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Protected Forest Area Triples in Brazil's Amazon

World Bank Contacts:  Anita Gordon (202) 473-1799
Kristyn Schrader (202) 458-2736
Cynthia Case (Radio & TV) (202) 473-2243 
WWF Contact:  Lee Poston (202) 778-9536

WASHINGTON, April 29, 1998 In an unprecedented step to protect Amazon forests, the Brazilian government announced its commitment with the World Bank and WWF* to establish 62 million acres (25 million hectares) of new protected forest areas by the year 2000. This is the single largest forest conservation bid ever in the Amazon.

This commitment is the first outcome of a unique alliance between the World Bank and WWF to set aside an ecologically representative network of forests around the world. The alliance aims to help countries set aside 125 million acres (50 million hectares) of forest in new protected areas, and bring 500 million acres (200 million hectares) of production forests under independent certification, by the year 2005. Today's announcement to permanently protect such a large area of Amazonian forest is a significant step in advancing the goals shared by Brazil, other countries, and the alliance.

"The decision by Brazil's President Cardoso to protect 25 million hectares is truly a remarkable one, both for its size and for its content," said James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank. "This decision will help preserve the abundant biodiversity in this remarkable tropical region. It is a true gift to the Brazilian people and, indeed to the world."

The world's forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Nearly two-thirds of the Earth's original forest cover has already been lost. In the past three months alone, forest fires have raged in Brazil across an area the size of Belgium. Home to an astounding one-tenth of the world's plant and animal species, the Amazon contains some of the planet's most important tropical habitats.

"President Cardoso's gift to the Earth represents the first tangible, major accomplishment for the World Bank/WWF alliance and shows what can be achieved when two effective, influential organizations combine their expertise with a farsighted government in an effort to save the world's forests," said Claude Martin, Director General of WWF-International. "It is a crucial step forward for WWF's Living Planet Campaign in its goal to protect at least 10 percent of the world's major forest types by the year 2000."

To launch this commitment, President Cardoso today signed decrees for two new protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon, and two in the Atlantic Forest, together totaling almost 1.5 million acres (600,000 hectares).

In June 1997 the World Bank and WWF announced an alliance to conserve 10 percent of the world's forests by 2000. Both organizations see this as a strategic partnership that greatly increases their effectiveness, taking advantage of common goals and complementary resources. During the United Nations General Assembly Special Session in New York, Wolfensohn announced that to reach the agreed targets, the Bank will help establish 125 million acres (50 million hectares) of new protected forest areas in its client countries and bring an additional 500 million acres (200 million hectares) of the world's forests under ecologically sustainable management by the year 2005.

The World Bank is the largest lender to developing countries for forest conservation and management. WWF is one of the world's leading conservation organizations, with offices in 120 countries and close working relations with local communities, non-governmental organizations and the private sector in over 100 countries. As such, the alliance represents a promising new approach to the problems facing the world's forests.

WWF launched the Living Planet Campaign in October of 1996 calling on businesses, governments, and individuals to make significant "Gifts to the Earth" before the end of this century. The aim of the campaign is to make the turn of the century a pivotal point in the global effort to safeguard the world's threatened ecosystems, protect endangered species, and to change patterns of human resource consumption that ultimately threaten all life on earth.

Already 22 countries have pledged to include at least 10 percent of each country's forests in protected areas by the year 2000. That 10 percent represents each country's different forest types. These countries are: Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, The People's Republic of China, Colombia, Greece, Lithuania, Malawi, Mozambique, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Romania, Russian Republic of Sakha, Slovak Republic, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

*WWF is known as World Wildlife Fund in the United States and Canada, and World Wide Fund for Nature elsewhere.

For further information, please consult the World Bank/WWF Alliance website at: http://www-esd.worldbank.org/wwf/