Our mission is to raise money and public awareness in support of the permanent and sustainable protection of the Interior Atlantic Forest in The San Rafael Reserve, Paraguay.
We are committed to ride our bikes from Ushuaia, Argentina to the San Rafael Reserve, Paraguay. The trip is approximately 5000 kilometers and should take approximately four months. This endeavor is an expression of our deep concern over the deforestation of the Interior Atlantic forest in Paraguay. The Interior Atlantic forest once stretched from Brazil's Atlantic coast into Eastern Paraguay and Northeastern Argentina and covered 300 million acres. Today in Paraguay all that is left are small fragments of the original forest. If these last, small pockets of land are not protected, their enormous biological diversity will be permanently lost. The San Rafael Reserve in Paraguay is one of the remaining fragments of the original Interior Atlantic Forest and is owned privately by individuals who have no interest in its environmental protection. The area is called a reserve on paper, officially termed a "reserve of managed resources," but private landowners continue to exploit the land without regulation. The land needs to be bought from these private owners. Paraguay does not have the necessary political, social, or financial infrastructure to mobilize the conservation effort required to buy and protect the land. Through this trip we hope to publicize the fragile state of the San Rafael Reserve and to solicit help for its protection. We believe that it is our collective responsibility to help preserve the remaining forests of the world.
In many cases people
understand the growing need for land conservation, but they do not have
an avenue to express their concern. Donating to conservation efforts
often is a general donation to an organization and lacks any personal
connection. In the case of preserving the San Rafael forest, we are
your connection, and your money goes directly to land acquisition through
a land trust. We are not soliciting any funds for our trip expenses.
Efforts to buy land in San Rafael and protect it with guards are coordinated by The San Rafael Conservation Alliance. The San Rafael Conservation Alliance was created by five Paraguayan organizations (Guyra, Natural Land Trust, IDEA, Fundación Enlace, and ProCosara) as a collaborative approach to land conservation in San Rafael. The Alliance now manages over 4,748 hectares. It plans to buy an additional 15,000 hectares as a nucleus reserve with put 25,000 hectares under protective devices.
The focus of this
webpage is to raise awareness and money for land acquisition that will
be added to the Land Trust to preserve the San Rafael Reserve in perpetuity.
We are asking for monetary donations. These donations will be used to
purchase land in the San Rafael Reserve. Your donations will be funneled
directly into the Land Trust Alliance and donations can be made at anytime
during our journey.
One hectare equals 2.47 acres (10,000 sq. meters) and costs $210 (USD).
Fire Blazes, March 2005 by Riana Good
When barely 6% of the Atlantic Forest's original coverage remains, it's a major blow to watch as 3750 acres turn to ash in one of only two significant remnants in Paraguay. With 6 rainless weeks and the surrounding dry fields of Monsanto transgenic soy serving as tinder, even the most heroic efforts could only make a dent in the destruction. It took moderate rains a week later to effectively extinguish the 30 centers of flame.
Coordination among the 200-or-so volunteer firefighters (there are no federal or local firefighters) was rather chaotic on these unmarked, treacherous roads where one can barely get a walkie-talkie signal, let alone a cell phone connection. As the only organization in the region working to defend the forest, ProCosara´s 6 park guards´ knowledge of the area and the forest were vital in coordinating efforts and serving as guides. Twice-daily flyovers of ProCosara´s ultra light plane gave key updates to workers on the ground and media outlets. ProCosara deserves special recognition in an effort where all involved were heroes.
The police and military ultimately took over when it became evident that marijuana planters and local peasants had played a role in the fire's ignition. The drought created a desperate situation for many, and it is suspected that some peasants set their fields on fire (before or after the harvest, it is unclear) to avoid paying debts that were sure to amount. According to local talk, other possible sources include brush fires that got out of control, the desire to open up more land for planting, and burning embers from fires of those who went into the woods to hunt and gather to seek alternative food sources for their families. Efforts are still in the works to provide peasants with the means for a more sustainable, legal livelihood, but unfortunately the current tragedy appears to have done little to speed up the process.
The sad irony remains
that the very deforestation that we are fighting to prevent has caused
the climate change that propagates the destruction. Drought-like conditions
and windswept flames helped to consume a forest that has enough working
against it, without weather taking its turn. Additional serious challenges
include water contamination and health risks from toxic agricultural
chemicals, illegal logging and hunting, and illegal land invasions by
peasants that displace and destroy indigenous peoples and native wildlife.