"Spending time in forests reminds me that we're inextricably linked to them. Any harm we do to a forest, we're doing to ourselves."
PROTECTING THE WORLD'S FORESTS
Written by Marsea Nelson
Forests are more than just a collection of trees. They are integrated ecosystems and home to some of the most diverse life on the planet. This is especially true for the vital remaining rain forests
of the Amazon Basin, says WWF's Acting Director, Forest Sector Transformation, Amy Smith, who spoke with WWF’s Marsea
Nelson about her conservation work in the Amazon.
Q: When did you first become interested in the Amazon?
Early in my career, I visited an indigenous group in the Palcazu Valley in the central Amazon of Peru multiple times over five years, and I helped them find ways to improve their livelihoods. They really understood the importance of responsible forest management and the value it would have for their children and grandchildren.
Q: What threats does the region face?
Over the last 50 years or so, Amazon forest cover has been diminished by about 17 percent. One of the threats I work closely on is illegal and unsustainable logging. Other threats are cattle ranching, agriculture, poorly planned infrastructure and gold mining. I once traveled to a gold mining area in Peru, and I would not have known it previously was a tropical forest; it looked like a moon crater.
Q: Why is forest protection such a priority for WWF?
Forests are crucial to life on Earth. They purify the air we breathe, filter the water we drink and regulate climate. They house 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and 1.6 billion people depend directly on them for their survival. But forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. About 32 million acres of forest are lost globally every year.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge of your job?
Getting consumers to understand that their purchasing decisions really have an impact. Choosing products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, for example, is good for people and the planet. Look for the FSC logo on wood and paper products before you buy them.
Q: Knowing all of this, are you optimistic about the Amazon’s future?
I am. In June 2014, the Brazilian government, WWF
and other partners announced a fund of $215 million to protect 150 million acres of the Brazilian rain forest. That’s about the size of California! Known as ARPA [Amazon Region Protected Areas] for Life, this is the largest conservation project in history. An achievement of this scale gives me hope that the Amazon will continue
be a vital source of life on this planet.