Colombia grants ‘historic’ protections to rainforest, indigenous groups

In a move described as “unprecedented,” Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos announced Tuesday that the country intends to add 8 million hectares (80,000 square kilometers or 31,000 square miles) to its protected areas. That same day, Santos also signed a decree granting indigenous communities the ability and autonomy to govern their own territories. According to a speech by Santos, these new protections will increase Colombia’s protected area coverage by 30 million to 38 million hectares – or by 27 percent. He said this expansion will protect forest against the encroachment of agriculture and will include strategic areas for biodiversity conservation. The announcement comes as agricultural activity has rushed to fill the vacuum left by demobilization of the FARC rebel group, the presence of which held off development in much of the Colombian Amazon for decades. It aims to effectively freeze agricultural expansion into rainforest areas. As reported by Thomson Reuters, Santos said “once and for all, we (will) know where we can farm, produce – and from what boundary we will protect all the forests and the entire Amazon.” He said the government will be spending the next two weeks defining the bounds of the new protected areas, and that residents of local indigenous communities will be granted land titles giving them the autonomy to manage them. Santos delivered his speech in the Colombian Amazon city of Leticia, flanked by members of indigenous communities, as well as Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg. Norway has committed $250 million towards Colombia’s initiative,…

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Original Post by Mongabay

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