As the once-a-decade World Parks Congress wraps up, we are particularly excited about one development: the Peruvian government – in partnership with the Peruvian Trust Fund for National Parks and Protected Areas and the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, and Blue Moon Fund – formally committed to pursue an agreement to fund its 76 national protected areas in perpetuity.
We participated in the design phase of this project, and have come away with immense admiration for the parties involved and optimism for the initiative’s prospects. We believe this financial package would represent a groundbreaking step for global biodiversity conservation – and not just because Peru is one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries.
The Parks Congress’ 2014 goal is “to position parks and protected areas firmly within broader goals of economic and community wellbeing.” In our experience, Peru is among the best places to pursue this objective. From Day One, the initiative’s steering committee – composed largely of conservationists – made clear that sustainable economic activity and efforts to involve local communities in managing the areas would be top funding priorities (along with biodiversity conservation, of course). As the park service leadership has noted, protected areas often are the government’s most substantial presence in remote areas like the Peruvian Amazon.
We saw these priorities in action throughout the country. We heard from park staff at several areas in the Purus-Manu conservation corridor, where sustainable development activities are prevalent in designated “communal reserves” and isolated indigenous communities fight to maintain a way of life against numerous threats. Similarly, park staff at Alto Mayo Protected Forest, in partnership with Conservation International, provide agricultural training, educational resources, and medical support to hundreds of local families who have committed to help preserve the area. At Paracas National Reserve in Peru’s southern desert, we were struck by how closely the specialist in charge of protection activities works with representatives of local fishing associations.
As described by one park manager, there have been three stages in the history of Peru’s park system. At first, the goal was purely protection – keeping people out – especially during military rule in the 1970s. In the 1990s, the system entered a second phase focused mostly on resource use. Now, Peru has entered a more balanced third phase centered on participatory management, and incorporating more nuanced concerns such as climate change adaptation and food security.
To be sure, there are many challenges ahead before reaching a deal like that signed six months ago to protect 150 million acres in the Brazilian Amazon (and which used the same project finance for permanence approach this initiative is applying).
But for now, we applaud the steering committee on reaching this important milestone – especially given its fortuitous timing right before Peru hosts December’s global climate change summit.
Best of luck to the committee in completing this groundbreaking effort!