- The Government of Guyana and Conservation International (CI) signed a Timber Sales Agreement (TSA) today, establishing the Upper Essequibo Conservation Concession. The concession is the second of its kind in the world.
The agreement gives CI the right to manage approximately 81,000 hectares (200,000 acres) of pristine forests in the southern Guyana region, in order to maintain the area in a pristine state and secure the environmental services it provides.
Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo endorsed the agreement, after CI President Russell Mittermeier and the Commissioner of Guyana's Forestry Commission James Singh signed the TSA.
"We want to preserve the area's biodiversity and demonstrate to the world that conservation concessions are an opportunity for countries to capitalize on vast forests of high conservation value," said Mittermeier. "Conservation concessions offer a land use alternative that conservationists, development agencies, governments and local communities can all support since the ultimate objectives include the long term protection of biodiversity and the stimulation of economic development," he added.
A conservation concession seeks to reconcile conservation objectives with national development by providing an alternative land use option, which competes directly with large-scale logging.
Similar to conditions applied to logging operations, CI will pay annual royalties and fees to the Guyana Forestry Commission.
Prior to the TSA, CI was granted an exploratory lease in October 2000 and was required to develop a management plan which includes conducting stakeholder consultations at both the national and local levels and also, conducting a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) which is critical in ensuring that indigenous peoples living closest the concession are not affected. The three indigenous communities nearest to the area - Apoteri, Rewa and Crashwater - participated in all processes leading up to this agreement with the Government of Guyana.
The SIA determined that the concession would positively impact the socio-economic conditions of the communities. CI will establish a Voluntary Community Investment Fund to support community development programs for these communities and will facilitate the implementation of a conservation program.
"Guyana's undisturbed forests are of global importance because of their rich biological diversity," said Major General (retd) Joseph Singh, Executive Director of CI-Guyana. Conserving these forests will benefit our nation and will provide a valuable service to the world."