438 Latin American Tree News

438 – Latin American Tree News
–Today for you 31 news articles about earth’s trees! (438th edition) http://forestpolicyresearch.com
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–Latin America: 1) Latin American Plant Initiative to make plant samples available worldwide
–Mexico: 2) Save the Lacondona Rainforest
–Haiti: 3) Deforestation and Reforestation, ,
–Virgin Islands: 4) Sir Richard Branson challenges hotel plans to destroy Mangroves
–Costa Rica: 5) Fraudulent Treeplanting as sequestration investment, 6) Nat Geo studying human influence on rainforests, 7) Logging for eco-tourism annulled by high court,
–Honduras: 8) Mangrove treeplanting volunteers wanted,
–Columbia: 9) 4 sq. kilometers of rainforest lost to every gram of cocaine,
–Guyana: 10) Government saving and destroying forest at the same time, 11) EU teaching chainsaw milling to locals, 12) They could annually earn $52 Million in carbon credits,
–Paraguay: 13) Indigenous people win in court, 14) Zero-net deforestation,
–Amazon: 14) Scientists estimate oil and gas projects in Western Amazon
–Ecuador: 15) Buy the Yasuni forest from us so we don’t have to destroy it for you,
–Argentina: 16) A year after logging ban logging still goes unchecked
–Brazil: 17 ) Wild-caught aquarium fish will help us save the rainforests, 18) How Carlos Minc sees it, 19) Martin Sheen documentary on Sister Dorothy, 20) Guy who killed Dorothy changes his story, 21) Sign petition to stop Mercosur hiway, 22) Huge ecosystem destroying dam on Madeira river gets approved, 23) Invitation for Summer Travels with RAN to encourage FSC-based agribusiness to destroy pristine rainforest, 24) Sattelite image of Mato Grosso in 1992 and again in 2006, 25) Airplanes with heat sensors to round up last of the uncontacted tribes 26) Forest code revisions will destroy even more forest next year, tell them NO!, 27) Save a Fish, Save a tree! 28) Lula says new decree will protect Atlantic forests, 29) Mob protests logging limits, 30) Soldiers sent in to quell mob, 31) Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization launches new tourism campaign,


Latin America:

1) The Latin American Plant Initiative aims to make plant samples in herbaria available worldwide by placing unique high-resolution scans of plant collections online. The second annual meeting will be hosted by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Darwinion Institute from Nov. 17-21 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Initiative was announced in Oct. 2007 at the Smithsonian in Panama, one of the Initiative’s regional centers for the scanning of herbarium specimens. To identify an unknown plant sample, researchers and students traditionally compare key characteristics with characters on known, dried plant specimens. To capture even minute features such as leaf hairs and flower parts, samples are scanned using high resolution scanners, making it possible to identify plants by comparing them to the images online. As of Aug. 2008 the new database already includes 53,143 plant specimens. More than 138 people from 93 institutions will attend the meeting in Buenos Aires. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation also has supported the Africa Plants Initiative, a similar project, since 2002. The resulting network of botanist and bioinformatics specialists represents 124 organizations in 44 countries. Project programmers are in the process of transferring all data from the African Plant Initiative’s original Aluka website to a more accessible site maintained by JSTOR. http://www.genengnews.com/news/bnitem.aspx?name=45378520


2) We have received news that the Lacandona rainforest is under threat – the Mexican government is granting rights to oil companies to search and explot there, next year. We can’t find much news on the internet, but here is an article in spanish. And there is a facebook group in opposition! Here’s some background videos of the forest and the zapatistas (EZLN), showing the amazing biodiversity of the area and how integral the forest is to indigenous peoples in the area. See Videos: http://www.endgame.org.uk/2008/11/28/lacandona-rainforest-in-chiapas-mexico-under-threat/


3) Deep gashes in the steep mountains around Gonaïves are the claw marks of the disasters that strike this north-western coastal city with deadly regularity. They are also Haiti’s stigmata: the wounds of a nation caused by the near-complete deforestation of a land that was once a rich tropical habitat. But after a hurricane season in which this, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, was struck by four intense storms triggering flash floods and landslides that took hundreds of lives and created tens of thousands of refugees, richer nations are again being asked to help a country often described as beyond hope. So far, the call for aid has fallen on mainly deaf ears. The UN appealed for $108m in emergency aid after Gonaïves and another town, Cabaret, were buried under millions of tons of mud, sewage and rock after being hit by storms from mid-August to mid-September. But so far only 40 per cent of that target has been met. But there is a gathering effort to alleviate Haiti’s misery by addressing one of its critical underlying problems – deforestation. Without trees, even moderate rain brings a deluge of soil and rock down on its towns; without trees, there is nothing to hold the soil together for agriculture. This year’s mudslides, which killed 300, are not unprecedented: poorly situated Gonaïves was flooded in 2004 by tropical storm Jeanne, killing 3,000. In the north-west, Lake Azuei, on the border with the Dominican Republic, is close to bursting for similar reasons – deforestation and rubbish. ‘You can really see here how environmental degradation is tied to extreme poverty,’ said Antonio Pereira, the UN Environmental Programme’s co-ordinator in Port-au-Prince. ‘Deforestation, problems with run-off, waste management and sanitation. Here we don’t even need a big event to cause a disaster.’ The US Agency for International Development estimates that only 1.5 per cent of Haiti is still forested, compared with 60 per cent in 1923. The Dominican Republic is still 28 per cent forested. Haiti is in danger of losing what trees it has left – as many as 30 million a year – to the insatiable demand for the charcoal used as cooking fuel. The loss of Haiti’s trees, coupled with a decline in agricultural self-sufficiency and loss of top soil, has made the politically unstable nation even more vulnerable to outside forces. After a dramatic rise in food prices this year, violent protests culminated in Alexis being forced from office by President René Préval. So far, development and aid agencies are still experimenting with planting trees and shrubs that will help to halt the natural disasters that annually erase any moderate advances in Haiti’s sickly economic picture. Christian aid groups favour eucalyptus; others, including the UN’s environmental development arms, believe aloe and elephant grass are suitable for more arid areas around disaster-prone Gonaïves. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/nov/23/forests-flooding

British Virgin Islands:

