BY JOHN HOUANIHAU
THE acceleration of commercial logging activities in Makira/Ulawa Province has forced several communities to agree on conserving their lands and forests.
The Yato Communities in East Makira propose to protect their tribal lands covering all major areas of Piripiri, Lato, and Hariga lands.
These areas, known as the Yato Protected Areas, host one of the few remaining untouched primary tropical rainforests and cloud forests in Makira Ulawa Province.
However, there is a very high likelihood of intrusion by commercial logging; hence, the Yato Communities are interested in conserving the area under the Protected Areas Act of 2010.
In protecting the area, logging and major developments such as commercial mining, agriculture, and so forth will not be permitted within the area.
The land-owning tribes and communities have come to realize the importance of preserving and conserving the pristine nature of the environment from unsustainable and major developments that are destructive and damaging to the area, including the region’s soil structure and unique ecosystems.
The Yato Communities view this Conservation as an important guide to better manage their resources in the long term.
Major rivers within the Yato Protected Area including the Wasigiri River, which meets the Hariga River before emptying to the coast provide water to thousands of people downstream.
These rivers and their streams provide freshwater to coastal communities and wards, including North Star Harbour, East and West Wainoni, East Bauer, Haununu, and East and West Rawo of the weather coast.
These important watersheds if not managed would be directly threatened by commercial logging or mining.
The land-owning group will continue with the same minimal land-use practices, ensuring that such activities will have minimal impact on the ecosystem and are sustainable in the long term.
Hunting of native fauna, such as monitoring lizards, flying foxes, and various fish, will be restricted and monitored by the Management Committee and appointed Yato Rangers.
That is, the Management Committee and Yato Ranges will ensure that the hunting of native fauna is sustainable, with limited impact on the health of all ecosystems within the Yato Protected Area.
Commercial logging and mining will be strictly prohibited within the Yato Protected Area.
Yato Rangers has been trained to conduct biodiversity surveys and will be trained on carbon assessment, as well as to guide potential Eco tourists (e.g., bird guides).
Yato Rangers will also monitor the protected area, enforcing its rules and policies.
The Yato Rangers will ensure that trees are left intact and safe from logging, opening opportunities to engage international NGOs for carbon trading.