- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell announced today that the United States will commit at least $36 million in newly allocated money over the next three years to the Congo Basin Forest Partnership. The partnership will help protect the world's second largest block of intact and interconnected tropical forest.
The Congo Basin Forest Partnership is a United States government initiative to promote the conservation and responsible management of the Basin's tropical forests. U.S. government funds will be used to protect 11 priority areas in six countries - Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of Congo.
Government funds will be provided mostly through USAID's Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE). CARPE will provide for up to $15 million a year, an increase of up to $12 million annually, for at least the next three years, with the hope of future commitments.
In addition, Conservation International (CI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) all announced their intention to raise an additional $37.5 million of new money over the next 10 years for their joint efforts in the Congo Basin. The three groups worked closely with the governments involved to set priorities for protecting the most important landscapes in the region.
"What is significant here is that the governments of the region, as well as the U.S., have adopted the landscape conservation priorities based on good science and careful consultation with the people of the area," said Brooks Yeager, Vice President of WWF. "Saving these key areas will make all the difference for the future of rainforest wildlife in Africa."
"These new financial commitments help to protect one of the world's most important rain forest wilderness areas, including the watershed of the second largest river system on Earth - this on a continent that is increasingly suffering from major water shortages," said Russell Mittermeier, President of Conservation International. "The future of the Congo Basin depends on the conservation of natural resources and the development of appropriate governance of those resources."
The U.S. and non-governmental organization (NGO) funds will support a wide range of activities within the 11 targeted areas, including the creation and management of protected areas, capacity building for local communities and development of an ecotourism industry. These efforts are part of a broader partnership - involving other governments, the private sector and additional NGO's - that aims to support a network of up to 10 million hectares (24,710,000 acres) of effectively managed national parks and protected areas and up to 20 million hectares (49,420,000 acres) of well-managed multiple use forests, while promoting economic development, poverty alleviation and improved governance for people who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods.
A portion of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership will fund Gabon's new national park system, just announced by President El Hadj Omar Bongo. Consisting of 13 protected areas, the new park system will safeguard some 10,000 square miles, or 10 percent of the entire country's landmass.
"President Bongo's recent announcement is especially noteworthy and precedent-setting for conservation," said Dr. John Robinson, Senior Vice President and Director of International Programs of the Wildlife Conservation Society. "It represents a sea change not just for Gabon but for the region as a whole. His leadership on this issue deserves special recognition."
The Congo Basin hosts some of the most charismatic biodiversity in the world, ranging from forest elephants, bongos and chimpanzees to forest buffalos and western lowland gorillas. The bonobo, or pygmy chimpanzee, is also found in this region, where it is restricted to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Our closest living relative, the bonobo, is considered one of the most endangered apes in the world.
Biodiversity in the Basin faces serious threats, most notably logging and bushmeat hunting. Logging feeds the bushmeat trade as roads built to gain access to forestlands become access routes for hunters. The widespread slaughter of wild animals in the Congo Basin creates "empty forests," which diminish opportunities for local communities and threaten the forests' long-term viability.
The 11 priority landscapes are:
- Monte Alen - Mont de Cristal Inselbergs Forest Landscape (Equatorial Guinea & Gabon)
- Gamba - Conkouati Forest Landscape (Gabon, Congo & D.R.C.)
- Lope - Chaillu - Louesse Forest Landscape (Gabon & Congo)
- Dja - Minkebe - Odzala Tri-national Forest Landscape (Cameroon, Congo & Gabon)
- Sangha Tri-national Forest Landscape (Cameroon, Congo, C.A.R.)
- Lac Tele-Lac Tumba Swamp Forest Landscape (Congo & D.R.C.)
- Bateke Plateau Forest Savanna Landscape (Congo & Gabon)
- Maringa/Lopori - Wamba Forest Landscape (D.R.C.)
- Salonga - Lukenie - Sankuru Forest Landscape (D.R.C.)
- Maiko - Lulunguru Tanya - Kahuzi Biega Forest Landscape (D.R.C.)
- Ituri - Epulu - Aru Forest Landscape (D.R.C.)