4) Sir Richard Branson is backing a landmark legal challenge by environmental campaigners against a multimillion-pound luxury leisure complex which threatens to destroy some of the most eco-sensitive mangrove swamps in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), the paradise home of the British business tycoon. The case, which is to be heard in full next year, is expected to have far-reaching consequences for the protection of the fragile Caribbean environment. Sir Richard, head of the Virgin group of companies, has paid for a team of barristers, led by the former chairman of the Bar Stephen Hockman QC, to fly to the group of islands and seek to stop plans to build a marina, five-star hotel and golf course in the British overseas territory. The Branson family home is on Necker Island, which Sir Richard bought for £180,000 in 1979 and is located just over the water from Beef Island where the development is planned. At threat is one of the most important mangrove systems in the BVI, providing a vital home for hatchlings and juvenile fish, lobster and conch. Under the BVI government plans one of the golf holes is to be sited in the middle of the disputed area. The Virgin Islands Environmental Council (VIEC), a charity supported by Sir Richard and other interested groups, says it has brought the action to seek legal protection of the environment in the BVI for future generations. A council spokesman said: “This is a landmark case that addresses a number of important issues which will impact on the future of environmental law and practice throughout the Caribbean. The outcome of this case will definitely impact the way other large projects currently under planning review are dealt with, leading to a more sustainable future for the BVI. “The case will serve to define more clearly the government’s responsibility in adhering to environmental laws when granting or refusing planning permission.” http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/branson-backs-bid-to-save-virgin-island-mangroves-from-tourists-1038869.html

Costa Rica:

5) A Broomfield company promoting an alternative investment – Costa Rican trees – has been sanctioned for failing to register the offerings with regulators. This was the pitch: Buy at least 25 trees at a price of $38.50 each. Treebanking Inc. would have the trees planted, grown and harvested in Costa Rica for teak wood, according to state regulators. The company told investors to expect an annual return of 20 percent and billed the concept as a socially responsible investment to help replant the rain forest, the state Division of Securities said. CEO Dan Tefft said a lawyer had advised that registering the trees as securities was unnecessary, but regulators disagreed, hitting him with an order to stop selling the investments. Tefft said he plans to register and hopes to proceed with “engaging the public in the process of replanting.” http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/nov/11/regulators-target-tree-investments/

6) The bio geographer and investigator for National Geographic, Sally Horn is studying the impact of human activity and climate change on forests in Costa Rica. Her studies have mainly concentrated on the high mountain ranges in Talamanca, San Vito and Buenos Aires of Puntarenas and Guanacaste. Horn is North American and a professor from the University of Tennessee in the United States. With special equipment, she extracted sediments from the lagoons and then determined from that and other aspects what they used the soil for as much as 10,000 years ago. For example, she concluded that in Guanacaste, they have planted corn for 5,450 years. The scientist said that she chose Costa Rica due to it being “famous world wide for its biological diversity.” Horn came for the first time to the country to a course in 1982. Later she did her graduate project in Costa Rica. “More than 30 students and professors have come with me (to Costa Rica) to help me with investigation expeditions or do their own studies about the impact of humans on the landscape and climate change,” she commented. Horn came to find out the results of years of investigations done in Costa Rica. With the base of the sediments accumulated from some hundred lagoons, the scientist figured out the history of the soil of our country. In addition, she concluded that in Costa Rica as well as in other parts of the world, there was a drought crisis in the pre-conquest period and later with the arrival of the Europeans, they changed how they used the land. According to her studies, 5,000 years ago Costa Rica was more humid, especially in the Caribbean and in the mountainous areas. She expressed that the fires are not necessarily negative; some can happen and not affect the soil, what has to be done is control its expansion. “There are other investigations that sustain these views. Studies by Karen Masters, a scientist residing in Monteverde, reveal that in this area there is less rain, higher night temperatures and mini droughts from 2 to 10 days,” declared Horn. Her work determined that in Chirripo, the water temperature of the lagoons has also increased; it went from 10 and 11 degrees in 1965 to 15 and 16 degrees in 2005. Also, she prognosticates that in the slopes of the Caribbean there will be more rain and in the South Pacific less, in this sense, the known popular epiphit like parasites, will be harmed more. “There are studies from Vargas and Trejos in 1984 that indicate that the Caribbean will be rainier and the Pacific more dry,” expressed Sally Horn. http://journalcr.com/news_article.php?edition=116&article=2493

7) The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court this week annulled a 2004 government decree authorizing the logging of coastal forests for eco-tourism projects. The decree was issued by the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET) in April 2004 but was suspended two months later when the high court took up an injunction filed by MINAET workers and Alvaro Sagot, an environmental law professor. “The decree had a first and last name,” Sagot said. “It was made for someone in particular that needed to cut down forest to build hotels.” Sagot declined to identify whom he believed the bill was meant to benefit. According to the text of the decree, its purpose was to regulate eco-tourism, defining it as tourism developments that “simultaneously promote environmental education, the conservation of natural resources, the socioeconomic development of the inhabitants, (and) that reflect an environmental conscience and identity.” The decree also limited the definition to coastal projects that fell within the first 200 meters inland from the ocean, which is state-owned land known as the maritime zone. Land there can be developed for tourism under a concession. However Costa Rican law prohibits the logging of any land declared as forest, and the concession of any coastal forest. The Environment Ministry decree, signed by former environment minister Carlos Manuel Rodriguez and former President Abel Pacheco, allowed “eco-tourism” projects to get concessions on forested property and to build over as much as 15 percent of an area declared old growth or primary forest, and 25 percent if the forest is second growth. The decree required the project to have its due permits and a forest management plan to cut down any trees in a forested area, but the decree does not appear to limit how many trees could be logged. The court, however, found that permitting the logging of forest on government land is unconstitutional and ruled to annul the long-suspended decree. http://www.ticotimes.net/dailyarchive/2008_11/1126083.htm


