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Brazil: A Private Nature Reserve – Is It Possible?

Categories: Latin America, Brazil, Citizen Media, Education, Environment, Ideas, Youth

Every citizen is responsible for the environment. To get this message across, the Brazilian Government is pushing all elements of society to act greener, restricting parameters for pollution and investing in green business. Among these initiatives is the establishment of the new conservation units, where private landowners and companies are allowed to join the National Conservation Units System (SNUC). Moreover, among the types of conservation units, there is the Private Natural Heritage Reserve (RPPN), a natural reserve with a perpetual lease: once an area is given the status of RPPN in the Real Estate Register Office, it can not be downgraded. For an area to get this title however, it has to fall into one of the following categories:

There are nearly a half-million hectares of privately-owned land [1] protected by federal and state laws in Brazil. On the one hand, this initiative restricts the use of the land. No longer are exploitative practices allowed and the areas must be recovered and maintained with private investment. On the other hand, the Government invests in the RPPN program making specific funding accessible to property owners. Although exploitative practices are forbidden, new activities are encouraged, among them leisure trips, scientific projects, cultural and educational activities, and ecotourism. Furthermore, there is a modest tax reduction and land owners have privileged access to rural credit and can apply for financial support from NGO's and environmental funds.

The RPPNs are having a great impact on society. A naturally preserved landscape can help the understanding of green issues, like the importance of a balanced environment. Many bloggers are reporting their experiences watching the growth of this type of reserve, such as Fernanda de Souza Pimentel, from the Pitaquinhos da Fernanda [2] [pt] blog, who describes a visit from her environmentalist father to her school last November:

“Hoje na escola onde eu estudo, a Escola de Educação Básica Nossa Senhora (Angelina, SC), aconteceu a 1ª amostra pedagógica do colégio.
Meu pai foi convidado para palestrar sobre a RPPN Rio das Lontras e o seu trabalho pela causa ambiental. Alunos e professores foram convidados a assistir essa aula na sala temática do mundo animal, ensinando aos alunos o quanto o meio ambiente necessita de cuidados.”

“The 1st Pedagogic Presentation of the school where I study, Escola de Educação Básica Nossa Senhora (in Angelina, Santa Catarina [3]), happened today. My father was invited to lead a lecture about RPPN Rio das Lontras and explain his work as an environmental activist. Students and teachers were invited to watch that thematic lesson about the animal world, showing everyone how much care the environment needs.”


Environmentalist lecturing teachers and students about the importance of a balanced environment.

Since 2002, her family has owned the land in Santa Catarina [3] that became the RPPN Rio das Lontras in 2005. The reserve has its own blog [4] [pt] and a fauna photo album [5], kept by Fernanda's parents, Chris and Fernando, to document the work they carry out. In their latest post, they describe their work cataloging the bird species found in the area, some of them in danger of extinction. Thanks to their work you can hear them [6] sing. In the blog, they explain how the work is going [7] [pt]:

base4A simple house in Rio das Lontras

“A singela casinha que alugamos como base para abrigar outra equipe de pesquisadores tem ao fundo uma vista parcial da RPPN Rio das Lontras. … Aqui um aparelho de GPS e um medidor de temperatura e umidade aguardam na janela a hora de ir a campo;… O levantamento visual e auditivo foi o método utilizado em campo para a elaboração da lista de espécies da RPPN Rio das Lontras. Foram registradas 127 espécies na RPPN e em seu entorno imediato.

“The modest little house that we rent as a base for another research group has a partial view of RPPN Rio das Lontras in the background… One GPS device and a humidity and temperature guage wait at the window for the time for field work; … A visual and hearing inventory was the method applied in the field, and the result is the list of bird species found in RPPN Rio das Lontras. 127 species were registered on the RPPN and the surroundings.”

saw-billed-hermit-folhaseca [8]

Photo of a Saw-billed Hermit [8] (Ramphodon naevius), one of the species that have been reported to live at RPPN Rio das Lontras. Photo by Nick Athanas [9] used with permission.

Tie do Mato Habia rubica [10]

Tiê do Mato (Habia rubica), that also can be found at RPPN Rio das Lontras. Photo by Geiser Trivelato [11] used with permission.

Teacher Thaiza Montine went with her school on a trip to Banana Menina, a reserve dedicated to education and research, as a competition prize. In the post quoted below [12] [pt], she publishes the pictures and describes her excitement:

“Um passeio maravilhoooooso e extremamente produtivo, uma vez que, além da visita ao lugar também fomos agraciados com o Programa “Povos do Cerrado”, e tivemos várias palestras e aulas ministradas no meio da mata, envolvendo Meio Ambiente, Arqueologia, História de Goiás, Biologia e Gastronomia. Uma maravilha, realmente, de premiação!”

Wood Conference Room [12]

Wood Conference Room
“It was amaaaaaaazing and extremely productive, considering that, besides the visit, we also got to take part of the program “Povos do Cerrado [13] [People from the Tropical Savanna]. We had a lot of lectures and classes in the middle of the wood, about the environment, archeology, the history of [the state of] Goias, biology and gastronomy. It was a really wonderful prize.”

The RPPNs are developing fantastic educational activities for the people who live around the reserves. These private initiatives are opening a window on environmental issues, helping students to better understand and visualize the importance of nature. The Brazilian RPPNs — considered unique among international schemes — have proved hat the environment and humankind can live in perfect harmony.