BRAZIL -- November 10 -- Greenpeace today enthusiastically welcomed the signing of two official decrees by Brazilian President, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, creating extractive reserves (RESEX) in the Brazilian Amazon.
"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. The legacy of Chico Mendes has been honoured. With this decision, the Brazilian Government has shown that the future of the Amazon is not in the hands of illegal loggers or soya and cattle farmers. It is in the hands of social justice, environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources by the forest peoples."
With the decision, over 2 million hectares of forests will be protected. Local families will be granted collective rights to land and natural resources, allowing them to support themselves through traditional economic activities while preserving the environment (1).
Farmers and loggers - such as the Mayor of Porto de Moz, Gerson Campos, and the logging company Madernorte - who have illegally occupied community areas will be removed. (2) Only properties with legally valid documents will get financial compensation. The decrees officially create the Verde Para Sempre (Green Forever) RESEX in Porto de Moz, and the Riozinho do Anfrisio RESEX, in the Middle Land, both in the State of Para.
For four years Greenpeace has been working with the communities of Porto de Moz for the creation of Verde Para Sempre Extractive Reserve. Greenpeace also supports the establishment of a network of protected areas in the Middle Land to stop increasing deforestation led by cattle and soya farming.
The region of Porto de Moz is home to 22,000 people with more than half of them living in rural areas. For generations they've used the lands to sustain their families. However, over the last years many have been expelled from their lands by armed gunmen. Porto de Moz has become the battleground between forest communities and logging companies and farmers who illegally occupied the area (2). The lack of the rule of law in remote regions of the Amazon feed the impunity, generating more illegalities and destruction.
Late last year, IBAMA (the Brazilian Ministry of Environment), the Army and the Federal Police carried out a field operation to inspect forest management plans in the region. Millions of cubic meters of illegal wood were seized. The Greenpeace team was also in the region, onboard the environmental group's vessel the Arctic Sunrise. IBAMA, the Federal Police and Greenpeace had come under attack from local loggers.
Greenpeace promotes ecologically sustainable and socially responsible forest use, which includes large networks of protected areas, which are dedicated to conservation of biological diversity as well a natural and cultural resources. These areas should be established and managed in accordance with sustainable traditional cultural practices and should be protected from economical industrial activities and other practices which could potentially harm the environment.
(1) Extractive reserves (RESEX) are areas protected by law designated for the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources by the traditional communities inhabiting them. This model was developed in the 1980s by forest dwellers under the leadership of Chico Mendes and the National Council of Rubber Tappers (CNS) and adopted by the Brazilian Federal government in 1990. The Verde Para Sempre (Green Forever) RESEX was created with 1,288,717 hectares, and Riozinho do Anfrisio has 736,347 hectares.
(2) The Mayor of Porto de Moz and logging businessman Gerson Campos controls the Campos' Group. One of the companies of the Group, the Maturu, is involved with illegal logging. He is also one of the land lords of Porto de Moz. He claims to own lands that are in fact public lands - including an area of the National Forest of Caxiuanã. Campos is also one of the largest cattlemen, with more than 5,000 herds. The Federal Public Prosecutor accused Campos for land grabbing (grilagem) and fraud. He was also fined for illegal deforestation.
(3) Farmers and loggers easily invade forest areas, open illegal roads and threaten the traditional local people, who depend on the forests for their survival. Industrial exploitation on large scale started in 1990 with the depletion of wood stocks from traditional production centres in the East of Pará after years of intense and predatory logging. Today, many forest areas have been exhaustively exploited and, in many cases, converted into pastures.