8) About Guanaja and the Project: Guanaja is one of Honduras’ three Bay Islands, and certainly the least frequently visited. It is roughly 60
square miles and supports a small population, most of which inhabits a small key on the south side of the island. In 1998 Hurricane Mitch hovered over Guanaja for three days, exposing the island to extreme winds and rain. The storm resulted in 95% destruction of red mangroves, which has left many areas devoid of vegetation 10 years later. Our project seeks to reforest a large area in the northeast part of the island in a thorough and systematic manner. By June 1, we hope to have replanted 250 hectares with as many as one million propagules. In addition to simply planting trees, we will involve and educate local schoolchildren and university students to help ensure that conservation remains a priority. Working conditions on Guanaja can be difficult: it may rain very hard for several days and will commonly we 90 degrees or higher when clear. Biting/stinging insects are frequently present. Despite these hindrances, Guanaja is a beautiful and intriguing place to visit and work. Our operation will be based on a two-house property called Black Rock, which sits on its own private mini-island amdist a coral reef. Little development has occurred post-Mitch, and the small towns on Guanaja are few and far between. Locals tend to be friendly, conservation minded, and almost all speak Englsh. Successful volunteers will: 1) Be 18 years of age or older, 2) Have an interest in and desire to contribute to biological conservation, 3) Have a valid passport, 4) Be able to live and work in small groups and individually, 5) Be able to tolerate rural living conditions and harsh working conditions. — Helpful but not strictly necessary: 1) Previous travel in the tropics, 2) Some Spanish language – We can accomodate up to 6 volunteers at a time – applications for the first session will be considered on a rolling basis through January 1, 2009. A small deposit ($100 or less) may be required to secure your spot after acceptance. If interested in applying please send an e-mail to guanaja.mangroves@gmail.com


9) Four square metres of rainforest are destroyed for every gram of cocaine snorted in the UK, a conference of senior police officers as told yesterday. Francisco Santos Calderón, the vice-president of Colombia, appealed to British users of the class A drug to consider the impact on the environment. He said that while the green agenda would not persuade addicts to give up, the middle-class social user who drove a hybrid car and was concerned about the environment might not take the drug if they knew its impact. Santos said 300,000 hectares of rainforest were destroyed each year in Colombia to clear land for coca plant cultivation, predominantly controlled by illegal groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as Farc. Officers were told cocaine and heroin use cost the British economy around £15bn a year in health and crime bills. Santos outlined to the Association of Chief Police Officers how lives were lost in the illegal cocaine trade in Colombia. He said landmines that were used to protect crops and processing labs killed almost 900 civilians this year. Farc and other groups funded by narcotics production were also involved in kidnapping. The Colombian-French politician Ingrid Betancourt was held for more than six years before her release earlier this year, and Santos himself was kidnapped and held by a cocaine gang for 18 months in the 1990s. He told the Belfast conference: “If you snort a gram of cocaine, you are destroying 4m square of rainforest and that rainforest is not just Colombian – it belongs to all of us who live on this plant, so we should all be worried about it. Not only that, the money that you use to buy the cocaine goes into the hands of Farc, of illegal groups that plant mines, that kidnap, that kill, that use terrorism to protect their business.” Santos said many middle-class Britons who used cocaine were unaware of its environmental impact. “For somebody who drives a hybrid, who recycles, who is worried about global warming – to tell him that that night of partying will destroy 4m square of rainforest might lead him to make another decision.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/19/cocaine-rainforests-columbia-santos-calderon


10) According to the semestral Forest Sector Information Report on the website of the Guyana Forestry Commission for January-June 2008, there are 1,509,000 ha of 2-year ordinary State Forest Permissions (SFP) and conversion State Forest Permissions, 71,000 ha of 8-year Wood Cutting Leases (WCL), and 4,675,000 ha of 25-year Timber Sales Agreements (TSA). Converting these figures to annual harvest areas gives a total of 950,000 ha, which is very nearly six times larger than Minister Persaud’s 160,000 (this 950,000 is calculated by dividing the SFP area by 2, the WCL area by 8 and the TSA area by 25, and summing the results). The Minister suggests an allowable log production of 1,200,000 cubic metres (m3) from those 160,000 ha, an average of 7.5 m3 per ha as against the GFC Code of Practice limit of 20 m3/ha. However, Minister Persaud says that only 500,000 m3 are cut (GFC published 516,000 m3 roundwood equivalent from logs and chainsawn lumber in 2007), an average of 3.1 m3 per ha. What these contrary figures, and the GFC website, conceal is the continued massive unsustainable logging of the heavy coloured timbers which should be retained for conversion in our own industries in Guyana, according to national policies and the PPP/C 2006 manifesto, but which continue to be exported in raw form to China and India. For example, purpleheart is being overcut at a rate some 30 times its natural ability to regenerate. China recorded imports of 28,300 m3 of logs from Guyana during the same January-June 2008 when the GFC published total log exports of 37,400 m3. That is, China took 76 per cent of these logs to make the furniture and flooring which we could be manufacturing and exporting from Guyana. It is disingenuous to use averages to explain the forestry situation in Guyana because some of the most important timber trees are closely associated with particular kinds of soil and topography. What does the Minister mean when he says that “Guyana has a deliberate policy of sustainable management of its natural resource” and “Guyana as having some of the best conserved and best utilised forests in both the Guiana Shield, as well as in the Amazon Region”? http://www.stabroeknews.com/letters/the-gfc%E2%80%99s-data-on-forestry-in-guyana-are-misleading/

11) In May 2008, Guyana commenced work on a project that focuses on chainsaw milling in Guyana and Ghana to address this area at the local community level. This work is being undertaken as part of a project financed by the European Union and implemented by Tropenbos International (TBI). The Ghana Forestry Commission and the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana are the local partners on the ground in Ghana and Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and the Forestry Training Centre Inc. (FTCI) are the implementing partners in Guyana. The project’s activities include an overview of chainsaw milling practices through research at national level, dialogue at the local, regional and international levels and capacity building for sustainable forest management at the community level. On a wider scale, the project will contribute to the: reduction of poverty and promotion of livelihoods in forest dependent communities; reduction of the illegal logging; and the conservation and sustainable management of tropical forests. To date, there has been much progress in project activities, including the completion of draft reports on three research themes on chainsaw logging. These are: an assessment of the impacts of chainsaw milling in Guyana; the institutional policy and legal framework and drivers of chainsaw milling in Guyana; and a diagnosis of chainsaw milling in Guyana. At this early stage, there have been several exchanges between Guyana and Ghana on the substance of the project, with a workshop hosted in Ghana in May–June 2008, to address, among other areas, techniques of implementing the landscape approach and multistakeholder dialogues. Another meeting recently hosted in Guyana in November 2008, which was attended by Representatives of Tropenbos International, Ghana’s Forestry Commission and various participants from Guyana. It is hoped that this project will result in the creation of a higher level of understanding and stakeholder dialogue in the area of chainsaw milling in Guyana. http://lemn.fordaq.com/fordaq/news/forest_18462.html

