Saving Paradise

Feature story - March 1, 2006
In the remote Paradise Forests of Papua New Guinea, illegal and destructive logging continues to threaten both the local communities and the fragile ecosystem. So we have launched a major initiative to help indigenous communities establish their rights to the land they have called home for generations.

'Mud men' perform traditional dances to welcome the arrival of the Greenpeace flagship the Rainbow Warrior in Port Moresby's harbour. Greenpeace launches a major initiative to help protect Asia Pacific's last remaining ancient rainforests - the 'Paradise Forests - by unveiling its Global Forest Rescue Station in a remote part of Papua New Guinea.

At the invitation of the local communities, we have established the Global Forest Rescue Station (GFRS) on the western edge of Lake Murray,deep in the Paradise Forests. From the GFRS, our activists from aroundthe world will help members of the Kuni, Begwa and Pari tribes mark outthe boundaries of their lands to protect it from loggers.

Locate the Global Forest Rescue Station (GFRS) using Google Earth - click here to download Google Earth

Althoughin Papua New Guinean law, 97 percent of the land is recognised as beingowned by the customary landowners who live there, many tribalboundaries have never been officially recorded. Until this is done theland is effectively up for grabs.

With large-scale industriallogging, the local communities see very little of the huge profitsgenerated by the logging and the forest cannot sustain the level ofdestruction. For each tree felled for timber at least seventeen othersare destroyed, not to mention the impact on the diverse wildlife thatthe forest support.

"Ourforest is like a supermarket and our survival depends on the forest.The forest gives us our homes, our food and our medicine."

- Sep Galeva, Kuni clan leader

Butthere is a solution. Boundary marking, also known as demarcation, isthe first step in allowing the local communities to use the forest inecologically sustainable ways that doesn't destroy the forest. The GFRSwill be used as a base camp to help the local communities mark outaround 300,000 hectares of their lands in the Lake Murray region.

TheStation isn't just about mapping out land boundaries. Part of the workdone there will be to promote small-scale community enterprises thathelp maintain the forest and bring greater benefits to the communitiesthat live there such as eco-forestry.

Instead of wholesaledestruction of the forest with large machines to extract the timber,portable equipment is used to minimise the impact. Trees are milledwhere they fall and are carried along bush trails and floated out alongrivers, and then strict guidelines and monitoring allow the forest toregenerate itself.

The profits from this method of forestry forlocal communities are also much more than those that trickle down fromthe logging companies, between four to 10 times greater, all of whichis shared among the local communities.

So with community-basedsolutions the Global Rescue Forest Station will help protect the uniquebiodiversity of Papua New Guinea. With only one percent of the forestsunder any kind of protection, there is still a long way to go.

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