Amazon Protected Areas Fund Opens With $1 Million

BRASILIA, Brazil, June 4, 2004 (ENS) - Timed to coordinate with Brazil's National Environment Week, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced the creation Thursday of a permanent, multi-million dollar endowment to fund conservation efforts in the Brazilian Amazon.

In a ceremony at the presidential palace in Brasilia, WWF officials presented President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva with a check for $500,000 in seed money for the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) trust fund.

One of the largest and most ambitious conservation projects ever undertaken, ARPA is a partnership between the Brazilian government, the World Wildlife Fund, the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund, the German Development Bank, the World Bank, and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The GEF contributed a matching $500,000 grant for the fund's initial capitalization.

Guillermo Castilleja, WWF vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean, said, "With the establishment of the ARPA trust fund, we have reached an important milestone in our efforts to reverse the tide of deforestation and secure permanent protection for the Amazon. While we still have a long way to go, ARPA is no longer a dream. It's a reality in the making."


In an area protected under ARPA. (Photo courtesy Brazil Environment Ministry)
More than 20,000 square miles of new protected areas have already been established under ARPA, including the 15,000 square mile Tumucumaque Mountains National Park.

Other areas have been mapped and are undergoing scientific evaluation for inclusion in the ARPA network.

Similar to successful trusts that WWF has set up around the world, in places like Bhutan, Mexico and the Philippines, the endowment fund will "help guarantee that the parks are protected in fact, not just in name," said Matt Perl, WWF director for Amazon protected areas.

When fully capitalized at $240 million, the ARPA trust fund will be used to maintain and ensure continued protection of a 190,000 square mile network of national parks and sustainable use reserves covering an area larger than the state of California.

Brazilian environmentalist Paulo Nogueira-Neto, a member of the board of WWF-Brazil, presented the WWF check to President Lula at a ceremony in the Planalto presidential palace. Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva and Dr. Rosa Lemos de Sa, conservation director of WWF-Brazil were also present.

During a ceremony at the palace to mark National Environment Week, Silva announced the creation of four new conservation units, adding about 500,000 hectares to the protected areas of Mata Atlantica and Amazonia.


Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva announces newly protected areas. (Photo courtesy Brazilian Environment Ministry)
"At the moment when Brazil begins to experience renewed economic growth, taking care of the environment so that economic activities, especially in the area of infrastructure, develop in an environmentally sustainable way, will guarantee quality of life to all," she said.

"We have an enormous challenge in front of us," Silva said, inviting all Brazilians to help take care of Brazil's natural resources.

"To take care of our Brazil means to conserve and to use in a responsible way the largest tropical forest in the world, with about 550 million hectares, the greatest flowing rivers, and with almost 12 percent of the world's sweet surface water, 70 percent of it in the Amazon.

"It means to take good care of the biggest concentration of biodiversity, with about 20 percent of the total of existing species on our planet," the minister said.

"To take care of of Brazil is also to work with the state and municipal governments to assure quality of life in our cities, where nearly 80 percent of Brazilians live," she said.

The new ARPA funding is intended to assist Brazil in caring for its natural resources. The trust fund is in addition to some $80 million already raised by WWF and its partners to finance a 10 year plan to create a network of protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon one and a half times larger than the U.S. National Parks system.