ACA Newsletter, July 2009

In this issue:

 


Our Manu Cloud Forest Canopy Observatory is Nearly Complete!

Canopy Walkway by Julia WeintrittThe Amazon Conservation Association, our Peruvian sister organization, Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA) and the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) partnered with Greenheart Conservation Company Ltd. to build the first-ever canopy walkway in an Amazonian highland cloud forest. The walkway will be a major resource for education and research at our Wayqecha Cloud Forest Research Center, which borders the southern tip of Manu National Park.

The canopy walkway provides access to the upper parts of the forest, which is where much of the action is, including an amazing diversity of bromeliad, orchids, birds and butterflies. This facility will offer new educational opportunities to researchers, students, tourists, and local communities to study the Andean cloud forest ecosystem from a bird's-eye perspective.

The canopy walkway is the most sophisticated structure of its type anywhere. It consists of four aluminum towers connected by a 146-meter-long network of suspension bridges that pass under, through, and above the forest canopy. The tallest tower is 44 meters above ground level. One of the towers is a large, dedicated “classroom tower” where groups can assemble undisturbed on an upper platform for environmental education. Another important feature of the canopy walkway is a rigid truss bridge through a small rock canyon that leads to the base of a waterfall passing through an area with a completely distinct climate and extraordinary plant life. Other bridges lead visitors across forested slopes that cover eight distinct eco-zones, providing a view from more than 10,000 feet in elevation down to the Amazon basin.

canopy crew by Julia WeintrittACA employed and trained a team of 12 local workers to build the canopy walkway. Of these, 10 were from the local community of Juan Velasco Alvarado de Sunchubamba, whose territory borders Wayqecha, one was from Pillcopata, and one was from the Queros Wachiperi native community. A thirteenth member, Njurah, comes from Nigeria with previous experience building canopy walkways, and is now acting as a foreman for the team as construction wraps up.

For more than a month these workers were delivered Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Greenheart-sponsored training focused on training, leadership, and conflict resolution. They were further trained in the skills necessary for construction and maintenance of the walkway itself. Many of these skills are transferable to other types of employment and for many this was their first taste of employment beyond farm labor. After the inauguration of the walkway, these workers are capable of any necessary maintenance and will likely continue to be employed as “environmental interpreters,” leading tours for students, researchers, and tourists.

The canopy walkway will be inaugurated this fall and will be available to researchers, students, the local community, and the general public. For more information about the walkway, contact us at . For a glimpse of the construction process, visit our new online Canopy Walkway Photo Gallery. (Photos above by Joshua Rapp and Julia Weintritt)

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International REDD Workshop Held in Peru

REDD workshop audienceACA and our Peruvian sister organization, ACCA, hosted an international conference on REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) from May 4-6, 2009, in Madre de Dios, Peru. A market-based strategy for mitigating climate change, REDD offers carbon buyers a way to “offset” their greenhouse gas emissions and sellers to earn a profit from protecting their forests. Co-hosted by the Regional Government of Madre de Dios (GOREMAD), the conference addressed economic, social, and environmental opportunities and challenges for REDD in Madre de Dios and the rest of the MAP Region (Madre de Dios, Peru; Acre, Brazil; Pando, Bolivia).

Many international experts in REDD markets, carbon modeling, and conservation presented proposals and studies on the regional impacts of climate change, international climate policy, the design of REDD markets, and current REDD projects. Over 120 participants attended the event, including local and regional policy makers, representatives from native communities, conservation organizations and other civil society groups, and students from Universidad Nacional Amazónica de Madre de Dios (UNAMAD). The event was also broadcast in real time via closed-circuit TV with local and regional press in attendance.

Steve Panfil at REDD workshopThe workshop opened the topic for debate regionally and nationally, and identified institutional and political challenges to make REDD a viable option in Madre de Dios and throughout the region. One of the outcomes of the workshop was a proposal to establish a working group of experts to create a standard regional model of deforestation projections that will help establish a solid baseline for the region.

To disseminate information regarding REDD policies, ACCA is co-sponsoring the Spanish translation (PDF) of The Little REDD Book (PDF). The workshop was sponsored by ACA, ACCA, Conservation International, GOREMAD, The Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, SFM, SPDA, The Nature Conservancy, UNAMAD, and WWF-Peru. (Photos above by Miguel Moran)            

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After Bloodshed, Peru’s Government Revisits Land Policies 

(Article by Scott Harris) The Peruvian government reversed course on two controversial laws following a deadly clash earlier this summer between indigenous tribes and police.

Forest by Adrian TejedorOn June 18, Peru’s Congress voted 82-14 to overturn legislative decree 1090, which would have removed protected status from more than 170,000 square miles of northeastern Peruvian forest, and Decree 1064, which made it easier for companies to conduct oil or gas exploration without obtaining prior approval from local and indigenous communities. Furthermore, in a sign of willingness to increase indigenous involvement in future decision-making regarding Amazon lands, the government has formed the National Coordination Group for the Development of Amazonian Peoples, which will include several indigenous leaders in its membership.

