© 2017 New Guinea Conservation

Created by Dr. William Thomas and Dr. Randall FitzGerald

The proposed Headwaters of the Strickland Conservation Area encompass 200,000 hectares of sub-montane forest in the Laigaip River catchment. It is home to biodiversity that rivals that of the Amazon; is one of the least explored regions on earth; and part of the largest intact forest ecosystem in the Pacific.

 

The Headwaters of the Strickland Conservation Area is part of the limestone district that runs through the center of the island of New Guinea, extending from Kutubu in the east to the Star Mountains in the west. This is the largest tract of karst topography in Papuasia (Takeuchi 2011).

 

Stretching northward from the Central Range, this is a globally significant wilderness area located along the riverine systems that mark the intersection of the Central Range and the Star Highlands (Swatzendruber 1993). Here the Lagaip and OK Om Rivers combine to form the Headwaters of the Strickland, the major tributary of the Fly River. In 1993, an international team of conservationists, conducting a national Conservation Needs Assessment for Papua New Guinea (CNA) declared that this region is:

  • A “major terrestrial unknown” and a national conservation priority (Swatzendruber 1993: 11).

  • A “priority” for Biodiversity Conservation (Swatzendruber 1993: 15).

  • Vital to the health of the Gulf of Papua (Swatzendruber 1993:12).

This region remains virtually unexplored. In 2008-09, a Rapid Biological Assessment (RAP) sponsored by the Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) and conducted by Conservation International in conjunction with the Papua New Guinea Department of Environment and Conservation and the Papua New Guinea Institute of Biological Research, found 50 species new to science.

 

The discoveries of this RAP garnered international attention (http://www.nbcnews.com/id/29875909/#.UksbShZgP8s) for Papua New Guinea (PNG). Since this was the first systematic scientific exploration of this region, there are undoubtedly more discoveries to be made and even more positive publicity to be generated for PNG.

 

The proposed conservation area is part of a rainy upland zone that is home to a society of shifting horticulturalists known as the Hewa. The Hewa number fewer than 2,000 people and are one of Papua New Guinea’s most remote societies.  Their low population and large tracts of homeland forest make the Hewa  guardians to the richest forest biodiversity in Papua New Guinea (Swatzendruber 1993). Since 2005, PJV has assisted the Hewa with the documentation of their traditional environmental knowledge through the Forest Stewards Initiative (FSI). The health of these forest is vital not only to the Hewa, but also to the continued viability of New Guinea’s coastal ecosystems and reefs—unique marine ecosystems that rely on the pristine waters delivered by these pristine uplands.

 

The forests that stretch northward from the Lake Kopiago are undoubtedly globally important for carbon sequestration, biodiversity and watershed protection. By establishing the Headwaters of the Strickland Conservation Area, Papua New Guinea (PNG) will not only make an invaluable contribution to its’ conservation heritage, it will also bring international recognition to this region.  Along with the Forest Stewards Intitiative (see below), the conservation area will bring long-term benefits to the Hewa.

 

 

 

Summary

 

Before his death, Jim Taylor, one of New Guinea’s greatest explorers and a member of the 1938 Hagen-Sepik patrol, remarked that the Hewa territory was “the last of the New Guinea that he had known in his youth” (Margaret Taylor personal communication). To this day, the forests north of the terminus of the Highlands Highway at Lake Kopiago are barely touched by modern Papua New Guinea. By creating a Conservation Area at the Headwaters of the Strickland, PNG will be conserving a rainforest wilderness of global significance (Beehler et.al. 2002).

 

The Headwaters of the Strickland Conservation Area presents a unique opportunity for Papua New Guinea. At 200,000 hectares, this will be PNG’s largest and most important Conservation Area. It is nearly three times the size of the YUS Conservation Area. The Headwaters of the Strickland contains habitats and functioning ecosystems at all elevations – not just ground that is too high for gardens. It also contains the rivers and watersheds that are vital to health of the Strickland /Fly River system and the Gulf of Papua. The waters support countless communities as well as this important fishery.

