Colombia indigenous groups seek to help manage forest resources

(Continuing today’s theme of indigenous forest protection efforts…)

Colombian tribal leaders based in the Amazon Rainforest are making the case that traditional low-impact forestry management techniques from their indigenous communities native to those forest areas should play a key role in a proposed “corridor” aiming to preserve vital forest resources and biodiversity from logging and other development.

“Indigenous groups want changes to plan for Amazon biodiversity corridor” – Al Jazeera America

Indigenous leaders representing some 250 Amazon Basin tribes said Tuesday that an ambitious plan proposed earlier this year to create a protected corridor roughly the size of France in parts of Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela is a great idea to safeguard biodiversity and combat climate change, but it leaves out a key aspect of forest management — the people who have been successfully protecting the rainforest through sustainable practices for centuries.
The group supports the plan, proposed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, in concept. It would create a contiguous area of 135 million hectares, or more than 300 million acres, that would become off-limits to deforestation and other destructive resource extraction practices in order to protect the area’s biodiversity.

“The corridor will not only protect indigenous people but also the Amazon Basin that is giving pure air to the world,” Furagaro said.
But indigenous leaders say that simply banning certain activities in the forest isn’t enough. So last month, 25 indigenous leaders from Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela trekked into the middle of the Amazon by foot, boat and bus to come up with something better. They discussed how to improve on Santos’ idea while keeping their territorial, cultural, social and economic rights.
The tribes represented at the meeting called for the final corridor proposal to allow free travel in the protected area for indigenous people so that they can continue to manage the forest using traditional methods, which are often thwarted by political borders.

“The corridor could also protect 245 different indigenous peoples’ communities, 245 different traditional languages and 245 different traditional uses of the land,” Furagaro said.


In Brazil, native militias form to protect forests


Here’s another story along the lines of the First Nations resistance in British Columbia, Canada, to oil pipeline construction on traditional lands… “Amazon residents resort to militias to keep out illegal loggers” – Washington Post:

A beat-up sign on the edge of this Amazon reserve warns strangers not to enter. For years, loggers ignored it and barreled straight into the protected indigenous territory, cutting tracks ever deeper into the diminishing forest.

But on a recent day, visitors approaching Juçaral village, just inside the reserve, encountered an improvised checkpoint operated by a militia called the Guardians. Wearing disheveled uniforms and face paint, members of the 48-man militia sauntered out, shotguns in hand, to check every arriving vehicle.

The Guardians are one of two indigenous groups on this eastern fringe of the Amazon that have taken radical action to reduce illegal logging. They have tied up loggers, torched their trucks and tractors, and kicked them off the reserves.

As a result, such logging has sharply declined in these territories. But the indigenous groups have faced reprisal attacks and death threats for their actions, raising fears of more violence in an area known for its lawlessness.

The clashes highlight the continuing grave threat to the Amazon, the world’s biggest remaining rain forest, which plays a crucial role in maintaining the world’s climate and biodiversity. From 2005 to 2012, deforestation plunged in Brazil, as the government increased its conservation efforts and cracked down on illegal loggers. But since then, the numbers have begun to creep up again. In 2014 alone, almost 2,000 square miles of Amazon rain forest were cleared by farmers, loggers and others.

Indigenous groups play an important role in preserving Brazil’s Amazon rain forest; their reserves make up roughly one-fifth of its area. Silvio da Silva, a village chief from Arariboia and an employee of the Brazilian government’s indigenous agency, said that a year ago as many as 130 logging trucks left the southern end of this reserve a day. Thanks to the Guardians, that has fallen to around 10 to 15 trucks a day.

In a rare visit to the reserves permitted by the indigenous tribes, Washington Post journalists found that many residents support the militias. But others are uneasy about relying on informal armed groups to resolve a problem that should fall to the Brazilian government.

Continue reading this feature…

In many cases, they have used mild force to restrain loggers and block their activities. This has, of course, been met with violent reprisals and assassinations of indigenous leaders and activists.

18% of the pre-1970 Brazilian Amazon had been cut down as of 2013. Massive clear-cutting began in 1970 and has played a crucial role in Brazil becoming the world’s seventh-largest greenhouse gas emitter.

The Amazon rainforest is being cleared for timber, mining, soybean farming, sugar plantations and cattle grazing, as well as to assert legal claims to property by showing “development” on the land.

Brazil’s government has taken steps to make significant reductions in yearly deforestation, but these efforts will need to be sustained consistently and more deeply — and thus far they have not been. Brazil’s climate action plan released in September 2015 is a continuation of its recent strong emissions cuts, but its deforestation pledge only tackles illegal logging, not vast legal timber harvests. And even the illegal logging clearly isn’t close to under control as the Washington Post feature quoted above proves.