12) Guyana could earn more than US$57M annually in carbon credits as the international community seeks to step up the preservation of rainforests as a means of responding to worsening global environmental conditions, according to a recent World Wildlife Fund report released by its secretariat in Georgetown. And according to the report neighbouring Suriname could earn more than three times that amount in carbon credits in view of its larger areas of untouched forest. According to the report – which suggests that the estimate of potential carbon credit earnings by the two countries is conservative – both Guyana and Suriname possess considerable amounts of standing forests “which are a significant store of carbon and as such stand to gain from those who would purchase carbon credits for standing forests with significant carbon storage.” However, the report points out that the international market for carbon credits is “at a juvenile stage” since international experts are still gathering scientific evidence and formulating frameworks and protocols to support a structure for trade in carbon credits. The term ‘carbon credits’ describes a regime of payments by countries, predominantly rich, industrialized countries, to others to retain standing forests to absorb or prevent the release of carbon generated by industrial activity into the atmosphere. “Purchasing these carbon offsets or carbon credits is now being considered by a growing number of companies and countries in order to compensate for their own emissions to reduce their own carbon footprints,” the report says. According to the WWF report the global market for carbon has exceeded US$100B despite the global financial crisis. “In 2009 the market is expected to be expanded even further driven by tighter targets in Europe, higher carbon prices and increased maturing.” Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo has advocated the application of carbon credits as a mechanism for preserving standing forests in developing countries without negatively affecting development in poor countries. According to the report the move by Guyana to commit its rainforests to the global storehouse of carbon offsets “is possibly one of the reasons why Guyana was chosen to be one of thirteen countries to receive assistance in capacity development in carbon credits.” http://www.stabroeknews.com/business/guyana-and-suriname-could-cash-in-on-carbon-credit-market-for-rainforest-preservation/


13) A small tribe of Indians in Paraguay who have had virtually no contact with the outside world won a legal battle this week when rights groups stopped a Brazilian company from continuing to bulldoze the forest to clear land for cattle ranches. The Totobiegosode tribe, said to number no more than 300, is the last group of uncontacted Indians in South America outside the Amazon River basin, indigenous rights groups say. The Totobiegosode, who are part of the larger Ayoreo ethnic group, are nomadic Indians who hunt and fish, as well as gather fruit and honey and cultivate small temporary plots during the rainy season. They live communally, four to six families to a dwelling, in the dense forests of northwestern Paraguay. Two Brazilian companies have been rapidly clearing land the Totobiegosode live on, and the tribe has lost nearly 15,000 acres (about 6,000 hectares) this year, according to British-based Survival International, an advocacy organization for the rights of tribal people. A ruling Thursday by Paraguay’s secretary of the environment canceled a special permit for one of the companies, Yaguarete Pora S.A., to clear the land. The legal battle is being waged by local groups such as GAT, an acronym in Spanish for People, Environment and Territory. The activist groups have undertaken the fight without the knowledge of the Totobiegosode. Indian rights proponents see Thursday’s ruling as an important victory. “This sends a very significant signal,” said Jonathan Mazower, campaign coordinator for Survival International. “Until now, the ranchers and the landowners have really had it all their own way. They are very politically powerful and well-funded. … This may be a sign that the government is starting to get a grip on the situation.” As their territory has been gobbled up, some Totobiegosode have been spotted by other Indians retreating deeper into the vanishing jungle: a group of eight or nine men on one occasion, a smaller group several days earlier, Survival International reported in a release Friday. The problems for the larger Ayoreo ethnic group, who share a common language and culture and can be found in Bolivia and Paraguay, started about 50 years ago. Between 1959 and 1987, most Ayoreos were forced off their ancestral land, according to the World Rainforest Movement, which describes itself as international network of citizens’ groups involved in efforts to defend the world’s rainforests. About 2,000 Ayoreos live in 13 settlements: 10 in Bolivia and three in Paraguay, the rainforest group says. Only the Totobiegosode tribe still lives in the forest, without contact with other Ayoreos or foreigners, in an area known as Amotocodie. Although no one has any direct contact with the Totobiegosode still in the jungle, their presence can be seen by such signs as footprints and holes in trees that indicate they have been gathering honey, the rainforest group says. There also have been occasional sightings in the distance. http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/americas/11/14/paraguay.indians/

14) The Government of Paraguay has honoured its commitment to support WWF in its initiative of “Zero Net Deforestation by 2020”, by extending the country’s Zero Deforestation Law for an additional five years. Paraguay signed up to support WWF in this initiative at the Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of the Parties 9 (in Bonn, Germany in May) and at the IUCN’s World Conservation Congress (in Barcelona, Spain in October). It means that no further forests are lost, either through not clearing any additional forest or by reforesting equivalent areas to those which have been deforested. Until 2004, Paraguay registered the highest deforestation rate in the Americas and second in the world. Nearly seven million hectares of Atlantic Forest was lost to slash-and-burn for agricultural and ranching use in close to four decades. This changed rapidly with the Land Conversion Moratorium for the Atlantic Forest of Paraguay (also called the “Zero Deforestation Law”) which led to a reduction in deforestation by close to 90% in just four years. However the previous decades of deforestation and devastation could not be reversed in this short time and with the Moratorium scheduled to expire in December 2008, it was vital to get an extension approved. Sarah Hutchison, WWF Forests Officer said: “”In extending this law, the government of Paraguay has made an important step towards ensuring that the country achieves zero deforestation by 2020. The government, together with WWF and other partners now have five years to progress on putting in place legal and financial safeguards to protect and restore the extremely important but few remaining areas of Atlantic Forest”. Supporters for an extension of the law sighted the degree of devastation of the Atlantic Forest, the lack of land use planning and the damage caused by deforestation (biodiversity loss, siltation of water courses, pollution of the Guarani Aquifer, destruction of ancestral cultures, and the disappearance of family farms, among others). http://www.wwf.org.uk/what_we_do/press_centre/index.cfm?uNewsID=2472