 

Every assessment of Papua New Guinea’s conservation needs has identified the Headwaters of the Strickland region as a national conservation priority. As the 2008 RAP confirmed, this region contains the biological diversity to merit Conservation Area status. The litany of species new to science and important to PNG is impressive:

  • 15 species of plants

  • 21 species of amphibians and reptiles

  • 50 species of spiders

  • 56 species of katydids

  • 31 species of ants

  • 7 species of dragonflies and damselflies

 

In addition, there are 184 species of birds found here. Three bird species (the dwarf cassowary, harpy eagle and vulturine parrot) and three species of mammals (the Long-beaked Echidna, Goodfellows tree Kangaroo, and the Lowland Tree Kangaroo) that are found here are regarded as a "species of conservation concern" (Richards and Gamui 2011).

 

Since there is already a substantial overlap between traditional land-use and contemporary conservation management in the Headwaters of the Strickland, the proposed Conservation Area represents a tremendous opportunity to meet both the aspirations of traditional owners and the broader public. There are no competing mineral, timber or plantation interests. More importantly, a community conservation initiative – the Forest Stewards Initiative -- is currently underway. It has helped to create a socioeconomic climate that is conducive to the conservation of both the cultural and biological heritage of the Hewa. Traditional landowners want to protect their natural history and pass on their knowledge to younger generations. In a region with no other economic alternatives, the Forest Stewards Initiative enjoys broad support.

 

Finally, the establishment of a Conservation Area enjoys the support of the local business community, namely Porgera Joint Venture. Long-term funding options for this biodiversity conservation initiative, such as the UN Global Environment Fund and PJV's social/environmental closure initiatives are currently viable options.

If approved, this Conservation Area will therefore have several years of logistical support prior to mine closure to facilitate and smooth operations.

 

In short, the proposed Conservation Area is a region that is internationally recognized for its conservation value and should be a prime candidate for inclusion in PNG's national conservation inventory. The Headwaters of the Strickland undoubtedly contain unique species and habitats. Relatively free of the impacts of modern land uses, the Headwaters of the Strickland will provide a sanctuary for flora and fauna are becoming increasingly rare. It is vital that we designate the Headwaters of the Strickland as an internationally recognized Conservation Area while the funding, community support and logistical help exist to conserve this unique bioregion.

The proposed Headwaters of the Strickland Conservation Area encompass 200,000 hectares of sub-montane forest in the Laigaip River catchment. It is home to biodiversity that rivals that of the Amazon; is one of the least explored regions on earth; and part of the largest intact forest ecosystem in the Pacific.

 

The Headwaters of the Strickland Conservation Area is part of the limestone district that runs through the center of the island of New Guinea, extending from Kutubu in the east to the Star Mountains in the west. This is the largest tract of karst topography in Papuasia (Takeuchi 2011).

 

Stretching northward from the Central Range, this is a globally significant wilderness area located along the riverine systems that mark the intersection of the Central Range and the Star Highlands (Swatzendruber 1993). Here the Lagaip and OK Om Rivers combine to form the Headwaters of the Strickland, the major tributary of the Fly River. In 1993, an international team of conservationists, conducting a national Conservation Needs Assessment for Papua New Guinea (CNA) declared that this region is:

  • A “major terrestrial unknown” and a national conservation priority (Swatzendruber 1993: 11).

  • A “priority” for Biodiversity Conservation (Swatzendruber 1993: 15).

  • Vital to the health of the Gulf of Papua (Swatzendruber 1993:12).

This region remains virtually unexplored. In 2008-09, a Rapid Biological Assessment (RAP) sponsored by the Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) and conducted by Conservation International in conjunction with the Papua New Guinea Department of Environment and Conservation and the Papua New Guinea Institute of Biological Research, found 50 species new to science.

 

The discoveries of this RAP garnered international attention (http://www.nbcnews.com/id/29875909/#.UksbShZgP8s) for Papua New Guinea (PNG). Since this was the first systematic scientific exploration of this region, there are undoubtedly more discoveries to be made and even more positive publicity to be generated for PNG.

