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Brazil Expands Amazon National Park, Creates Forest Reserves

BRASILIA, Brazil, February 15, 2006 (ENS) - Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Monday signed decrees expanding Amazon National Park and creating seven new environmental protected areas in the western part of Pará state, a region marked by land disputes and environmental devastation.

The protected areas are intended to ensure that the planned paving of highway BR-163 does not result in uncontrolled increase of logging on lands bordering the road, as has historically occured throughout Amazonia.

In one decree, President Lula added 150,000 hectares to the million hectare (2.47 million acre) Amazon National Park, and another establishes the country's first Sustainable Forest District, also located in western Pará and aimed at fostering sustainable development in the region.

These decrees bring the total protected area in that region of Pará to 6.4 million hectares (15.8 million acres).

road

BR-163 cuts across the Brazilian Amazon. Paving is needed to make transport of agricultural products to market easier, but environmentalists warn they invite the construction of secondary roads extending for miles into the rainforest. (Photo courtesy Brazilian Environment Ministry)
The Amazon region as a whole now has 45.8 million hectares (113 million acres) of protected area, an increase of one-third as compared to 2003.

"The Lula administration's Plan to Combat Deforestation added 50 percent to this total by including another 15.1 million hectares of Conservation Units," said Environment Minister Marina Silva, who is not related to the president.

Following a meeting with President Lula and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, the environment minister said the district will be capable of generating 100,000 jobs, producing around 400 megawatts of electricity, and collecting US$832.52 million in taxes each year.

"These figures make a difference for the future of sustainable development in the Amazon region," Minister Silva said.

According to the President's Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff, who also attended the meeting, these are just some of the steps the government plans to announce this year to combat deforestation and reduce rural conflict in the country.

"All these steps are very important, because they constitute an institutional framework that will allow the country to control deforestation and lay the foundations for sustainable development," Rousseff said.

officials

Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva (left) shares a laugh with President Lula's Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff at the signing ceremony that created the new protected areas. (Photo courtesy Agencia Brasil)
In her view, the battle against deforestation has been one of the priorities of the current administration, which has been developing activities in this area since 2003.

Cláudio Maretti, coordinator of the Protected Areas Program of WWF-Brazil, said the creation of protected areas is effective in keeping land grabbers from illegally assuming ownership of public lands and destroying the forests, accomplishing de facto development.

"However," said Maretti, "the government must be faster in decreeing protected areas in other regions in case the pressures to abandon conservation intensify."

Maretti pointed out that there is a delay of one year before land protected by decree actually becomes a new conservation unit.

The newly protected lands are located along the BR-163 in the area where President Lula declared a logging moratorium after the murder of American nun Sister Dorothy Stang in February 2005. Stang spent more than 20 years in Brazil as an environmental activist involved in the fight for land rights in the Amazon River basin.

Two gunmen have been convicted of Stang's murder. Clodoaldo Batista was sentenced to 17 years in jail and Rayfran das Neves was sentenced to 28 years in jail.

Another three men accused of ordering her killing are in prison and are scheduled to be tried in April.



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