14) We synthesized information from government sources to quantify the status of oil development in the western Amazon. National governments delimit specific geographic areas or “blocks” that are zoned for hydrocarbon activities, which they may lease to state and multinational energy companies for exploration and production. About 180 oil and gas blocks now cover ~688,000 km2 of the western Amazon. These blocks overlap the most species-rich part of the Amazon. We also found that many of the blocks overlap indigenous territories, both titled lands and areas utilized by people s in voluntary isolation. In Ecuador and Peru, oil and gas blocks now cover more than two-thirds of the Amazon. In Bolivia and western Brazil, major exploration activities are set to increase rapidly. Without improved policies, the increasing scope and magnitude of planned extraction means that environmental and social impacts are likely to intensify. We review the most pressing oil- and gasrelated conservation policy issues confronting the region. These include the need for regional Strategic Environmental Impact Assessments and the adoption of roadless extraction techniques. We also consider the conflicts where the blocks overlap indigenous peoples’ territories. http://www.westernamazon.org/


15) There are as many different types of wood growing on each hectare in the Yasuni rainforest in the northwestern Amazon as there are species in all of North America. Even rare species of animals, like the mountain tapir and the brown-headed spider monkey, exist in the region. This paradise is also home to a number of native tribes now living in complete isolation from the outside world. There is more biological diversity in the Yasuni rainforest than almost anywhere else in the world. The virgin forest is protected by its status as a national park and UNESCO biosphere reserve, but for how much longer? Several oil companies are pressuring the government in the Ecuadoran capital of Quito to finally issue drilling licenses for the biosphere. The Yasuni region sits atop Ecuador’s largest known oil reserve, consisting of several hundred million barrels. Oil is the country’s most important export. And although oil has not made Ecuador rich, without petrodollars and petro-jobs the country would likely be even poorer than it already is. This makes a proposal that Ecuadoran Environment Minister Marcela Aguiñaga has now advanced in Berlin and other European capitals all the more sensational. Ecuador is the first oil-producing nation to propose leaving crude oil reserves permanently in the ground. “Not producing the oil in the first place saves the atmosphere additional carbon dioxide,” explains Aguiñaga, who worked as a conservation guard on the Galápagos Islands before embarking on her career in government. “In addition, the rainforest is spared the development.” Even if drilling technologies were used that protect the rainforest, loggers would likely descend on the area in the wake of the oil companies. Until now, the West’s appeals to developing countries to get involved in the fight against global warming and protect their biodiversity have fallen largely on deaf ears. The temptation to follow conventional paths to wealth is too great. And now one of South America’s poorest countries is calling upon industrialized nations to pony up so that its fossil fuel wealth can remain in the ground. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,591638,00.html


16) One year after a law was passed to preserve native forests in Argentina, environmentalists say that deforestation has continued, although at a slower pace. They blame the situation on the government’s delay in creating a compensation fund for provinces that take action against the clearing of forests. The law aimed at protecting native forests, approved in November 2007, declared a one-year ban on deforestation and required each province to draw up land use plans that defined which forest areas must remain protected and untouched, which could be used sustainably, and which could be converted to other uses. The law took 18 months to make its way through Congress and was fiercely resisted by provinces that had authorised deforestation to increase land areas for agriculture and livestock farming. The creation of a National Fund for the Enrichment and Conservation of Native Forests was, therefore, a key component to achieve passage of the law. But the regulations for the law, and above all the creation of the fund, are stalled in the Economy Ministry, sources from the Argentine chapter of the global environmental watchdog Greenpeace and from the Secretariat on the Environment and Sustainable Development told IPS. Meanwhile, deforestation has continued in some provinces. Greenpeace, whose activists have been blocking bulldozers since 2002, was the visible leader of a campaign by some 30 Argentine environmental organisations to preserve the forests. As well as lobbying lawmakers, they collected one-and-a-half million signatures from the general public in support of the law. ”If the regulations and the incentive fund are not created, enforcement of the law will be lax,” Hernán Giardini, forest campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Argentina, told IPS. The provinces need the funds to reinforce government units that deal with forests and to strengthen their capacity to curb deforestation, he said. Giardini said that the provincial administrations are drawing up their forestry and land use plans and will present their reports this year, according to the deadline they were given. But ”the national government has fallen behind,” he said, because it has delayed approval of the regulations, which the Secretariat of the Environment presented four months ago. The fund will be established with 0.3 percent of the national budget and two percent of all taxes on agricultural, livestock and forestry exports, totalling some 300 million dollars a year. Seventy percent will be used to compensate the owners of protected forests, and the remainder will go to the provinces to reinforce forestry control. http://www.faxts.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=823:marcela-valente&catid=50:world-news


17) Wild-caught pets are often recommended against, since the harvest of wild caught specimen may deplete wild populations. In the Brazilian rainforest, the harvesting of popular aquarium species such as cardinal tetras have however helped prevent deforestation and made it possible for local residents to earn a living without resorting to logging, mining, cattle ranching, and slash-and-burn agriculture. “All this is very counter-intuitive,” says Scott Dowd, an Amazon biologist at the New England Aquarium who has been researching the dark acidic waters of Rio Negro, a major Amazon tributary in Northern Brazil, for the past two decades. “You would think biologists would not want to take fish out of the rainforest. But the fish are the key to miminizing deforestation. The people’s other economic options – timber harvest, cattle ranching and gold mining – are environmental disasters.” The Rio Negro region has been a major fish exporter for over half a century and 60 percent of local populations rely in this source of income for their sustenance. Since deforestation is known to be detrimental to the survival of financially valuable fish species like the cardinal tetra fish, the Brazilian government has protected the Rio Negro rainforest from logging and burning – at least until now. The situation may be about to change dramatically as more and more aquarium shops switch from wild-caught fish to farm-raised specimens. Wild-caught specimens are used to the dark, soft and highly acidic water conditions of Rio Negro, while farm-raised fish tend to be acclimatized to common tap-water conditions (i.e. clear water that is not very soft or acidic) and therefore easier to keep. http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/news/lib/180

