State of Amazonas Announces 2.4 Million Hectares of Newly Protected Areas

3/26/2006

The Largest State of the Brazilian Amazon Protects 50 Percent of Its Territory through Parks, Sustainable Use Reserves and Indigenous Territories

Curitiba, Brazil  The Environment and Sustainable Development State Secretary of Amazonas, Virgilio Viana, announced today the creation of 2.4 million hectares (5.9 million acres) of new reserves in the Brazilian Amazon.

The announcement made at the 8th Conference of the Parties for the Convention on Biological Diversity means Amazonas State will reach its target of protecting a total of 10.5 million hectares of Amazon rainforest in the past four years when official decrees are signed at a state ceremony within the next two months.

Brazil has a large and complex system of protected areas, with 252 national parks, 662 state reserves and numerous municipal entities in a variety of categories including areas of sustainable use that benefit traditional communities and indigenous peoples.

The nations overall protected areas total more than 110 million hectares (272 million acres). Two new areas in Amazonas included in todays announcement are the Juma Sustainable Use Reserve (590,000 hectares or 1.45 million acres), and the Gregorio Extractive Reserve (462,000 hectares or 1.14 million acres).

In proclaiming the new protected areas, Viana noted they were set up in consultation with local communities and with the help of various socioeconomic studies.

Both of those areas are under extreme threat from uncontrolled logging, illegal land speculators known as grileiros and new federal roads, such as the BR319 and BR364/163, Viana said. ``This is a measure to ensure long-term biodiversity conservation.

Three additional protected areas that contain a total of 1.4 million hectares (3.46 million acres) also are being created in the region of Matupiri Igap-au, in the south-central part of Amazonas.

Preliminary biodiversity assessments estimate that the new protected areas may be home to some species unknown to science, as well as wildlife on decline in other parts of the country, such as jaguars, pumas, giant otters, deer, and primates including uacaris and sakis.

Jos Maria Cardoso da Silva, vice president for science at Conservation International Brazil, called the new protected areas an important continuation of conserving biodiversity by the state of Amazonas. He noted that in 2003, the state created the Cujubim Sustainable Use Reserve covering 2.4 million hectares (5.9 million acres), making it the worlds largest protected area for sustainable development.

This reserve is fairly remote. It takes five days to go up the Amazon River to get to the city of Juta, capital of the municipality. From there, one has to travel about 160 miles by boat to get to Cujubim, a journey that can usually take three additional days. Nearly 300 people from 56 families live within the reserve.

Communities are very scattered and isolated, Silva said of the Cujubim reserve, which has 300 residents and takes several days travel by boat to reach. The creation of a protected area guarantees the continuation of traditional activities, such as small-scale agro-forest activities and fishing. At the same time, it brings alternative livelihood conservation businesses and management.

Conservation International has conducted the first in-depth biological assessments in the Cujubim reserve and helped the community mobilize for participatory management of the area. Information on these initiatives can be found at www.cujubim.org.br, including a special blog that provides daily information on the scientific expedition.

The renowned biologist Jos Mrcio Ayres developed the concept of sustainable reserves 10 years ago at Mamirau, and today the reserve showcases successful conservation projects involving primates, ecotourism, and various sustainable production systems managed for more than 60 communities within and around the reserve.

Mamirau is the pioneer in how conservation with traditional activities can co-exist, said Russell A. Mittermeier, president of Conservation International. We have to recognize the government of Amazonas for its commitment to conserve and promote the sustainable use of a very significant portion of the Brazilian Amazon. The announcement of todays increases is an excellent step in preserving the Amazon.

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