Brazil Creates Largest Tropical Rainforest Preserve
BRASILIA, Brazil Brazil created the world's largest tropical rainforest preserve 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 -- an area larger than England -- across seven parks in Para, an eastern Amazon state heavily exploited by illegal loggers and land speculators.
A U.S. 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.