18) Carlos Minc never wanted to grow up to be the environment minister of Brazil. The self-described former “student militant revolutionary,” who spent time behind bars in the 1960s for resisting his country’s military dictatorship, had more grandiose goals in his younger years. “I wanted to be Che Guevara,” he said. But in his first six months as Brazil’s top environmental official, Mr. Minc, 57, has found the level of combat more than sufficient in this bureaucratic post, which he took over in May after the abrupt resignation of Marina Silva, an Amazon native who had achieved iconic status in environmental circles for her defense of the world’s largest rain forest. “I’m in a state of shock,” he said. “Absolutely.” In his first week on the job, he recalled, he was asked at a meeting of world environmental officials in Bonn, Germany, whether the Amazon was “all going to turn into dust” under his stewardship. “That was the first question,” he said. Since then, Mr. Minc’s tenure has been marked by a flair for bold if controversial strokes. He has sent the military to seize thousands of cattle on illegally deforested land. He released a list of the nation’s 100 top deforesters and named the government’s land reform agency as the leading culprit. He has pledged to cut by about half, to 13 months, the time it generally takes large development projects to receive environmental licenses, a position some environmental activists view with skepticism. “Every action I take is on TV. I’m not embarrassed of what I do,” Mr. Minc said in an interview at his Rio de Janeiro home. “You need to make examples. You need the army. You need TV. Or people think they can destroy the forest and nothing’s going to happen.” The resignation of Ms. Silva, a former rubber tapper who had served as minister for more than five years, caused an uproar among activists around the world who feared that her departure would lead to more lax environmental oversight. During her tenure, Brazil created 59 million acres of protected areas, or nearly half of all protected lands in the country, Ms. Silva said. The amount of forest cleared in the Amazon fell from a high of more than 10,000 square miles in 2004 to 4,400 square miles in 2007, the third-straight year of decline and the lowest level since 1991, according to government statistics. “It is perhaps too early to tell” about Mr. Minc’s performance as minister, said Stephan Schwartzman, an Amazon specialist at the Environmental Defense Fund in Washington. “But it is certainly the case that Mr. Minc follows an environment minister who has left an incredible legacy.” http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08314/926251-82.stm

19) Martin Sheen supplies the dramatic narration for “They Killed Sister Dorothy,” a documentary about the tragic killing of a 72-year-old Catholic nun from Ohio who had moved to the Brazilian Amazon forest in 1967 to work with the poor. She traveled there to support the PDS (Sustainable Development Project), a program that gives land to the poor and protects a large portion of the rainforest. She went to a little town called Anapu to help install the PDS, against the wishes of locals who relied on logging and cattle-raising to sustain the community. She challenged and fought illegal logging and cattle-raising, and eventually became known as the Angel of the Amazon by the local people who became her supporters. Her friend and associate, Sister Becky Spires, describes the tragic stripping of the forest canopy and deforestation at the rate of 10 square miles a day at the time. In the last three decades there have been 800 murders over land disputes, but only six faced trial and only one was imprisoned. Dorothy was killed in 2005, possibly with involvement of local officials, and the dramatic trial of her killers is documented in the film. One result of her death was that the rate of deforestation has been reduced. The Silver Hugo Award was given to this USA-Brazilian co-production directed by Daniel Junge. http://transitional.pww.org/article/view/13990/

20) The rancher suspected or orchestrating the killing of an American nun in the Brazilian Amazon now claims he owns the land she died trying to defend, reports the Associated Press (AP). Prosecutor Felicio Pontes told AP that last week Regivaldo Galvao presented documents to Incra, Brazil’s land reform agency, showing he owns the land sister Dorothy Stang sought to defend. Incra confirmed Galvao’s request. According to AP. his move “appears to cast doubt on one of his alibis in the 2005 slaying of Dorothy Stang: Galvao long insisted he had no motive to kill Stang because he had no interest in the plot of Amazon rain forest he now seeks.” Stang was gunned down in February 2005 by a hit man allegedly hired by Galvao and Vitalmiro Moura, another rancher. The 73-year-old nun was clutching a bible when she was killed, but in court the gunmen, Rayfran das Neves Sales, claimed he killed her in self defense. Das Neves has since been convicted of murder and sentenced to 28 years in prison, but the conviction of Moura was overturned last year after contradictory testimony by Das Neves. Stang, a member of the Order of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was working with the Pastoral Land Commission, a Catholic Church group that lobbies for land reform in Brazil and fights for land rights for the poor, when she was gunned down. Stang’s murder came to be a tipping point in the heated battle between the rural poor and large landowners in the state of Para. The federal government responded to her killing by sending several thousand armed troops into the state. Later Brazil established several protected areas in contested forests and proposed a land-use permit system for selling concession to loggers who agreed to set side land for settlers and indigenous groups. http://news.mongabay.com/2008/1112-brazil.html

21) Final efforts to save the enlargement of the Mercosur Highway from threats caused by the fragmentation of a hot spot at the Brazilian Atlantic coastal range clouded rainforest peaks and the splitting of a mountain network of sparkling pure water streams. more resource-efficient alternative is required. Petition to Obrascon Huarte Lain Brasil et ANTT, and I hereby sign the petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/Serra/petition-sign.html

22) Brazil has given final go-ahead on a controversial dam on the Madeira river in the Amazon rainforest provided environmental conditions are met, reports the Associated Press. The $4 billion Jirau dam is expected to have a capacity of 3,300 megawatts of power when completed in 2013. It is one of two proposed dams for the Maderia in Rondonia state. The dams are expected to have the capacity to produce 6,450 megawatts of electricity, about 8 percent of Brazil’s demand, but have proven controversial. Scientists say the dams, which will flood 204 square miles, will release greenhouse gases from rotting vegetation and block important route for migratory fish, including some of the river’s largest catfish species. Environmentalists have warned that the project could bring soybean farmers, illegal gold miners and loggers to remote parts of the Amazon rainforest, increasing pressure on the biodiverse ecosystem. Environment Minister Carlos Minc will unveil further details on Jirau today. http://news.mongabay.com/2008/1113-madeira.html

