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Conservation and environmental concerns in the Venezuelan Amazon

Abstract

Starting in 1978, a vigorous conservation policy was established in Estado Amazonas, then the still remote and isolated southernmost part of Venezuela, covering approximately 175 750 km2. At present, four national parks, 17 natural monuments and one biosphere reserve exist in the Venezuelan Amazon, including approx. 92 000 km2; furthermore, since January 1978 all commercial logging activities, and since June 1989 all commercial mining activities have been legally banned in the Venezuelan Amazon. With more than 50% of the entire state now under protection and a population density still as low as 0.6 inhabitants/km2, one would assume that the environmental future of this region looks very bright. There are, however, a number of serious problems menacing this optimistic view: in the first place, the local population, both indigenous and immigrated, does not sincerely support this protection policy, especially with reference to the prohibition of mining and logging activities, which is considered to undermine the economic development of the region; second, none of the protected areas have been provided with a management plan, and the national authority in charge of the reinforcement of these protected areas is hopelessly understaffed, although not lacking funds; third, the establishment of guerrilla in many areas bordering Estado Amazonas on the west has caused increasing corruption of local authorities favoring illegal invasions by miners and other traders into the relatively quiet Venezuelan hinterland, often included in one of the protection categories mentioned above. During the last decade, there has been considerable interest from the international community to reinforce Venezuela's protection capacities in Estado Amazonas; especially, the World Bank, the European Union, the Spanish and German cooperation agencies have offered substantial support towards this goal. The success of these efforts, however, will depend mainly upon the political willingness of the new government to transform the many decrees now on paper into reality, and to resume seriously the role of regional leader in environmental concern which it held 20 years ago.

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Huber, O. Conservation and environmental concerns in the Venezuelan Amazon. Biodiversity and Conservation 10, 1627–1643 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1012042628406

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  • conservation policy
  • indigenous societies
  • mining
  • Venezuela
  • Venezuelan Amazon