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4. Forest conservation and management

Parks and preserves
Extractive reserves
The extraction of non-timber forest products by settlers
Forest management for timber and charcoal

Parks and preserves

A large number of parks, national forests, biological preserves, and Indian reserves have been created in Amazonia. In the Brazilian Amazon alone, 37 million ha are embraced in parks, reserves, and national forests (table 4.1). In addition, Rondônia has 5.5 million ha in various categories of state and municipal conservation units, including state forest reserves. Acre has set aside the 66,000 ha Antimari state forest reserve, among other conservation areas.

Over 16 million ha have been designated as national parks or biological reserves in the Amazonian portions of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela (table 4.2). Of the 38 million ha in the Colombian Amazon, 22.5 million ha are designated as parks or Indian reserves (Bunyard 1989). The 70,000 Indians living in the Colombian Amazon have been decreed 18 million ha. Colombia is thus highly unusual in that 41 per cent of its Amazonian region is set aside from conventional development. More parks and reserves are planned for various parts of the Amazon basin.

Indian reserves

Indigenous reserves are extensive, and more are likely to be created. In July 1991, the Venezuelan government decreed an 8 million ha reserve for the Yanomamo, and the Brazilian government followed suit in November by creating a 9 million ha reserve for the widely scattered group in Roraima. Because people already live in them, Indian reserves are less prone to illegal incursions than are nominally protected parks and biological reserves. Still, they are not immune to invasions by gold seekers, farmers, and loggers. By the mid-1980s, most of Brazil's indigenous reserves had been invaded (Foresta 1991: 184).

Table 4.1 National parks, national forests, biological reserves, and ecological stations in the Brazilian Amazon with at least 10,000 ha

Park/reserve Category State Year
Roraima National forest Roraima 1989 2,664,685
Jaú National park Amazonas 1980 2,272,000
Pico da Neblina National park Amazonas 1979 2,200,000
Gorotire Forest/resource reserve Pará 1961 1,843,000
Serra do Araça State park Amazonas 1990 1,818,700
Tucumaque Forest/resource reserve Pará 1961 1,793,000
Parima Forest/resource reserve Roraima 1961 1,756,000
Amazonas National forest Amazonas 1989 1,573,100
Mundurucania Forest/resource reserve Pará 1961 1,377,000
Mamirauá Ecological station Amazonas 1990 1,124,000
Tefé National forest Amazonas 1989 1,020,000
Amazônia National park Amazonas/Pará 1974 993,500
Pacaás Novos National park Rondônia 1979 764,801
Taracua I National forest Amazonas 1990 674,400
Pari Cachoeira II National forest Amazonas 1989 654,000
Cabo Orange National park Amapá 1980 619,000
Piraiauara National forest Amazonas 1990 615,000
Serra do Divisor National park Acre 1989 605,000
Guaporé Biological reserve Rondônia 1982 600,000
Tapajós National forest Pará 1974 600,000
Rio Corumbiara State park Rondônia 1992 586,031
Araguaia National park Tocantins 1959 562,312
Uatuma Biological reserve Amazonas 1990 560,000
Taracua II National forest Amazonas 1990 559,504
Tarauacu II National forest Amazonas 1990 551,504
Igana-aiari National forest Amazonas 1990 491,300
Saracataquera National forest Pará 1989 429,600
Cubate National forest Amazonas 1990 416,532
Amapa National forest Amapá 1989 412,000
Xie National forest Amazonas 1990 400,000
Lago Piratuba Biological reserve Amapá 1980 395,000
Caracaraí Ecological station Roraima 1982 394,560
Trombetas Biological reserve Pará 1979 385,000
Anavilhanas Ecological station Amazonas 1981 350,000
Gurupi Biological reserve Maranhão/Pará 1988 341,650
Mapia National forest Acre 1989 311,000
Jutai-Solimões Ecological/biological Amazonas 1983 288,187
Abufari Biological reserve Amazonas 1982 288,000
Niquia Ecological station Roraima 1985 286,600
Inauini-Teuini National forest Amazonas 1988 285,000
Bom Futuro National forest Rondonia 1988 280,000
Jaru Biological reserve Rondonia 1979 268,150
Guajara-Mirim State park Rondônia 1992 258,813
Purus National forest Amazonas 1988 256,000
Jari Ecological station Amapá/Pará 1982 227,126
Jamari National forest Rondônia 1984 215,000
Iquê Ecological station Mato Grosso 1981 200,000
Caxiuanã National forest Pará 1961 200,000
Içana National forest Amazonas 1990 195,000
Tapirapé/Aquiri National forest Pará 1989 190,000
Macauã National forest Acre 1988 173,475
Juami-Japurá Ecological/biological Amazonas 1983 173,200
Monte Roraima National park Roraima 1989 116,000
Cuiari National forest Amazonas 1990 109,000
Sauim Ecological/biological Amazonas 1982 109,000
Castanheiras reserve      
Cuniã Ecological station Rondônia 1986 104,000
Tapirapé Biological reserve Pará 1989 103,000
Maraca Ecological station Roraima 1981 101,312
Serra dos Tres Ecological station Rondônia 98,813  
Urucu National forest Amazonas 1990 96,000
Rio Acre Ecological station Acre 1981 77,500
Maraca-Jipioca Ecological station Amapá 1981 72,000
Rio Ouro Preto Ecological/biological Rondônia 1992 46,438
Serra dos Araras Ecological station Mato Grosso 1982 28,700
Nhamundá State park Amazonas 1989 28,370
Tracadal Ecological/biological Rondônia 1992 22,540
Samuel Ecological station Rondônia 1989 20,865
Pari Cachoeira I National forest Amazonas 1989 18,000
Taiamâ Ecological station Mato Grosso 1981 14,325
Reserva Ducke Biological reserve Amazonas 1963 10,072
TOTAL   37,673,665

