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close this bookAll that Glitters is not Gold - Balancing Conservation and Development in Venezuela's Frontier Forests (WRI, 1998, 60 pages)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentForeword
View the documentMajor Findings
View the documentMajor Recommendations
Open this folder and view contentsI. Introduction and Policy Background
Open this folder and view contentsII. Future Resource Use and Large-scale Development Plans
Open this folder and view contentsIII. On the Ground: Venezuela's Forest Policy in the Guayana Region
Open this folder and view contentsIV. Who Benefits from Economic Activities in Forests?
View the documentV. Major Findings: Risks and Benefits for Venezuela's Frontier Forests
View the documentVI. Major Recommendations: Alternatives for Sustainably Managing the Guayana Region
View the documentNotes
View the documentAbout the Authors
View the documentBoard Of Directors
View the documentWorld Resources Institute
View the documentThe World Resources Institute Forest Frontiers Initiative

VI. Major Recommendations: Alternatives for Sustainably Managing the Guayana Region

Developing sound, long-term forest policies for the region in the face of so many conflicting economic, social, and political interests is, at best, a difficult task. The following three priority recommendations, however, could help Venezuela to achieve a better balance between conservation and economic development.

1. Capture fully revenue from forest resources and ensure that benefits contribute to long-term forest conservation.


Currently, benefits from forest resources are not fully captured at either the national or local levels. Priority recommendations for policy-makers are:

· Remove subsidies on timber extraction and use this money to re-invest in conservation and monitoring activities. Subsidies now offered to logging concessionaires are not justified, in light of the environmental impact of their activities.

· Seek means of capturing more revenue from national parks, such as increasing entrance fees, setting fees for side services, and ensuring that fees paid on water services reflect the cost of managing the watershed. While raising park fees is generally unpopular, a combination of gradually increased entrance and ecosystem service fees could generate more revenue to pay for park management (see Box 13). Ensuring that water prices reflect the cost of managing watersheds could help generate funds for conservation of the Guayana region, especially as much of the region's urban water and the nation's hydroelectric power are protected by forests in Bolivar and Amazonas states. In addition, tax revenues can be redirected to fund conservation in areas where the protection of resources is beneficial for maintaining specific ecosystem services. For example, the Brazilian state of ParanĂ¡ redirects 5 percent of its sales tax to fund watershed conservation activities in communities located in upstream catchments. In 1996, $19 million was raised in this manner and redirected to 150 municipalities.223

· Establish an open auction system for mining and logging concessions, in which the concession is granted to the highest bidder.

Additional considerations could include favoring companies that show plans to use technologies which reduce environmental impacts, or that provide data for monitoring their performance. Public auctions could generate multiple bidders for mining and logging concessions and could help provide the highest price for the resource in question. A base fee for the resource would be established to avoid collusion among bidders. A similar process was recently instituted in Cameroon with support from the IMF and World Bank, where French and Asian companies have concluded a bidding process on the country's valuable timber concessions.224

· Examine opportunities for formulating a carbon sequestration package under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, which could include reduced-impact logging techniques or other forest conservation measures. Under this type of arrangement, an emitter in a developed country can agree to fund forestry and land-use projects in developing countries that contribute to reductions in global greenhouse gases. While such projects have been voluntarily implemented by specific companies in developed countries, they may now take on a larger role through the Kyoto Protocol, which was designed to slow global warming.225


Lenders, such as the IMF and World Bank, can help orient the government's efforts in evaluating methods of capturing lost revenue, before the government begins to expand extractive activity. Lenders and development agencies could:

· Consult with the Venezuelan government on methods of capturing lost rent on tourism and existing mining activities before advocating the expansion of mining and logging activity.

· Help the Venezuelan government to establish and implement an open auction system for awarding logging and mining concessions.

· Support innovative compensation and tax-based systems for financing conservation.

2. Minimize the environmental and social impacts of mining and logging.


Before escalating mining and logging activity, the government should first attempt to control the activities already underway Options policy-makers should consider are:

· Enact a moratorium on future mining and logging contracts until there are a) a clear policy on environmentally responsible mining, b) reclamation standards/or both small- and large-scale mining, and c) a comprehensive review of forestry policies. New standards for logging practices could take into consideration international standards, such as those developed by the Forest Stewardship Council, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization, and the United States Forest Service. With the participation of local researchers and universities, the Venezuelan Forest Service could undertake a systematic analysis of the impact of logging in forest reserves. The goal of such an exercise would be to develop a forest management system specifically for the Guayana region, which would then be re-evaluated on a regular basis for continual monitoring of environmental and social impacts.

