The Essential Ecosystem Area (KEE) is a new conservation category in Indonesia, which provides opportunities to protect forest cover outside of protected areas. It is potentially important for conservation, because much of the country’s unique biodiversity is found in production landscapes. So far, the socialization and development of KEE’s has been rather slow. In this brief we reflect on recent experiences with KEE implementation in Ketapang district, West Kalimantan. Around 2017, several palm oil companies worked together to establish a KEE, but they failed to adequately involve a mining company that had a concession in the same area. When the mining company started operations in 2018, the KEE was in jeopardy. Only after a period of intensive negotiations, the various parties reached an agreement. The experience highlights the importance of proper stakeholder consultation. An important role for civil society organizations (CSOs) is to facilitate the process leading up to multi-stakeholder discussions, which includes building awareness among individual stakeholders. Based on the Ketapang experience, we recommend that the national government stimulates KEE development by providing incentives to district-level governments, for example by enhancing special purpose funds (DAK) to support KEE management from the line ministries. The national government can also provide incentives to the private sector in the form of property-based tax relief or exemption. Finally, well-managed KEE’s should be nationally registered and part of the Indonesian commitments related to the Aichi targets and the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.