Politics and peace: The fate of Colombia’s forests (commentary)

first_imgJuan Manuel Santos will be forever remembered as the president who ended one of the world’s longest armed conflicts, establishing a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016.While the peace accords have shaped his image at home and abroad, they do not represent his entire presidential legacy. In addition to lowering the domestic poverty, unemployment, and murder rates, Santos advanced the country’s environmental agenda during his two terms. This should not be undervalued.Deforestation in the post-conflict era has grown at an alarming rate. Rather than a policy solution, Santos’ environmental legacy should be viewed as an initial step in securing the fate of Colombia’s forests.This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay. Juan Manuel Santos will be forever remembered as the president who ended one of the world’s longest armed conflicts, establishing a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016. But the same agreement which earned him international acclaim and the Nobel Peace Prize produced a wave of opposition in his home country. The esteemed global leader left office on August 7 with a domestic approval rating in the low 20s.While the peace accords have shaped his image at home and abroad, they do not represent his entire presidential legacy. In addition to lowering the domestic poverty, unemployment, and murder rates, Santos advanced the country’s environmental agenda during his two terms. This should not be undervalued.Still, deforestation in the post-conflict era has grown at an alarming rate. Rather than a policy solution, Santos’ environmental legacy should be viewed as an initial step in securing the fate of Colombia’s forests.Protecting Colombia’s natural heritage: A priority of the Santos AdministrationColombia’s National Protected Area System (SINAP) experienced significant growth under Santos. Government sources report that over 44 million acres — an area larger than the state of New York — of national protected areas were established over eight years. Approximately 60 percent of these lands (17.5 million acres) gained national park status, which offers the greatest amount of protection for flora, fauna, and indigenous peoples.This is unprecedented by any standard. In comparison, Peru, another megadiversity country, created only 6 million acres of national parks in the same period of time.Deforestation in the Colombian Amazon threatens a number of protected areas, including Chiribiquete National Park. Current deforestation hotspots are expected to worsen if not addressed. Map: Amazon Conservation, Amazon Conservation Team, and MAAP.Under Santos, the government established Herencia Colombia (Heritage Colombia), a financing model for the country’s national protected areas. Led by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the National Park Service, Herencia Colombia will ensure the expansion of the SINAP system and the long-term management of its lands.A symbol of Santos’ wider-reaching legacy, Chiribiquete National Park is one of the many areas that will be supported by this initiative. Referred to as the “heart of the Amazon,” the park more than tripled following expansions in 2013 and 2018 and is now larger than the country of Denmark. In addition to its impressive size, Chiribiquete is a new UNESCO World Heritage Site, a haven for biodiversity, and the home of uncontacted indigenous peoples.Peace brings new opportunities for conservationSpanning across two remote regions in Colombia, Chiribiquete is located in former FARC territory, making it virtually inaccessible to outsiders during the country’s 52-year conflict. A bombed airplane landing strip in the middle of the park — now slowly returning back to nature — is an eerie reminder of its past history.Prior to the demobilization of the FARC, an estimated 70 percent of Colombia’s national protected areas were located in conflict zones. Peace made it possible to enter these areas once again. This is an achievement within itself, as it has advanced scientific knowledge and generated a rise in ecotourism.During his presidency, Santos promoted the scientific exploration of post-conflict areas like Chiribiquete through the creation of the Colombia Bio program. This initiative, as described by the government, is for the country to “know, value, preserve and strategically take advantage of its biodiversity as an alternative for social and economic growth.” Not only is the country’s biodiversity an important part of its national identity and a source of pride for many Colombians, but it also symbolizes a new chapter in Colombian history — one without FARC conflict.In September 2017, National Geographic and Amazon Conservation Team honored President Santos for his commitment to conservation and indigenous peoples. Photo by Haley Wiebel.Environmental challenges in the post-conflict eraDespite these advances, the environmental situation in Colombia is far from perfect. Following the demobilization of the FARC, deforestation in Colombia skyrocketed, resulting in the loss of over 440,000 acres of land in 2016, a 44 percent increase from the year before. These numbers continue to grow.An unintended effect of the peace deal, much of the land that was once FARC territory is now being targeted by criminal mafias, land grabbers, and other groups. Without an enforcement presence, these remote areas essentially became “free” to whoever claimed them first, prompting a race to seize available lands.The Colombian Amazon has been one of the largest victims of this destruction, as approximately 65.5 percent of the country’s deforestation is concentrated in this region. Between January 2017 and February 2018, an area 27 times larger than the size of Manhattan was lost. What was once dense tropical rainforest is largely now cattle pasture and plots of illegal coca.The post-conflict plan’s failure to address these issues and cuts to the environmental budget have been cited as enabling factors behind rising deforestation.A lasting legacy and reasons for hopeThe cancellation of the Marginal de la Selva Road exemplifies a government effort to prevent further deforestation. In March, Santos announced that part of Colombia’s $1 billion infrastructure project would not be completed due to the severe environmental risk that it posed to the Amazon. This saved countless acres of land from being deforested, including an area close to three of the country’s prized national parks.A road through the Colombian Amazon. Approximately 66% of deforestation in Colombia is concentrated in the Amazon. Photo by Rodrigo Botero / FCDS.The Santos administration also went to significant lengths to protect the stewards of Colombia’s forests — indigenous peoples. As a part of this work, the former president expanded indigenous reserves, passed a landmark policy protecting uncontacted peoples, and recognized the ancestral territorial rights of a number of communities.Still, the end of the Santos government signals a new era of environmental policy in Colombia. While the country’s newest president, Iván Duque, and his predecessor do not share similar ideologies, the well-being of Colombian society depends on the country’s natural capital remaining intact and protected from illegal activity.President Duque now has the chance to establish himself as an environmental leader by achieving new conservation victories and implementing solutions to existing problems. In securing his country’s environmental future, he can ensure his own legacy as a champion of the Colombian people and as a defender of our planet.The Colombian Amazon. Photo by Rodrigo Botero/ FCDS.Haley Wiebel is a Communications Specialist at Andes Amazon Fund and serves as a Climate Reality Leader as a part of former Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. She is based in Washington, DC. Follow her on Twitter: @haley_wiebel.Editor’s Note: Mongabay is a grantee of the Andes Amazon Fund. The editorial decision to publish this commentary was not influenced by this financial relationship.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Commentary, Conflict, Conservation, Editorials, Environment, National Parks, Protected Areas, Researcher Perspective Series, Social Conflict Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredcenter_img Article published by Mike Gaworeckilast_img

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