After more than a decade of discussion and planning, Peru on Sunday will officially designate Sierra del Divisor National Park, a 1.3 million hectare (3.3 million acre) reserve that is home to uncontacted indigenous tribes, endangered wildlife, and one of South America’s wildest landscapes.
The much-awaited news was revealed late Friday night in a series of tweets by Peru’s Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who called the declaration a “historic event”.
“The creation of the Sierra del Divisor National Park is a historic event,” he said. “It is a confirmation of the Peruvian government’s commitment to conservation, sustainable development and the fight against climate change.”
According to Pulgar-Vidal, President Ollanta Humala will make the park official on Sunday.
Sierra del Divisor, which is now one of the largest protected areas in Latin America, is being compared to Yellowstone National Park for its conservation significance and spectacular geological features, including ‘cone peaks’ and sandstone plateaus that form unique ecological niches.
“To call Sierra del Divisor the Yellowstone of the Amazon is an understatement,” said Adrian Forsyth, Executive Director of the Andes Amazon Fund, which is supporting the initiative. “As magnificent and important as Yellowstone is, the newly created Sierra del Divisor is several multiples larger. It’s primary forests are massive and maintain not just immense stores of carbon but are also the ark that will help carry huge amounts of biodiversity through the climate change bottleneck. Thousands of indigenous people now have their ancestral homeland and the natural life support systems that sustain their communities protected by national law. It’s a huge win for the planet!”
Sierra del Divisor’s forests are estimated to store 165 million tons of carbon, making it an important contribution to Peru’s climate commitments ahead of climate talks in Paris.
“It is a confirmation of the Peruvian government’s commitment to conservation, sustainable development and the fight against climate change,” said Pulgar-Vidal.
The creation of the park has involved dozens of partners, ranging from international conservation groups to local indigenous communities. It has also had wide support of the public — a survey published last month found that 86 percent of Peruvians backed the establishment of the park. An AVAAZ petition calling for the park’s designation received more than 1.1 million signatures.
Rainforest Trust, one of the groups that worked for years to secure the designation, quickly welcomed the announcement, calling it “pivotal” to establishing a massive block of protected forests in arguably the most biodiverse place on Earth: the junction of the lowland Amazon rainforest and the Andes mountains.
“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 Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust, in a statement. “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.”
The designation will enable government agencies and others to step up efforts to combat illegal exploitation of Sierra del Divisor, including logging, mining, and coca production, which have recently expanded into the area. Given the extent and remoteness of the area, management will be a challenge, but one that must be overcome if Sierra del Divisor’s cultural and biological richness is to be saved. To confront this challenge, Andes Amazon Fund has committed to a million-dollar fund to begin implementation of the new park, such as the creation of the management plan and initial staffing.
“Peru’s new Sierra del Divisor National Park forms a major stronghold of planetary importance for nature and indigenous people” said Andes Amazon Fund’s Forsyth. “Thank you to Peru’s President, Minister of the Environment, and SERNANP for such a critical gift to Peru and to the world.”