Daysi Zapata, acting president of the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP), said in a statement on the group’s Web site that “we are grateful that the will of the indigenous peoples has been heard and we only hope that in the future governments listen and attend to indigenous peoples.”

The changes occurred after thousands of indigenous demonstrators, centered largely around the town of Bagua about 600 miles north of Lima, were allegedly fired upon by security forces. Peru’s government temporarily placed the region under a state of emergency after the incident, which left between 30 and 100 people dead, according to various estimates. After the protest, schools and markets in Puerto Maldonado, the capital city of the Madre de Dios region and home of one of ACCA’s offices, closed their doors for 48 hours in response to the incident.

Forest View by Adrian TejedorJames Anaya, the United Nations Special Reporter for Indigenous People, has called for an investigation into allegations of abuse of indigenous people by security forces in Peru. 

The Madre de Dios region was not directly affected by the protests or the decrees, although it could have been eventually impacted by the precedents set by the decrees had they remained in place. Madre de Dios president Santos Kaway will be a member of the government’s new Amazonian Peoples group, along with four representatives of the government’s executive branch, the presidents of Peru’s Loreto, Ucayali, Amazonas, and San Martin regions, and 10 representatives of Amazonian native communities.

Peru’s government has in recent years been openly courting energy company investments, which Peruvian president Alan Garcia has said would provide a boon to the nation’s economy. On July 7, Houston-based BPZ Resources Inc., an oil and gas exploration and production company, announced that a subsidiary company had secured a $70 million line of credit for oil development in Peru. In April, French firm Perenco announced it would invest $2 billion for oil exploration in Peru’s Loreto region. Other companies currently involved in drilling and exploration in Peru include Argentina’s PlusPetrol, Canada’s Petrolifera, Spain’s Repsol, and Brazil’s Petrobras. (Photos above by Adrian Tejedor)

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Camera Traps Reveal Major Recovery of Fauna at Los Amigos

Ocelot by Joe BishopPhotos of animals like the ones here were recorded by three camera traps, each just 250 meters from the CICRA biological station in the Los Amigos Conservation Concession in Madre de Dios, Peru.

Set up by Joe Bishop of Pennsylvania State University and the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER), the camera traps are camouflaged cameras that are activated by movement, automatically photographing passing wildlife.

These cameras are instrumental for studies of nocturnal species or other rare mammals, and are commonly used because up-close study of these animals is difficult and potentially dangerous.

Tapir by Joe BishopThey have already shown that the fauna is abundant and diverse in the vicinity of the station, including four species of cats: jaguar (Panthera onca), puma (Felis concolor), ocelot (Leopardus tigrinus, photo above), and margay (Leopardus wiedii), one bush dog (Atelocynus microtis), and ungulates like the tapir (Tapirus terrestris, photo to the left), South America’s largest terrestrial mammal.

At a mining camp on the opposite side of the Madre de Dios River, where miners are known to hunt for meat, the abundance of animals seems to be much lower than at the station, which demonstrates the important role of protected areas for the maintenance of healthy animal populations.

“We’re checking cameras that have been extremely successful on a weekly basis. Three are hardly 250 meters from the station; in other words, we are surrounded by animals,” said Dr. Adrian Tejedor, ACCA's Science Manager.

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ACA-Bolivia Trains College Students to Create Brazil Nut Forest Database

Map by Gerald FlowerBiology majors at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz, Bolivia have input productivity and physical data into ACA’s Brazil nut tree database for thousands of Brazil nut trees located in northern Bolivia, near Madidi National Park.

These enthusiastic interns were trained by ACA-Bolivia staff members Javier Calderón and Abraham Poma to use geographic information systems (GIS) and related digital databases to create multi-layered resource maps. Participants included Ruth Cory, Oswaldo Palabral, Mariela Escobar, Claudia Piza, Aymara Duran, and Variozka Azenas.

ACA-Bolivia has collected data on 115,000 Brazil nut trees in the Takana indigenous land claim area since 2006. Data collected include, among others: number of trees, production rate, circumference, presence or absence of vines, quality of understory, and drainage.  These data are fed into the Brazil nut tree database for ACA-Bolivia’s project area including the four Takana communities of Puerto Pérez, Las Mercedes, Toromonas, and El Tigre, north of Madidi. 

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ACA chosen for 2009/10 Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington

Flower by Noriko NakamuraWashington-based Amazon Conservation Association will be featured in the 2009/10 Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington.

This is the Catalogue's seventh year in the Washington, DC region. It profiles environmental, cultural, educational, human services, and international organizations with budgets below $3 million.

ACA was selected as one of only 68 nonprofits from a field of over 250 applicants, and one of only three international nonprofits. A committee of 90 professionals from area foundations, corporate giving programs, family foundations, nonprofit organizations, and the DC government participated in the review process.

Nearly 30,000 individuals and hundreds of foundations will receive copies of the Catalogue in mid-November. To date, the Catalogue has helped to raise over $8.5 million in donations for local nonprofits.

According to Barbara Harman, president of the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington, "charities were selected for excellence, innovation, cost-effectiveness, and financial transparency--and for what they can teach us about the extraordinary ways that philanthropy works.” (Photo above by Noriko Nakamura)

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