We, like many, have been excited by the discovery of new animal and plant species in West Papua's Foja Mountains. Although we are not against granting the area official protection status, as discussed in your News story "Calls to conserve biodiversity hotspots" (Nature, 439, 774; 2006), we warn against imposing such schemes on local people. Protection status in itself is no panacea: elsewhere in Indonesia deforestation inside protected areas often outpaces that outside (see L. M. Curran et al. Science 303, 1000¿1003; 2004). But there is considerable scope for arrangements that respect local claims and interests while also benefiting conservation goals. Working with Indonesian partners and Conservation International in the Mamberamo-Foja region, we have found that locals are valuable allies for conservation. Indeed, they have been solely responsible for protecting the Foja until now, and it was the local people who made the recent Foja expedition possible. They are sensitive about these ancestral lands, and have driven off outsiders seeking minerals and other resources in the past. But, once a firm basis for trust has been established, they provide enormous input, creating maps of special sites and resources with their traditional knowledge. Local communities must not be viewed as a problem, but as central to the solution.