· Remove perverse incentives for forest conversion, especially in the agricultural sector. Agrarian reform policies should be re-evaluated and revised to eliminate perverse incentives that stimulate forest conversion to farmland and encroachment in public forest lands.

· Coordinate the collection of necessary baseline data before expanding mining and logging activities and make this information available through a national information bank. To maintain the greatest degree of objectivity, these data would be collected independently, preferably through local universities and other research institutions. The national information bank would be public and would contain government policy documents, scientific studies, and post-graduate dissertations relating to extractive activities in the region.

· Establish an "early warning" continuous monitoring and information system to track environmental and social impacts from extractive activities. Such a system would be open and readily accessible to those outside government and would consist of technically sound, objective information gathered on a continual basis, to allow officials to adapt policies based on realities observed in the field.226

· Require that companies provide a performance bond equal to 10 percent of their investment, to guard against potential environmental impacts. Companies could be required to post a bond sufficient to cover not only the costs of reclamation, but those related to cleaning up accidental spills or long-term treatment of groundwater. To avoid underestimates by the companies, the environmental impact could be assessed by an independent expert, who would advise the government on estimating the costs of potential impacts. The bond would be held in an interest bearing account and only released after the life of the project, or in the case of mining, a number of years after the mine had closed.

· Increase the capacity of the Ministry of Environment to implement environmental regulations and commit to making 25 percent of civil service slots tenured positions for each of the next four administrations. Since policy-makers are currently under pressure to decrease the size of the public sector, adding new staff and resources at the central level may not be entirely feasible. Currently, many of Venezuela's government officials are concentrated in Caracas, and there appear to be few links between the field and many central offices.

One way to address this issue, as well as the lack of institutional stability, would be to create career civil servants at high levels of administration, especially for conservation and environmental offices. Once tenured, incumbents would have to refrain from participating in political activity, and positions would be filled competitively once vacant. Promotions would be based on performance, ensuring that a dedicated cadre of civil servants would monitor the environment. Additional incentives could be offered to those civil servants willing to work in remote places, and such individuals could eventually be integrated into central offices.


Lenders and development agencies can also assist policy-makers by directing funds to the following:

· Fund institutional capacity development, focussing especially on amplifying the presence of government officials in the field. The World Bank or the Global Environment Facility, for example, might provide seed money for data collection or training.

· Ensure that strong environmental policies are in place when instituting structural adjustment reform. Structural adjustment packages could include more active measures to ensure that environmental policy is strengthened at the same time that macroeconomic reforms are instituted.


Non-governmental organizations, universities, and researchers can also perform a significant role in helping to:

· Develop a database for monitoring environmental and social impacts, including information regarding extractive activity in the Guayana region, and records of international mining companies. For example, such groups could be involved in researching the impacts of logging and mining on indigenous communities, or tracking the past environmental and social records of international mining companies. Such oversight has not been institutionalized in many places, but for example, NGOs have been monitoring the activities of multinational petroleum companies in Ecuador throughout the last decade.227


Businesses could implement the following steps:

· Collaborate with monitoring activities and help collect baseline data during the early stages of exploration. A percentage of revenue generated by extractive activities, for example, could fund continued data collection.

· Take immediate steps to adopt best practices for mining and logging. These include reducing the impact of logging techniques and heavy equipment, as well as carefully planning road-building. Similarly in the case of mining, when operating in an area of former small-scale activity, companies can recover mercury spilled by small-scale miners and take steps to recover damaged ecosystems.

3. Consider new arrangements for forest resource use based on public participation.


Some alternatives for policy-makers in defining a future for the Guayana region would be to:

· Conduct long-term land-use planning, and incorporate the needs and desires of traditional communities in developing national economic plans. Ideally, the land-use plan is a vision for sustainable development and natural resource conservation in the region, developed with the participation of local stakeholders. Recognition of basic human rights, such as the right to land, can be part of ensuring sustainable use of forest resources. Furthermore, involving indigenous peoples in planning and land-use management is often critical to creating local support for conservation activities, particularly in national parks and other protected areas.

