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Palm oil developer abandons plan to log 70% of Woodlark Island

Palm oil developer abandons plan to log 70% of Woodlark Island

Palm oil developer abandons plan to log 70% of Woodlark Island
January 14, 2008

Vitro Plant, a developer that planned to log 70 percent of Papua New Guinea’s Woodlark Island for oil palm plantations, has pulled out of the project reports The National, a Papuan newspaper.

The apparent withdrawal could not be independently confirmed, but The National reports that PNG’s Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) was notified of Vitro’s intention to abandon the project.

The news comes after an international campaign by environmentalists who argued the project would endanger the island’s unique wildlife and faced widespread local opposition.

Map modified from Google Earth

In November, following up on a report from the Zoological Society of London’s EDGE blog, Jeremy Hance of wrote an article describing the looming threat to the forests of Woodlark. After a second article, posted in December by Hance, Ecological Internet took up Woodlark’s cause, eventually launching a campaign that triggered wider awareness among the press and policymakers in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea. By January more than three thousand protest emails had been sent to Sir Michael Somare, accusing the prime minister of leading PNG from an “eco hero” to an “eco zero”. The country had won widespread acclaim from environmentalists following its performance at the December U.N. climate talks in Bali when delegate Kevin Conrad told the United States: “If you are not willing to lead [on climate change], then get out of the way.” The letter, sent by Ecological Internet, challenged Somare to do the same.

What’s next for Woodlark

At this time it is still unclear whether the oil palm project will resume on Woodlark. Given record high prices for palm oil, it seems likely the island has not heard the last on development for biofuel feedstocks. Nevertheless, with the world’s attention now focused on its biodiverse forests, any developer will face close scrutiny than before.

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