Every presentation, discussion and talk held at the Protected Area Congress at Curitiba between the 21st and 24th September was fascinating leaving both Raquel and I keen to get home and back to work.
Organized by Brazil’s Cosmetics giant “O Boticario” who have sponsored so much in research (over 1400 projects) and conservation over the last 15 years, this is the event to attend to hear to the latest news concerning Brazil’s conservation status, todays perspectives and tomorrows ambitions.
It never ceases to amaze us how much of Brazil, with its nine bio-regions, is still forested under some type of protection status. Since the first protected area, the Iguassu National Park, was created in early 1900, some 320 Parks (UCs) have been created. These are for the most part open to the public with a total area of 125 million hectares under Park status.
There are also 111 million hectares of indigenous reserves and a further 60 million hectares of protected areas in Amazonia (ARPA), making roughly 25% of Brazil’s land surface lying within “Protected” status. There are State and Municipal parks to add to this impressive figure.
However not all is so simple.
In spite of the laws of the National System of Protected areas it is still a challenge in Brazil to ensure the continual protection against encroachment, hunting, timber and heart of palm extraction of these areas. Perversely within the Government itself, other departments create difficulties for the environmental agenda as the Government favours economic powerhouse development that includes the corporate agribusiness, illegal timber extraction, dam construction and mineral extraction to provide exports, energy and taxes.
However the recent current financial crisis has the Government axing costs in all departments and one can readily note that with more land needed to conserve and associated operational costs, the future of protected areas might be bleak. Trying to avoid this, the Government is encouraging partnerships and concessions to co-administrate these protected areas, though this remains contentious with Government backbenchers.
Raquel and I were happy to note that the Private Park Status (RPPN) has taken off over the last few years. This is a terrific legal tool for landowners committed to declaring forested areas of their properties “protected” status. Today there are 760 thousand hectares of forest protected within 1350 RPPNs and the Government is happy to see this area increasing.
Much of the impetus has been sparked by the lack of rainfall and associated deficit of drinking water in major cities and so bringing Government concern. With the accepted proof in most circles that the lack of rain in other parts of Brazil is inextricably linked to the deforestation of the Amazon basin and the certainty that the global atmospheric temperature is increasing as a result of more carbon dioxide in the air, one can sense the urgency in planting trees to scoop out carbon in the air. Though data is still not available on how large an area is currently being planted in the country, there is now a recognized urgency to plant trees and the Brazilian Government has committed to plant 12.5 million hectares by 2030.
Utilising the new Forestry Code as a framework; targets for remaining forests in each biome have been established and steps are already underway through mapping all individual properties with GPS. The maps plot agricultural land, water courses and remaining forest fragments . This will determine what areas in every eco-region need to be forested and facilitate the Government’s decision-making in terms of marrying obligations and compensations for other sectors of the economy.
If we are to integrate and strive to meet the 20 targets currently set by the global Convention of Biological Diversity meeting in Aitchi with 200 countries participating, we need action.
President Obama said that we are the first generation to feel the consequence of climate change and the last generation to be able to do something about it. A bit scary!
We are happy to see that REGUA working continuously and steadily for 15 years on its programmes in a clearly consistent and coherent way as another link in this chain towards the future. REGUA shares responsibility between responsible committed people.
The results at REGUA, this holistic approach involving a simultaneous action in protection, education, research, restoration is the way forward and results are showing.
Commissioner Appleton who was credited for the Catskills Watershed Management in New York and presented his work in this Congress at Curitiba is most optimistic. He said “If you got a great plan and are prepared to communicate it; start it and develop it, for you will find those sharing your dream and wanting to help you”.
We invited him to visit REGUA on his next trip to Rio de Janeiro!