 

The proposed conservation area is part of a rainy upland zone that is home to a society of shifting horticulturalists known as the Hewa. The Hewa number fewer than 2,000 people and are one of Papua New Guinea’s most remote societies.  Their low population and large tracts of homeland forest make the Hewa  guardians to the richest forest biodiversity in Papua New Guinea (Swatzendruber 1993). Since 2005, PJV has assisted the Hewa with the documentation of their traditional environmental knowledge through the Forest Stewards Initiative (FSI). The health of these forest is vital not only to the Hewa, but also to the continued viability of New Guinea’s coastal ecosystems and reefs—unique marine ecosystems that rely on the pristine waters delivered by these pristine uplands.

 

The forests that stretch northward from the Lake Kopiago are undoubtedly globally important for carbon sequestration, biodiversity and watershed protection. By establishing the Headwaters of the Strickland Conservation Area, Papua New Guinea (PNG) will not only make an invaluable contribution to its’ conservation heritage, it will also bring international recognition to this region.  Along with the Forest Stewards Intitiative (see below), the conservation area will bring long-term benefits to the Hewa.

 

 

 

Summary

 

Before his death, Jim Taylor, one of New Guinea’s greatest explorers and a member of the 1938 Hagen-Sepik patrol, remarked that the Hewa territory was “the last of the New Guinea that he had known in his youth” (Margaret Taylor personal communication). To this day, the forests north of the terminus of the Highlands Highway at Lake Kopiago are barely touched by modern Papua New Guinea. By creating a Conservation Area at the Headwaters of the Strickland, PNG will be conserving a rainforest wilderness of global significance (Beehler et.al. 2002).

 

The Headwaters of the Strickland Conservation Area presents a unique opportunity for Papua New Guinea. At 200,000 hectares, this will be PNG’s largest and most important Conservation Area. It is nearly three times the size of the YUS Conservation Area. The Headwaters of the Strickland contains habitats and functioning ecosystems at all elevations – not just ground that is too high for gardens. It also contains the rivers and watersheds that are vital to health of the Strickland /Fly River system and the Gulf of Papua. The waters support countless communities as well as this important fishery.

 

Every assessment of Papua New Guinea’s conservation needs has identified the Headwaters of the Strickland region as a national conservation priority. As the 2008 RAP confirmed, this region contains the biological diversity to merit Conservation Area status. The litany of species new to science and important to PNG is impressive:

  • 15 species of plants

  • 21 species of amphibians and reptiles

  • 50 species of spiders

  • 56 species of katydids

  • 31 species of ants

  • 7 species of dragonflies and damselflies

 

In addition, there are 184 species of birds found here. Three bird species (the dwarf cassowary, harpy eagle and vulturine parrot) and three species of mammals (the Long-beaked Echidna, Goodfellows tree Kangaroo, and the Lowland Tree Kangaroo) that are found here are regarded as a "species of conservation concern" (Richards and Gamui 2011).

 

Since there is already a substantial overlap between traditional land-use and contemporary conservation management in the Headwaters of the Strickland, the proposed Conservation Area represents a tremendous opportunity to meet both the aspirations of traditional owners and the broader public. There are no competing mineral, timber or plantation interests. More importantly, a community conservation initiative – the Forest Stewards Initiative -- is currently underway. It has helped to create a socioeconomic climate that is conducive to the conservation of both the cultural and biological heritage of the Hewa. Traditional landowners want to protect their natural history and pass on their knowledge to younger generations. In a region with no other economic alternatives, the Forest Stewards Initiative enjoys broad support.

 

Finally, the establishment of a Conservation Area enjoys the support of the local business community, namely Porgera Joint Venture. Long-term funding options for this biodiversity conservation initiative, such as the UN Global Environment Fund and PJV's social/environmental closure initiatives are currently viable options.

If approved, this Conservation Area will therefore have several years of logistical support prior to mine closure to facilitate and smooth operations.

 

In short, the proposed Conservation Area is a region that is internationally recognized for its conservation value and should be a prime candidate for inclusion in PNG's national conservation inventory. The Headwaters of the Strickland undoubtedly contain unique species and habitats. Relatively free of the impacts of modern land uses, the Headwaters of the Strickland will provide a sanctuary for flora and fauna are becoming increasingly rare. It is vital that we designate the Headwaters of the Strickland as an internationally recognized Conservation Area while the funding, community support and logistical help exist to conserve this unique bioregion.

Headwaters of the Strickland