President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva placed a large swath of rainforest under government protection Tuesday, creating two new environmental reserves in the Amazon.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil − President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva placed a large swath of rainforest under government protection Tuesday, creating two new environmental reserves in the Amazon.
The two "extractavist" reserves in the Amazon state of Para will protect over 2,000 square kilometers (772.20 square miles) of rainforest from logging, mining and other forms of environmental degradation.
Brazil has different categories of environmental reserve: Extravist reserves are designed to allow the local population to remain in the protected area, tapping rubber, picking fruits and nuts and extracting other regenerating goods from the forest.
Environmentalists praised the move.
"We are extremely happy with the government's decision to honor its commitment to protect the planet's biggest tropical forest and the communities that live in them," said Paulo Adario, coordinator of Greenpeace's Amazon campaign.
Only about 4 percent of the 5 million square kilometers (1.6 million square miles) Amazon are protected in environmental reserves, while 20 percent is protected in the form of Indigenous reservations.
Brazil's rainforest is as big as western Europe, covering 60 percent of the country's national territory. Experts say as much as 20 percent of its has been destroyed by development, logging and farming.
The environmental ministry said the two reserves will benefit some 2,600 families who will be able to better market products extracted from the jungle with the reserve designation.
"We will guarantee the preservation of areas and the end of illegal occupations," Environment Minster Marina Silva said in statement, referring to the loggers who invade areas of forest belonging to the federal government.
The newly created Riozinho do Anfrisio reserve covers 736,000 hectares (1,818,656 acres) in a remote part of the jungle near the Altamira national forest and two Indian reservations.
It is home to only 47 families, who live mostly through barter, the ministry said.
The Verde Para Sempre reserve -- whose name means Evergreen in English -- covers 1.28 million hectares (3.16 acres) and is home to some 2,500 families.
It's near Porto da Moz, some 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) northwest of Rio de Janeiro, where tensions between loggers and the local community have been growing in recent years.
Source: Associated Press