Forests for sale: How land traffickers profit by slicing up Bolivia’s protected areas

Forests for sale: How land traffickers profit by slicing up Bolivia’s protected areas

SAN IGNACIO DE VELASCO, Bolivia — On Feb. 12, 2021, Bolivian conservationists joyfully celebrated the creation of the Bajo Paraguá Municipal Protected Area. Located in the municipality of San Ignacio de Velasco in the Bolivian department of Santa Cruz, the new reserve was established to protect 983,006 hectares (2.4 million acres) of Amazonian and Chiquitano forest. The news was celebrated internationally. U.S. actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio who wrote on his Instagram account: “This is encouraging news for the wealth of wildlife these areas support, and also for the Chiquitano and Guarasugwe Indigenous groups that live within the areas and depend on the forests for their livelihoods.” But the celebrations were short-lived. Just a few days after Bajo Paraguá was established, reports of continuing deforestation and colonization inside the new protected area began filtering to regional authorities. Local sources said that what was once lush forest filled only with the sounds of wildlife was suddenly overpowered by the noise of tractors and chainsaws as trees began to fall. Bajo Paraguá Municipal Protected Area bridges the divide between two previously established protected areas. Satellite data from the University of Maryland show tree cover loss surged in region in 2021. Some of the large areas of loss were caused by fire, while others appear to have been cleared for agriculture and other activities. Slash-and-burn clearing has been linked to the outbreak of fires elsewhere in the Amazon. One man, Miguel Ángel*, who lives near Bajo Paraguá, claims he was one of…This article was originally published on Mongabay

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