Imbak Canyon was formerly part of the forest concession assigned to Yayasan Sabah (the Sabah Foundation). Acknowledging the importance of the area and its biodiversity richness, in 2003, Yayasan Sabah Group voluntarily designated Imbak Canyon as a Conservation Area for the purpose of research, education and training as well as development of eco-tourism, carbon sequestration and biodiversity activities. ICCA was formerly gazetted as a Class 1 (Protection) Forest Reserve in 2009.
Since 2010, PETRONAS has contributed RM83 million through the Yayasan Sabah - PETRONAS Imbak Canyon Conservation Partnership. This partnership involves the establishment of the Imbak Canyon Studies Centre, implementation of Environmental Education Programme, Public Awareness, Community Outreach, Research, Ethnoforestry Survey and Documentation, Capacity Building and formulation of ICCA Strategic Management Plan. The Imbak Canyon Studies Centre is the main hub of ICCA, acting as a gateway into ICCA and serving as administration centre and equipped with buildings and facilities for research, education, training and nature recreation.
The day to day management of ICCA is carried out by Yayasan Sabah on behalf of an inter-agency Imbak Canyon Management Committee, which also includes Sabah Forestry Department, Sabah Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, and representatives from other government agencies, academic institutions, District Offices and NGOs. The management is guided by a 10-year Strategic Management Plan, where the current management plan is for the duration of 2014 - 2023.