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  Yahoo News 4 Dec 06
Brazil protects great swath of Amazon
By PETER MUELLO, Associated Press Writer

BBC 4Dec 06
Rainforest gets protected status

PlanetArk 5 Dec 06
Brazil Creates Largest Tropical Rainforest Preserve

BRASILIA, Brazil - Brazil created the world's largest tropical rainforest preserve on Monday in a section of the Amazon scarred by illegal logging and decades of violence between loggers, ranchers, conservationists and land rights activists.

The preserve covers more than 58,000 square miles (15 million hectares) -- an area larger than England -- across seven parks in Para, an eastern Amazon state heavily exploited by illegal loggers and land speculators.

A US nun named Dorothy Stang was gunned down there last year, allegedly by ranchers who wanted her to stop helping locals fight for land rights.

Para state Gov. Simao Jatene said he created the new parks to stop land speculators from selling fake titles. He also said sustainable economic activities will be allowed in some areas so locals can support themselves.

"We're trying to avoid this trap of preservation versus production. Quite frankly, this bipolar view has done more to hurt than to help," he told Reuters by phone.

The Amazon, the world's largest tropical rainforest, is the planet's most diverse terrestrial ecosystem and is thought to hold a quarter of all species. In Brazil, the Amazon covers an area larger than India and huge swathes of land have already been cleared. Para has suffered particular damage because it lies along the southern and eastern borders of the Amazon and is more easily accessible than areas further inland.

The preserve expands a key wildlife corridor for jaguars, monkeys and birds in northern Para and also protects areas in conflict-ridden central Para.

Jatene, whose term ends Dec. 31, said he worked for years to demarcate the new parks. Recent changes to national forestry laws gave states more power, paving the way for the preserve's creation.

Environmentalists said creating the parks was an important step, but that there is more to be done.

"Just creating protected areas isn't enough," said Claudio Maretti of the World Wildlife Fund, which supported the new parks in Para. "You have to develop an economy for the forest."

Jatene acknowledged that the parks will require continued care after his term ends. "In Brazil, maintaining something can be as challenging as doing it in the first place," he said.

BBC 4Dec 06
Rainforest gets protected status

Vast tracts of rainforest in Brazil are to get a new protected status. The segments of land in the northern Para state together cover 15 million hectares (57,915 sq miles), an area of land that is bigger than England.

Thousands of wildlife species inhabit the pristine forest, including jaguars, anteaters and colourful macaws.

Campaigners say the decision made by Para Governor Simao Jatene is one of the most important conservation initiatives of recent years. It will protect the land from the unsustainable logging and agriculture practices that have blighted many parts of the Amazon.

"If any tropical rainforest on Earth remains intact a century from now, it will be this portion of northern Amazonia, due in large part to the governor's visionary achievement," said Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International.

"The region has more undisturbed rainforest than anywhere else, and the new protected areas being created by Para state represent an historic step toward ensuring that they continue to conserve the region's rich biodiversity and maintain its essential ecosystem services."

Conservation corridor

Seven new areas will gain protection, and they will link with existing reserves to form a huge conservation corridor in the northern Amazon. This corridor, known as the Guyana Shield region, stretches from neighbouring Guyana, Surinam and French Guiana into Brazil.

It is regarded a global conservation priority, containing more than 25% of Earth's humid tropical forests. Almost 90% of the Guyana Shield forest is untouched, and the area also contains the most significant freshwater reserves in the American tropics: almost 20% of the world's water runs through it.

Endangered species in the new protected areas include the giant otter and northern bearded saki monkey; and "flagship" species such as the jaguar, giant anteater and black spider monkey.

Since 1970, more than 600,000 sq kilometres (230,000 sq miles) of Amazon rainforest - an area larger than France - is said to have been destroyed.

Conservation International said continued deforestation at this rate would place the entire region in peril by 2050, and place increasing pressure on the planet from the additional greenhouse gasses being pumped into the atmosphere, which would usually stored by the trees.

Adalberto Verissimo, senior researcher at the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment (Imazon), which is working in collaboration with the Para State Government and Conservation International (CI), said: "This is the greatest effort in history toward the creation of protected areas in tropical forests."

Yahoo News 4 Dec 06
Brazil protects great swath of Amazon
By PETER MUELLO, Associated Press Writer

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - A swath of Amazon rain forest the size of Alabama was placed under government protection Monday in a region infamous for violent conflicts among loggers, ranchers and environmentalists.

Known as the Guayana Shield, the 57,915-square-mile area contains more than 25 percent of the world's remaining humid tropical forests and the largest remaining unpolluted fresh water reserves in the American tropics.

The protected areas will link to existing reserves to form a vast preservation corridor eventually stretching into neighboring Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

Conservation International put up $1 million to facilitate the expansion, which preserves much of the jungle's largely untouched north.

Still, it's far from clear how much the new reserves will do to stall Amazon destruction, since most of the deforestation is taking place along the rain forest's southern border.

"If any tropical rain forest on Earth remains intact a century from now, it will be this portion of northern Amazonia," Conservation International President Russell Mittermeier said. "The region has more undisturbed rain forest than anywhere else."

The Amazon region covers 60 percent of Brazil and 20 percent of its forest--1.6 million square miles--already has been destroyed by development, logging and farming. Over the past four years, an area larger than South Carolina has been cut down.

The protections announced Monday are all the more surprising coming out of Para, a state twice the size of France long known for ruthlessly cutting down the rain forest and where ranchers often gun down those who try to stop it.

The 2005 murder of American nun Dorothy Stang is only the most notorious killing of forest defenders in the largely lawless jungle frontier. Stang, 73, of Dayton, Ohio was shot dead in a dispute over a piece of land she wanted to preserve and local ranchers wanted cut down to raise cattle.

The new protected areas will help break the power of ranchers who often own plots of land the size of small European nations and rule them as their own personal fiefdoms, said Para state environment secretary Raul Porto.

"Now there's no need for the plantation-type estate, which was our biggest problem," Porto said in a televised interview.

Two of the new protected areas, covering 22,239 square miles, would place the land completely off limits to the general public and only be accessible to researchers.

Together these two areas are believed to contain up to 54.1 percent of all bird, animal and plant species found in the Amazon, Conservation International said. They also are home to several endangered animal species, including the northern bearded saki monkey, jaguars, giant anteaters, the giant armadillo and the ariranha, or giant Amazon otter.

The remaining areas have been declared sustainable use protected areas, allowing local communities to manage the natural resources and permitting limited logging under strict management.

The creation of the new reserves places about 55.4 percent of Para state either under some form of government protection or on an Indian reservation. "Together, the protected areas and indigenous lands of northern Para form one of the greatest biodiversity corridors of tropical forests in the planet," Conservation International said.

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