VICTORY: Brazil Creates Massive New Amazonian Forest Reserves
Brazil has created two new national parks in the Amazon rainforest and expanded another, placing 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) of rainforest, an area twice the size of Belgium, completely off limits to development. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's decree seeks to preserve an environmentally sensitive region in the western part of Para state long plagued by land disputes and environmental devastation, and next to where the government plans to pave a major road. Brazil's first four "Sustainable Forest Districts" or national forests for "sustainable logging" were also created.
In total some 6.4 million hectares west of the as of yet unpaved BR-163 highway were granted some form of protection. The protected areas seek to ensure that the planned paving of highway BR-163 does not result in an uncontrolled increase of logging on lands bordering the road, as has historically occurred throughout Amazonia. The controversial highway, stretching from the midwestern city of Cuiaba to the jungle port of Santarem, cuts through the heart of the rainforest and threatens to open a swath of destruction across the world's largest remaining tropical wilderness. Typically each road cut into the rainforest causes destruction for 30 miles on each side within a few years as invaders arrive to cut trees.
Forests.org has been instrumental in this victory, through years of raising awareness internationally regarding the potential impacts of road and other infrastructure development in the Amazon. Our international network has repeatedly asked the Brazilian government to increase protected areas in the Amazon, and to develop policies to mitigate deforestation. We have generated hundreds of thousands of protest emails that are a small but important part of these successful Amazon rainforest protections.
It remains to be seen whether protections of the type announced can halt follow on deforestation associated with roads in ancient forests, and just how ecologically sustainable forestry in ancient primary forests can be. Nonetheless, congratulations to Forests.org network members that participated in our years of campaigning, to the many others that work on these topics, and may Dorothy Stang who gave her life for these protections rest in peace.