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Brazil establishes 3 new parks in the Amazon rainforest

Brazil establishes 3 new parks in the Amazon rainforest

Brazil establishes 3 new parks in the Amazon rainforest
July 10, 2006

Last month Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva decreed three new protected areas in the Amazon basin, placing 1.84 million hectares (4.55 million acres) of rainforest off-limits for development.

The areas include the 880,000-hectare “Campos Amazonicos National Park” in southeast Amazonas and northeast Rondônia states; the 830,000-hectare extractive reserve of River Unini in the northern Amazonas state; and the 133,000-hectare extractive reserve Arapixi in southern Amazonas state.

The two extractive reserves will serve as zones where local communities can exploit rainforest resources — including fruits, nuts, rubber and other non-wood forest products — in a sustainable manner.

The environmental ministry said that since 2002 President Silva has created 57 protected areas in the Amazon preserving some 19.3 million hectare of rainforest. More than twice that area — at least 55 million hectares — has been cleared since 1978, mostly as a result of forest conversion for cattle pasture and settlement. In 2004 alone, some 2.6 million hectares were leveled. Last year, the deforestation rate was only 1.9 million hectares.

Amazon deforestation. Courtesy of NASA

While the Brazilian government has tried to take credit for the drop in deforestation, analysts say the slowing is more likely due to lower commodity prices, giving farmers less incentive to clear forest land. The recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Mato Grosso do Sul, has also probably had an impact on forest clearing for cattle grazing.

Nevertheless, the establishment of the newly protected areas is an important step in conserving the vast Amazon rainforest. A 2006 study. conducted by researchers at the Woods Hole Research Center and the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia, found that parks reduced deforestation significantly relative to unprotected areas. Still, Brazil’s parks are woefully under staffed with only one forest ranger for every 650 square miles of protected area according to environmental group Vitoria Amazonica/

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