Some fantastic news came out of Peru over the weekend regarding protection of the environment, as well as residents of a wide swath of the Amazonian Rainforest. The Peruvian government has announced that a roughly 3.3 million acre area, the only mountainous region in the lower forest, will now be protected as a national park, an area that had previously been designated as a protected zone but lacked the official park designation.
Residents of the area have been pushing for the official status for the better part of a decade in order to fight logging and drug trafficking, as well as to protect several indigenous peoples who live isolated intentionally. The area is also home to thousands of species of plants and animals, many of which are located nowhere else in the world.
The park is drawing comparisons the United States’ crown jewel of nature preservation, Yellowstone National Park. In fact, Sierra del Divisor will be much larger in area than Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks combined, and will hopefully likewise inspire other efforts to take similar action, especially in the Amazon Rainforest.
The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest, spreading into nine countries total. It has one of the world’s most biologically diverse places, and is responsible for helping to keep carbon in check in the atmosphere. Deforestation has been a concern in the area for many years, with logging and mining the primary culprits, but farming and settlement also being problematic. Additionally, drug traffickers regularly use the area to transport illicit goods and little regard for the damage they do.
With the new designation comes much stiffer penalties for those who misuse the area, with increased fines and jail time for those who violate the biome. Whether or not they are able to effectively police the area remains to be seen, but at least this new status gives them the legal clout to do so.
The move to designate Sierra del Divisor comes just ahead of one of the world’s largest climate conferences, the COP21, to combat climate change, and is expected to compensate for as much as 40 percent of the country’s carbon emissions. Peru joins the United States in making grand gestures ahead of the conference, with President Obama shutting down the environmentally disastrous Keystone XL Pipeline just last week.
“The Sierra del Divisor is the final link in an immense protected area complex that extends for more than 1,100 miles from the banks of the Amazon in Brazil to the snowy peaks of the Peruvian Andes,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “After two decades of collaborating with CEDIA to protect indigenous territories and establish nature reserves, parks and sanctuaries throughout the Amazon of Peru, we have finally completed the centerpiece with the declaration of Sierra del Divisor National Park. This permanent conservation corridor is one of the greatest refuges for biodiversity on Earth.”