23) I’m writing to extend the invitation to join Rainforest Action Network on a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit the Brazilian Amazon and bear witness to the impacts of U.S. Agribusiness’ impacts on Indigenous and local communities and the Amazon rainforest. The delegation of RAN supporters and close allies will take place from January 16–28, 2009. The journey begins in the heart of the Amazon –Manaus-, travels through the soy plantations of Santarem, and ends where the Amazon meets the Atlantic Ocean –Belem. Space is limited, so please RSVP by November 15. See below for more detailed information on the journey or go to www.ran.org/amazon09. As you know, RAN’s Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign is challenging one of the fastest growing threats to the Amazon: the rapid expansion of soy plantations by U.S. agribusiness giants ADM, Bunge and Cargill. The spread of soy plantations is fueling the destruction of the world’s largest tropical rainforest, which is one of the planet’s most biologically and culturally diverse ecosystems. We’ll travel by riverboat on the Amazon River from Manaus to Santarém; stay at a comfortable eco-lodge in the heart of the Amazon; commune with Indigenous and local leaders, allies, activists, soy workers and frontline communities; and witness the impacts of U.S. agribusiness in and around Santarém. We’ll go on exciting excursions and participate in informative presentations led by the Rainforest Agribusiness team and our allies. For those of you who have a little extra time, we encourage you to join RAN staff, our allies and 80,000 people from around the world at the World Social Forum –the alternative to the World Economic Forum- which will take place in Belém, Brazil, from Jan 27 to Feb 1, 2009. For more information, visit http://www.forumsocialmundial.org.brhttp://www.takeabite.cc/blog/travel-to-the-amazon-in-january-with-rainforest-action-network/

24) An inland state of central Brazil, deep in the Amazon interior, Mato Grosso was long isolated from the outside world. A railroad, followed by highways and airplanes, eventually connected this state with other regions in the twentieth century. By the early twenty-first century, modern technology had clearly reached Mato Grosso—and produced widespread change. The Thematic Mapper on NASA’s Landsat 5 satellite captured the top image of part of Mato Grosso on August 6, 1992. The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Relfection Radiometer on NASA’s Terra satellite captured the bottom image of the same area on July 28, 2006. In both of these false-color images, red indicates vegetation, and the brighter the red, the denser the vegetation. The Rio Peixoto de Azevedo appears pale blue, nearly white, in 1992, perhaps a combination of reflective sediment or sunlight glinting off the water. The most conspicuous difference between the images is the widespread forest clearing—visible as rectangles of gray-beige—that had occurred by 2006. The most intense areas of clearing appear along roadways, such as road MT-419, which runs east to west north of the river. A 2006 study found that Brazil’s mechanized agriculture increased by more than 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) between 2001 and 2004, growing more than 540,000 hectares (1.3 million acres) in Mato Grosso alone. Clearing for pasture was still the leading cause of deforestation at that time, but the contribution from large agricultural clearings, such as for soy plantations, was increasing. http://grotonearthscience.blogspot.com/2008/11/deforestation-in-matto-grosso-brazil.html

25) Brazil will use a plane equipped with body-heat sensing technology to locate tribes in the Amazon rainforest, reports the Associated Press. The effort will enable FUNAI, Brazil’s Indian affairs agency, to push for the establishment of reserves to better protect isolated tribes from encroachment by loggers, miners, and ranchers. Developers aiming to clear land for timber, cattle pasture and farms have been known to hire bounty hunters to seek out and kill forest dwellers before authorities are aware of their presence. The plane will allow the Brazilian government to detect and monitor uncontacted tribes without the risk of infecting them with disease, which is the greatest threat to tribes upon first contact with the outside world. Until now authorities have relied on reports from contacted tribes and surveys on foot but monitoring is difficult in the expansive and remote region. Further because uncontacted rainforest tribes rarely erect permanent structures or live in groups much large than a couple dozen people, detecting them ”much less protecting them” is a challenge. Brazil has confirmed 26 native tribes that live with little to no contact with the outside world. Some 22 percent of the Brazilian Amazon is demarcated as indigenous reserves. http://news.mongabay.com/2008/1119-brazil.html

26) The Brazilian Congress, influenced by the agribusiness sector, seeks to change the Forest Code in Brazil to open more of the Amazon rainforest to be cleared. Not only will this destroy forested areas in the Amazon no longer protected by the Forest Code but the clearing and burning of these lands will release millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere—making the impacts of climate change worse. If these changes to the Forest Code pass, they will stimulate deforestation, increased greenhouse gas emissions, land grabbing, and disputes over land rights in the Amazon. The Forest Code would legally allow for millions of acres of the Amazon to be deforested and then burned to further clear the land for grazing cattle or planting soy. All of this could happen under the protection of the law if we don’t stop it. Please join the world in sending the message below to the Brazilian Congress today. It’s important they recognize the world depends on the Amazon for our survival and the entire planet is watching Brazil. http://usactions.greenpeace.org/action/start.php?action_id=224&source=RSS

27) The Boston biologist is planning to revisit the Brazilian paradise in January as part of an ongoing “Save a Fish, Save a Tree” campaign. So far, economic factors have caused the government to zealously protect this section of rainforest because these fish thrive in the shade. But the rising popularity of farm-raised cardinal tetras puts this equation in jeopardy. Mega-retailers of home aquariums, such as PetSmart and Wal-Mart, prefer the farmed fish because they can live at a neutral pH level, unlike the acidic conditions of the wild tetras. The changing markets mean that Brazilian fishermen are facing a dwindling customer base. “All this is very counter-intuitive,” says Dowd. “You would think biologists would not want to take fish out of the rainforest. But the fish are the key to miminizing deforestation. The people’s other economic options – timber harvest, cattle ranching and gold mining – are environmental disasters.” “Things look grim,” he adds. “The local fisheries look like they are headed for collapse. But there’s hope that this threat can be addressed. If you ask fish hobbyists if they care about the environment, a very high percentage say they care about it deeply.” Dowd thinks Amazon fishermen can ride the current wave of feel-good, cause labeling. Based on the marketing model of Fair Trade coffee and FSC certified renewable lumber, he believes wild fish will sell with the “Buy a Fish, Save a Tree” branding. New England Aquarium researchers are also helping fisheries acclimate cardinal tetras from acidic water to neutral pH tanks to make them more marketable to big-box retailers. Other plans may include assigning lot numbers to every batch of tropical fish caught in the Rio Negro. “Imagine if you could go online and see a video of the actual fisherman who caught your tropical fish,” says Dowd. “And if the fisherman told you directly what he would have to do if he could no longer fish.” “I want hobbyists to know directly how their choices can affect people thousands of miles away and how they can make a contribution to saving the rainforest,” he adds. “Things don’t look good, but we can begin to turn all of this around.” http://www.bostonherald.com/business/general/view/2008_11_19_Scientist:_Fish_could_save_Brazil_rainforest/

28) Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has signed a decree to protect and restore critically endangered rainforest along the country’s Atlantic coast, reports the Associated Press. The Mata Atlantica has been reduced to less than 7 percent of its original range as a result of logging and conversion for agriculture and cattle ranches. The decree, signed Friday, “provides financial incentives for local residents to protect and recover forest through green businesses,” according to the AP. Carlos Minc, the country’s Environment Minister, said the government aims to restore the Atlantic forest to 20 percent of its original cover. Earlier this year the Nature Conservancy announced a program to plant a billion native trees in the region, in hopes of restoring the ecosystem. Research published last year suggests that with such efforts the Mata Atlantica may be capable of recovery. http://howtomakeadifferencenow.blogspot.com/2008/11/good-news-for-atlantic-forest.html

29) A mob of about 3,000 people enraged by a crackdown on illegal logging trashed a government office in a remote jungle city and tried to attack environmental workers, authorities said Monday. Environment Minister Carlos Minc said federal police should be sent to the northeastern town of Paragominas following the riot, which was prompted by the seizure of 400 cubic meters (14,124 cubic feet) of wood believed to have been cut inside an Indian reservation. Many residents of the Amazon deeply resent — and sometimes attack — environmental officials who try to block logging that provides income for rich and poor alike. The mob invaded the offices of the Ibama environmental protection agency on Sunday, destroying furniture and burning important paperwork, Minc said. Then they allegedly used a tractor to try to invade a hotel where Ibama workers were staying, but were repelled with tear gas by police. Minc’s ministry said no one was injured. Paragominas is about 150 kilometers (90 miles) from the small city of Tailandia, where a mob of 2,000 rioted over wood seizures in February, forcing environmental authorities to leave the city for days. Minc said the new riot would not stop efforts to control illegal logging: “To the contrary, we’re going to intensify operations and we’ll punish those who are responsible. The riot followed a seizure under Operation Black Trail, aimed at cracking down on production of charcoal with illegally logged wood. Ibama official Marco Antonio Vidal told Globo TV’s G1 Web site that some of the protesters were wood company owners and logging truck drivers. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jUaoX9g5zinKx1UTa9IDZVyyVI_wD94LGNR82

30) Federal troops will be deployed in a remote Amazon town after hundreds of protesters, angry at the government’s crackdown on deforestation, ransacked the local offices of Brazil’s environmental protection agency. The demonstrators invaded the headquarters of Ibama, the environmental agency, on Sunday night, setting fire to vehicles, smashing computers and destroying documents. The action was triggered when government officials impounded 14 lorries carrying around 400 cubic metres of wood they claim was illegally removed from an indigenous reserve near the Amazon town of Paragominas. After attacking the Ibama officers, the protestors made off with the lorries, while environmental agents took refuge in a local hotel. The riot was eventually broken up by military police using tear gas and pepper spray. “We will hunt down the stolen lorries,” one environmental agent, Marco Vidal, who is stationed in Paragominas, told the government news agency, Agencia Brasil. The temperature has been rising in remote Amazon towns like Paragominas since the government launched an anti-deforestation drive, called “Arc of Fire”, earlier this year. Many locals are angry at the impact the initiative is having on the local economy, with many saw mills being forced to close. In February locals burned cars in the streets and attacked the town hall in Tailandia, another Amazon town, as a protest against the crackdown. Located in the northeast of Para state, the region around Paragominas is a notorious hotspot for illegal deforestation and violence. Members of the environmental group Greenpeace recently invested in a bulletproof pick-up truck to use while travelling in the region. Brazil’s environment minister, Carlos Minc, said the government would “intensify” its actions in the region. “We won’t be intimidated,” he said. In an interview with the Guardian earlier this year, Brazil’s minister for strategic affairs, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, said the country needed to offer alternative employment to the Amazon’s 25m inhabitants in order to protect the rainforest. The proponent of controversial plans to industrialise parts of the Amazon, Unger said Brazil needed to adopt “a form of environmental protection which is less and less the result of a police operation and more and more the consequence of a working model of economic and social organisation.” He criticised environmentalists who demanded the protection of the rainforest without considering those living there. “What has happened in some parts of the rich world is that concern about the tropical rainforest has become… a form of escapism,” he said. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/nov/25/brazil-forests

31) The Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) Wednesday launched a campaign to promote tourism in the Amazon Rainforest area. The Amazon Rainforest area occupies over 7.5 million square kilometers, about 40 percent of South America’s territory, but it does not attract as many tourists as it could. In order to attract tourists, both domestic and foreign, the ACTO will promote, during the next year, over 80 events in the eight countries in which the Amazon River Basin is located: Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. Among the events foreseen in the campaign are festivals, congresses, indigenous celebrations, social forums and carnivals. “It is an enormous challenge and a great opportunity to generate revenues to the local populations,” said Francisco Ruiz, ACTO’s general secretary, during a press conference. According to Ruiz, only 3 percent of Brazilians choose the Amazon Rainforest area as a tourist destination. ACTO’s Tourism Coordinator Donald Sinclair qualifies the campaign as an opportunity to provide sustainable development to the region, which suffers from deforestation. According to Sinclair, a study carried out by 120 tourism agencies in Europe showed that the Amazon Rainforest area has a great potential as a destination to those who seek adventure and more contact with nature. However, only 5 to 6 percent of all tourists who arrive at the eight countries in the Amazon River basin visit the Amazon Rainforest area. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-11/27/content_10420034.htm

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