Sources: Anderson (1987); Ávares-Afonso (1992); Aline da Rin P. Azovedo (pers. comm., 14 August 1992); Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, Carajás; Eden (1990: 200); Gradwohl and Greenberg (1988); IBDF (1982); Secretaria do Meio-Ambiente (SEMA; now merged with IBDF to form IBAMA), Brasilia; Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (IBAMA), Brasilia; Map of Áreas de Proteção Arnbiental Acre, 1991, Governo do Estado, Secretaria de Meio Ambiente.

Table 4.2 National parks and biological reserves in the Amazon region of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru

Park/reserve Category Location Area (ha)
Cahuinari National park Colombia 575,000
El Tuparro Biological reserve Colombia 290,000
Amacayacu National park Colombia 170,000
Yasuni National park Ecuador 678,000
Cuyabeno Biological reserve Ecuador 254,760
Limoncocha Biological reserve Ecuador 5,261
Manu National park Peru 1,532,806
Pacaya-Samiria Biological reserve Peru 1,388,000
Tingo Maria National park Peru 18,000
Canaima National park Venezuela 3,000,000
Serrania la Neblina National park Venezuela 1,360,000
Yapacana National park Venezuela 320,000
Duida-Marahuaca National park Venezuela 210,000
Jaua-Sarisarinama National park Venezuela 330,000
Manuripi Biological reserve Bolivia 1,844,375
Bella Vista National park Bolivia 90,000
Isoboro Secure National park Bolivia 1,100,000
Ulla Ulla Biological reserve Bolivia 240,000
Huanchaca National park Bolivia 541,000
Beni/Chimane Biosphere reserve Bolivia 1,633,000
Isiboro-Sécure National park Bolivia 1,233,000
TOTAL   16,813,202

Sources: Aline da Rin P. Azevedo (pers. comm., 14 August 1992); Eden (1990: 200); Foresta (1991: 25); Gradwohl and Greenberg (1988); Renner, Balslev, and Holm-Nielsen (1990).

Indigenous peoples cannot always be expected to treat the forest in ways that can be considered harmonious with its long-term survival. As native people become increasingly integrated with national societies, some of them will forge new economic relationships, with potentially drastic consequences for the forest. Some Kaiapo leaders, for example, are profiting handsomely from the lumber trade in their 3.2 million ha reserve, and now own brick homes, cars, and aircraft.) Between 1989 and 1991, the Kaiapó sold at least US$43 million worth of timber. Logging on Kaiapo land is mostly conducted by outside crews, and no credible claims to its sustainability are being made. Some indigenous communities are also raising cattle and participating in the gold rush. To argue that indigenous peoples should not be free to emulate economic activities around them would deny them the right to control their futures.

The private sector and conservation

In spite of the growing momentum to set aside parks and reserves in Amazonia, such efforts alone are unlikely to save much of the remaining forest. Only the military or private landholders are currently capable of effectively policing large tracts of forest in the region. Respect for military muscle in conservation matters in developing countries is tacitly recognized in Guatemala, where some army conscripts spend the first few months of their service as armed guards in national parks.

