From: Michael Astor, Associated Press
Published June 22, 2006 12:00 AM

Brazil Creates Three New Protected Areas in Amazon Rainforest

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

Silva signed decrees creating the 880,000 hectare (2.2 million acre) Campos Amazonicos National Park and two extractive reserves at a ceremony in Brasilia, the environment ministry said in a statement. Extractive reserves are areas where local communities can exploit the rainforest in a sustainable manner, harvesting its fruits, nuts and rubber without logging.

The national park straddles Amazonas and Rondonia states. The Rio Unini and Arapixi reserves are both in Amazonas.

Since taking office in 2002 Silva has created 57 protected areas in the Amazon preserving some 19.3 million hectares (47.6 million acres) of rainforest, the environment ministry said.

But in truth, many of these protected areas exist only on paper.

Even when the parks have some degree of infrastructure, they rarely have enough forest rangers to patrol vast expanses. According to the environmental group Vitoria Amazonica, Brazil has one forest ranger for every 650 square miles at its 278 federal preserves.

That number falls sharply in the Amazon, which many rangers shun because of the isolation and threats from loggers.

The United States parks department has some 32,000 full-time employees compared with around 1,100 full-time staff in Brazil's parks.

The Brazilian Amazon sprawls over 1.6 million square miles (4.2 million square kilometers), the area of western Europe. Experts say as much as 20 percent of the forest has been destroyed by development, logging and farming. Last year the forest lost a near-record 10,000 square miles (25,900 square kilometers).

Source: Associated Press

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