By Sandro Coneglian*

Photos: SPVS - Araucaria Forest, Mr. Crema, Endangered Anteater

When John Muir visited the South of Brazil in the early twentieth century, he considered the Araucaria Forest the most interesting one he had ever seen in his life. The American naturalist, who years earlier had convinced the U.S. Congress to create the Yosemite National Park, regretted that Brazil didn’t have a protection program for this forest, like the one created to protect the ancient giant sequoias and biological diversity found in California.

More than one hundred years after Muir’s visit, 2011 was declared the International Year of Forests by the United Nations. In Brazil, the situation regarding the protection of forests has changed greatly in recent decades: the country now has a good system of protected areas, including categories that protect the environment and the people who live off of it; the number of legally protected areas increased significantly; the protection of forests has gained new allies such as owners of natural areas and companies that are able to create their own private reserves. Recently, PSA (payment for environmental services) was better delineated between government and nongovernmental organizations.

A good practice of PSA took place in southern Brazil, the land with the most significant remaining natural Araucaria Forests that Muir visited. Nearly four thousand acres of private forests are preserved and managed as legally protected areas. The Sociedade de Pesquisa em Vida Selvagem e Educação Ambiental – SPVS (Wildlife Research and Environmental Education Society) created a program in which ten private sector companies are involved to protect and conserve the environment. HSBC, one of participants of the program, already supports 15 areas, transferring monetary funds to the owners so they keep the preserved remnants of Araucaria within their properties. Families that benefit from this program improve the local infrastructure and even hire a ranger to guard the area against fire, deforestation and hunting of wild animals, among others initiatives.

José Orlando Crema, owner of the Sossego farm, claims that the support he received from the program Desmatamento Evitado (Avoided Deforestation) by SPVS helped him continue his work on preserving the area instead of exploring its resources. Crema said that the preservation of the area allows for the survival of wild animals such as the cougar, and the protection of various water sources.

This year presents a great opportunity to highlight good practices towards forests, but it’s also important to remember the challenges ahead. In Brazil, the preservation of both the Amazon and Atlantic Forest rely on a familiarity with their biomes, but some areas would benefit from even greater understanding. In addition, the Forest Law that protects natural areas of the country, including water heritage, is under threat of falling apart, which presents a serious threat for the future of the forests.
*Sandro Coneglian has a degree in Forestry Engineering and a Master in Environmental Management. He has held leadership roles in non-governmental organizations related to nature conservation and public agencies. He has extensive experience in environmental management, with an emphasis on the protection of natural areas, and the development and implementation of environmental conservation projects. Sandro has published articles about conservation management and community development, climate change, environmental education, and the forestation of urban areas.

For more information, please visit www.spvs.org.br.