Legislation alone is unlikely to safeguard Amazonian forests. First, most reserves and parks in Amazonia have been invaded by loggers, miners, cattle ranchers, or squatters. This holds true for most parks and reserves in developing regions, such as in South-East Asia (Brookfield, Potter, and Byron 1995). Enforcement of park and reserve boundaries is difficult given the vast areas and limited manpower. Colombia's Indian reserves appear to be less affected by such illegal incursions, but development pressures are less pronounced in the Colombian Amazon.

Second, no agreement has emerged among biologists about priority areas for conservation. Earlier efforts to use the refugia theory to pinpoint areas of high biological diversity are increasingly disputed (Sternberg 1982). Some of the proposed refugia may have been too cold to support rain forest during Pleistocene glacial periods (Colinvaux 1987, 1989; Liu and Colinvaux 1985). Also the locations of at least some of the proposed Pleistocene refugia may be artefacts of collecting efforts (Nelson et al. 1990). Some progress towards a consensus on high-priority areas for conservation has been made, but more information is needed about patterns of diversity and palaeoecology in Amazonia (Prance 1990). Compromises will have to be made between a desire to conserve unique ecosystems and the need to develop resources.

Third, although the total area of existing parks and reserves is impressive, it represents only a minute portion of the Amazon basin. What happens outside such preserved areas will be critical to their survival. The more productive and sustainable the farms, ranches, and plantations are outside parks and reserves, the greater their chances for survival.

In the short term at least, the private sector will do a better job of saving substantial tracts of Amazonia's forests from the axe and power saw. The Jari operation has been accused of promoting massive deforestation (Nigh and Nations 1980), but 90 per cent of Jari's 1.6 million ha is slated to remain in forest. The consortium of companies that operates Jari allows miners to use the airport at Monte Dourado, but does not permit mining, hunting, or logging on its property. Regular jaguar sightings at Jari are one indication that the forest is left relatively intact.

At Carajás, Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) has a 411,000 ha concession to exploit minerals. Adjacent to CVRD's area, the Xikrin Indian reserve occupies 439,000 ha (fig. 4.1). The 190,000 ha Tapirapé/Aquiri national forest straddles part of the northern borders of CVRD's area and the Xikrin reserve. Adjacent to this national forest, which has been set up for sustainable forestry, is the 103,000 ha Tapirapé biological reserve. Finally, a buffer zone of forest has been designated along the northern margin of CVRD's area. This buffer zone, known as an environmental protection area, encompasses 21,600 ha and is rich in Brazil nut trees, among other valuable forest resources.

Fig. 4.1 Protected areas in the vicinity of Carajás, Pará

The Xikrin reserve is under the aegis of the Indian service (FUNAI Fundação Nacional do Indio), and the border with CVRD's area will afford it some protection. The environmental protection area, the Tapirapé biological reserve, and the Tapirapé/Aquiri national reserve are under the jurisdiction of the Brazilian agency for the environment and renewable natural resources (IBAMA - Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis). IBAMA lacks the manpower to oversee these reserves, so CVRD has been given the authority by the federal government (decrees 97.718, 97.719, and 97.720) to administer the properties jointly. CVRD's armed guards, backed by helicopters, speedboats, and vehicles, readily detect and expel intruders. The total area thus protected is 1,164,600 ha.

In the long term, the task of properly administering parks and reserves rests with competent government agencies. But even in developed countries, such as the United States, only a small fraction of the national territory is in parks and other protected areas. Also, safeguarding such areas is a daunting task even for countries with relatively abundant resources. National parks in the United States pose a wide range of management problems, including control of poaching. How long it will take for governments with territories in Amazonia to install sufficient park guards in the region is difficult to tell. Unless a substantial infusion of funds arrives from international donors specifically for protecting reserves and parks, other pressing demands on scarce budgetary resources are likely to preclude efficient parks services in the region for some time to come.

What, then, are the options for conserving substantial areas of Amazonia? First, scientists and administrators need to be honest about the benefits of conserving forests versus more immediate needs to provide access to land and other resources. One can point to a wide range of environmental services provided by forests and suggest potential uses, but such arguments often crumble in the face of development pressures. Efforts can be made to try and make forests "pay" for themselves, such as by creating extractive reserves, but such models are often fraught with shaky economic assumptions, or fail to take into account social and cultural needs.

The best hope for conservation in the long run is to raise living conditions in the region, in both rural and urban areas. More employment opportunities need to be created in towns and cities to absorb the rural exodus that is likely to continue even with land reform. If farms, ranches, plantations, and extractive reserves can be made more productive while minimizing damage to the environment, then people living in Amazonia are more likely set aside and safeguard large areas of the world's largest remaining forest wilderness for future generations.


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