As part of a land-use plan, policy-makers should consider a range of development options that would benefit local stakeholders, such as evaluating the alternatives for marketing non-timber forest products collected in a sustainable manner by indigenous communities. Extractive reserves have been established in Brazil and Colombia with the objective of providing local communities with a livelihood from the marketing of non-timber forest products. While not a panacea, such initiatives could provide a basis for establishing a sustainable, multiple use framework for ensuring the well being of local communities.228

· Demarcate indigenous territories, in consultation with the communities. Projects to map ancestral lands are already being carried out in Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela.229 In addition, the government should consider ratifying the International Labour Organisation's Convention 169 on indigenous peoples' rights, which updates Convention 107.

· Manage forest resources at a landscape level by considering co-management arrangements with indigenous communities and NGOs, as well as integrating environmental planning and management across government agencies. Such co-management agreements have been successful in Australia's Kakadu National Park, for example, and have the added benefit of providing monitoring and enforcement in remote parks where encroachment currently poses a significant threat.230

Managing the Guayana region for a more sustainable future will also require a more collaborative approach between ministries. One way to accomplish this would be to manage forest resources more clearly on ecosystem characteristics, rather than jurisdictional boundaries. For example, if protecting the Caroni watershed is established as a priority, then a regional coordinating body could be developed which might include representatives from local communities, the Park Service, the CVG, NGOs, scientists, and other stakeholders.231 Forest reserves could also be managed collaboratively with the Park Service to improve connectivity between protected forest areas. Managing resources at the ecosystem level is being applied globally, including in the United States.232

· Involve NGOs, indigenous and local communities, local governments, and other interest groups in the development of land-use plans by publicly disclosing them and instituting immediate consultative processes, before any further work on these projects is carried out. In a democratic country, such as Venezuela, considerable importance is assigned to open, participatory processes that include local communities, NGOs, and the private sector. Naturally, consultation is a lengthy process. However, as has been the case with the Imataca Forest Reserve, absent such measures, implementation of key government plans can be further delayed by lawsuits, protests, or blockades by local inhabitants. Increased participatory processes and transparency were a key recommendation of the recent U.S. Forest Service mission to the Imataca Forest Reserve.233


These organizations can assist government efforts by considering the following alternatives:

· Encourage the Venezuelan government to demarcate the territories of indigenous peoples, to maintain the decrees banning logging and mining in Amazonas, and to assist the government in the management of protected areas. The European Union, which partially funds the Orinoco-Casiquiare Biosphere Reserve, could continue its funding based on the development and implementation of a national land-use plan that contemplates how forest resources will be used in Amazonas state.

· Fund training for government officials at a local level to undertake responsibility for managing forest resources. The World Bank's INPARQUES project could seek to devote more funding to the development of human resources by providing more intensive training for park managers working with indigenous communities. Furthermore, the World Bank's Environmental Management Project might be extended to the Guayana region. The project now focusses on the re-organization of the Ministry of Environment by decentralizing its responsibilities, and by shifting personnel to the field. However, these activities are limited to two states outside of the Guayana region. One important caveat should be kept in mind, however. Attempts to decentralize should not amount to a mere abdication of responsibility at the central government level. An important role would still exist at the central level in the definition of broader national forest policies and ensuring compliance in the field.234


For NGOs, universities, and researchers, the following alternatives should be considered:

· Expand collaboration with government agencies in co-management agreements for selected protected areas. For example, the Park Service currently has a collaborative agreement with some NGOs. Such collaboration would help maximize expertise, provide necessary training for government officials, and provide new solutions to sustainably managing the Guayana region's forests.

· Help train local government officials to undertake responsibility for managing forest resources. Local and regional governments will likely need additional training and capacity building to take on new responsibilities formerly allotted to central government agencies, especially in terms of understanding how healthy forest ecosystems help maintain valuable water resources. Such training could be provided by NGOs or funded by lenders and development agencies.


For mining and logging companies, the goal should be to:

· Respect ancestral indigenous lands even if these are not officially recognized. Private companies operating in the region can help motivate the government to recognize the importance of land demarcation, as unclear land tenure provides a security risk for companies wishing to invest in extractive activities. In the forest reserves of the western Llanos, concessionaires have already lost timber in areas where they operate because of invasions by peasants seeking land.

· Contribute to the development of nearby communities by establishing development plans for indigenous communities and other local groups in consultation with local stakeholders. Companies with a vested interest in the region can help ensure that communities benefit from their presence. The degree to which local communities accept the presence of mining and logging companies, especially foreign multinationals, is important to the success of the venture. Thus, mining and logging companies should be prepared to contribute to the development of residents, especially in terms of ensuring a long-term sustainable future.