One such factor can be the critical ecological role provided by a given ecosystem. Take Bolivia's Altamachi for example. The importance of protecting this area is rooted in the cloud forest that is found there, which constitutes the main catalyst for rain and supplies the Misicuni watershed, the only provider of water for the population in nearby Cochabamba.
Partnerships and participation
In Colombia's Amazon piedmont, an outstanding landscape that encompasses montane forests, upper montane forests, and páramo
, WWF is working to establish a regional network of protected areas that conserves critical elements of the ecoregion's biodiversity.
WWF compiled available cartographic information and is carrying out geographic analyses of vegetation cover and landscape transformation trends. In collaboration with The Nature Conservancy
and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute
, we're developing a model to assess ecosystems, in order to select conservation targets and prioritize collective actions within the watershed.
Creating the conditions for support
We also want to find out more about local indigenous groups that live in the area. How do they live? Where are their territorial boundaries? What are their expectations?
To get some answers, WWF's partner CECOIN carried out a diagnosis of the land tenure status of indigenous territories in the area and collected ethnographic and socio-economic information. With the information at hand, WWF and partners will use a model that has been developed for the participatory selection of conservation targets with key stakeholders.
This broad based approach has resulted in a cadre of many organizations engaged in the development of a collective vision, part of the process to consolidate a network of protected areas around the headwaters of the Putumayo River.
When things go wrong
And sometimes they do. In Bolivia’s Altamachi, WWF tried to resolve local conflict and raise awareness about the values of the area while providing technical assistance.
However, the protected status of the area was removed because of social pressures fuelled by a national political crisis in mid-2005. Nevertheless, WWF, its partners and involved actors continue to advocate for the re-assignation of the protected area status of Altamachi.
Helping others create protected areas
WWF is aware that the task of setting up protected areas is too huge for the organization to tackle alone. In fact, small, local NGOs are often in a better position to achieve such undertakings. This is why, over the years, WWF has supported other organisations and community groups who have carried on with our efforts to create protected areas.
For example, OSR is an organization of rubber-tappers in Brazil who have been adversely affected by deforestation. Thanks to ongoing support from WWF since 1990, OSR has strengthened and contributed to the legal establishment of many extractive reserves. These reserves involve giving secure tenure rights over large forests to people who live there, in return for their commitment to manage them well.
A vital aspect is for OSR to attain self-sufficiency through alternative activities that decrease their dependence on rubber, and channel a portion of the proceeds towards regional rubber-tapper associations.
Efforts at the policy level
In Brazil, WWF is promoting the adoption of Private Natural Heritage Reserves (RPPN - Reservas Particulares de Patrimonio Natural
), which are areas that receive perpetual protection by the initiative of their owner. RPPN are an official category of conservation unit, which can be quickly set up and also have the benefit of a low investment cost. Only scientific, cultural, educational, and recreational activities are allowed on these lands.
So far however, RPPNs have been relatively little utilized. But because the Brazilian government recently increased the value of land taxes on "unproductive land", this can be used as an incentive for landowners to declare their unused land as RPPN, and hence avoid being taxed.
Helping set national guidelines for protected areas
It is also necessary to encourage a favourable environment and legislation for the promotion of protected areas.
In Colombia, WWF is helping to strengthen the National Protected Areas System, guided by ecological analyses, national gap analysis and conservation effectiveness and monitoring systems.
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