28 February, 2006

ARTICLE: PNG forest-saving initiative launched

HeraldSun, 28 February 06

From correspondents in Port Moresby

THE Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior II docks in Port Moresby today for the launch of a campaign promoting small-scale bush milling in Papua New Guinea instead of large-scale destructive logging.

The initiative was part of a campaign to preserve the Asia-Pacific's remaining ancient "Paradise" rainforests stretching from South-East Asia across Indonesia to PNG and the Solomon Islands, Greenpeace Australia Pacific's chief executive, Steve Shallhorn, said.

The project would help PNG forest landowners mark out tribal boundaries as a protection against foreign timber companies and their destructive logging practices, he said.

PNG's Kuni tribe on the Murray Lakes between the Fly and Strickland rivers in PNG's Western Province has invited Greenpeace to set up a "global forest rescue station" on their land.

Greenpeace volunteers and eco-forestry trainers will work alongside three Lake Murray tribes to establish their tribal rights over about 300,000 hectares by identifying, marking out and mapping their boundaries to deter illegal logging, Mr Shallhorn said in a statement.

In 2003, Greenpeace and other environmental groups helped Murray Lakes landowners halt illegal logging in the area by the Malaysian logging company Concord Pacific.

Kuni clan leader Sep Galeva, a leader in that campaign, said his people wanted to do small-scale logging in a way that was sustainable and environmentally friendly but brought in financial returns to villagers.

A portable timber mill will be used by the Kuni tribe to mill selectively logged trees for sale as "ecotimber" in a pilot program to encourage other tribes to do the same and avoid large-scale logging by big timber companies.

"We want to say no to loggers who come in and destroy everything," Mr Galeva said.

Mr Shallhorn said the Paradise Forests were being logged faster than any in the world.

Fewer than 1 per cent had any form of protection with more than a quarter of a million hectares of primary forest destroyed by logging companies each year in PNG alone, he said.

"Unless action like this is taken worldwide, vast numbers of species of plants and animals will become extinct, rainfall patterns will be disrupted and the global climate will change even faster than it is now.

"The Australian Government must ban the importation of illegal and destructively-logged timber and support the efforts by countries that produce timber to combat corruption and strengthen law enforcement institutions," Mr Shallhorn said.

After its Port Moresby visit, the Rainbow Warrior will sail on a "forest crime patrol" to draw attention to ongoing illegal logging across the region and promote sustainable forestry.

Original article

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