If the U.S. election still has you down, try this for a pick-me-up: Five million acres of Amazon rainforest are now federally protected, thanks to an agreement signed by Brazilian president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva on November 9. The decision represents a major victory for local residents, who have lived amidst a raging conflict over land and forest, and for the millions of people worldwide who are concerned about protecting the earth's biodiversity.
Members of the Deni community prepare to demarcate land
The protected lands will take the form of two extractive reserves, areas that are protected by federal law for conservation and sustainable use by traditional communities. Both reserves - Verde Para Sempre (Green Forever) in Porto de Moz and Riozinho do Anfrisio in the Middle Land - are located in the state of Para, which is the largest producer and exporter of wood products in the Brazilian Amazon.
State of Para, State of Conflict
Greenpeace has been working with the communities of Porto de Moz for four years to create the Verde Para Sempre extractive reserve. The region of Porto de Moz is home to 22,000 people, more than half of whom live in rural areas. Over the past several years, many families have been expelled from their lands by armed gunmen who seek control over the forest. Both Porto de Moz and the Middle Land are places where violence, murder and modern-day slavery abound, all connected to the battle for land and forest.
Under the new protections, farmers and loggers who have illegally occupied community areas - such as the Mayor of Porto de Moz and the logging company Madernorte - will be removed.
Curbing Illegal Logging
Late last year, the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment (IBAMA), the army and the federal police carried out a field operation to inspect forest management plans in the region. During the inspection, they seized millions of cubic meters of illegal wood. We were present as well, onboard the Arctic Sunrise, to document the illegal logging and call for the creation of extractive reserves in the area.
"We are extremely happy with Lula's decision to protect the Amazon and the forest people who live here," said Paulo Adario of Greenpeace in the Amazon. "It's time to celebrate."