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New protected areas boost Amazon conservation

Press release from World Wildlife Fund | December 25, 2006

The creation of more than 16 million hectares of new protected areas in Brazil's Amazon will help stop illegal hunting and deforestation.

The creation of more than 16 million hectares of new protected areas in Brazil's north is a significant step for conservation in the Amazon, says WWF-Brazil.

The Governor of the state of Pará, Simão Jatene, signed the decrees setting up the protected areas that will create the biggest mosaic of protected areas on the planet, including the largest strict preservation area.

"The creation of these new protected areas is of enormous relevance for conservation of the Amazon," said Denise Hamú, CEO of WWF-Brazil.

"It should be seen not only as a solution to the environmental problems faced by our country, but also essential as an immediate action to reduce deforestation in the Amazon," added Cláudio Maretti, head of WWF-Brazil's Protected Areas Programme.

The new protected areas in Pará, covering 16.4 million hectares - an area larger than Portugal and Ireland combined - are rich in biological diversity. However, the area is threatened by illegal gold mining, which can contaminate water resources with mercury and cause siltation, illegal hunting, and unsustainable use of the forest for wood products.

Deforestation through "land grabbing" for irregular agriculture and cattle ranching is also an issue. Though the Amazon rainforest remains the largest expanse of its kind in the world, scientists have estimated that more than 17 per cent of the biome in Brazil has been lost.

WWF has invested US$11 million in protected areas throughout the Amazon in the past four years, either directly or through the Amazon Region Protected Areas Programme (ARPA). In the state of Pará alone, WWF will invest about US$6.5 million in the next three years. It will also invest US$15 million in the ARPA Endowment Fund, to be used for the long-term maintenance of protected areas in the Amazon region.

Three state forests - Paru, Trombetas and Faro - totalling 7.4 million hectares are among the new protected areas to be created with today's decree.

Two of the new areas will be earmarked for strict preservation measures. These are the Grão-Pará Ecological Station, with about 4.3 million hectares, making it the largest strict preservation area in the world, and the Maicuru Biological Reserve, with about 1.2 million hectares.

These new protected areas will also form the world's largest conservation corridor, connecting them to a big protected area in Amapá, which includes the Montanhas do Tumucumaque National Park, which until now was the biggest protected area created in the Brazilian Amazon. This mosaic of protected areas will be further connected, through indigenous people's lands, with other protected areas in the Brazilian states of Roraima and Amazonas.

Another two areas being created - the Iriri State Forrest and Triunfo do Xingu Environmental Protection Area - have been eagerly awaited since 2004 because they complete the Terra do Meio mosaic of protected areas.

"WWF-Brazil had, together with other organizations, asked the Pará State government to complete the protection of the mosaic in Terra do Meio," Maretti added. "It is with great satisfaction to now see this being accomplished."

The Terra do Meio region is under constant pressure from deforestation, suffering the highest deforestation rates in Brazil in the past few years. There are three main causes: "land-grabbing" associated with soy plantations, cattle ranching in São Félix do Xingu, and irregular occupation along the Transamazônia road. There are also risks from new infrastructure projects such as the proposed hydropower dam Belo Monte.

The creation of the protected forests will enable a policy of sustainable forestry to be implemented, thereby helping in Para's future long-term economic development that integrates conservation needs.

WWF Brazil has pledged to continue its support to these protected areas.

editors note For further information:
Bruno Taitson, WWF-Brazil
Tel: +55 61 3364 7465

Ana Cíntia Guazzelli, WWF-Brazil
Tel: +55 92 3656 3612

Article has been adapted from a news release issued by World Wildlife Fund.

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