding including construction of log landings

30 ha/mth


33 422 236


1 114 075

RIL skidding - estimation (1)**

25.5 ha/mth


31 852 165


249 100

RIL skidding - estimation (2)**

25.5 ha/mth


29 697 079


1 164 591

* Calculations for a joint ITSP and topographic survey team.

** RIL reduces skidding productivity by 15 percent, volume skidded is therefore reduced to 25.5 ha/mth. Operational variable machinery costs are estimated to be reduced by between 5 (Estimation 1) to 15 percent (Estimation 2).

Under RIL the work time of a tractor working with a heavy load is reduced (more time was spent for non-travelling activities like winching and opening up areas; the number of trees per trip was also less). Therefore, the variable tractor costs (especially maintenance and fuel costs) could be reduced by 5 to 15 percent, although additional tractor costs accrue due to the use of higher quality cables in RIL.

Implementing RIL under the forest conditions of P.T. Limbang Ganeca required additional tasks for planning and the production teams (e.g. for the topographic survey, marking and constructing skid trails prior to felling, winching and closing up of the skid trails). The additional tasks increased operational costs by approximately Rp 1 000/m3 for the planning operations and Rp 5 000 to 7 000/m3 for production operations (depending on the estimation for variable tractor costs under RIL). Harvesting costs (including planning and operational cost up to roadside/log landings) consequently were only about US$1.00/m3 higher (at an exchange rate of US$1.00 = Rp 6 000) (Table 4). Additional overheads for human resource development, block inspection, team coordination and planning technologies still need to be considered. However, increased operational costs were covered directly by the financial gains due to higher timber utilization (increased net exploitation factor of about 4 percent). If the company is allowed to raise the annual allowable cut according to the higher exploitation factor, implementing RIL under the conditions of this case study will lead to a direct financial benefit.

Table 4. Comparison of harvesting operational costs using RIL and CL


CL (Rp/m3)

RIL (Rp/m3)

1. Planning division

Rp 943

Rp 1 789

2. Production division

   ·Estimation 1 (see above)

Rp 25 342

Rp 31 473

   · Estimation 2 (see above)

Rp 25 342

Rp 29 721

Total (Rp/m3)

Rp 26 285

Rp 31 501 - 33 262

Total (US$/m3) US$1.00=Rp 6.000


US$5,25 - 5.54

Note: Harvesting intensity = 48 m3/ha; financial data represent cost calculations before the Asian crisis (1997).

Other tangible benefits of RIL include a reduced need for forest rehabilitation (obvious in the study case), lower equipment maintenance, lower accident rates and shorter time needed for the forest to recover until the next economically viable harvesting (shorter cutting cycle). The direct and indirect economic benefits, as under the conditions of the study area, clearly support RIL implementation.


Implementing RIL in a private forest concession in Indonesia requires the following conditions to be met by the company:

The major constraints and challenges for large-scale RIL implementation in Indonesian concessions are:


Agung, F. & Hinrichs, A. 2000. Self-scoping handbook for sustainable forest management certification in Indonesia. SFMP Document No 6a. Jakarta: Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops in cooperation with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit. (Indonesian version also available).

Bertault, J. & Sist, P. 1997. An experimental comparison of different harvesting intensities with reduced impact and conventional logging in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Forest Ecology and Management, 94: 209-218.

Elias. 1998. Reduced impact harvesting in the tropical natural forest in Indonesia. Forest Harvesting Case Study 11. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.

FAO. 1999. Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific. RAP Publication: 1999/12. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Bangkok.

Klassen, A.W. 2000. Analisis aspek finansial dan produktivitas reduced impact logging (RIL). Hutan Indonesia. Buletin terbitan APHI. Edisi 09, Tahun II/Agustus 2000.

Ruslim, Y., Hinrichs, A. & Sulistioadi, B. 2000. Study on implementation of reduced impact tractor logging. SFMP Documents No. 01a. Jakarta: Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops in cooperation with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit. (Indonesian version also available).

Ruslim, Y., Hinrichs, A., Ulbricht, R. & P.T. Limbang Ganeca 1999. Technical guideline for reduced impact tractor logging. SFMP Documents No 10a. Jakarta: Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops in cooperation with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit. (Indonesian version also available).

Ulbricht, R., Hinrichs A. & Ruslim, Y. 1999: Technical guideline for salvage felling in rehabilitation areas after forest fire. SFMP Document No 1. Jakarta: Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops in cooperation with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit. (Indonesian version also available).

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