Forest Service Chief visits Brazil to engage partnership programs

US Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen and Assistant Director of Latin America Programs, Liz Mayhew, recently traveled to Brazil to meet with government representatives, civil-society partners and communities involved in the Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity. The trip provided Chief Christiansen and other Forest Service leaders a first-hand look at International Programs activities in Brazil, which includes public lands management, land conversion, and forest-based operations.

The hands-on approach helps to inform Forest Service leaders as they work to further refine and improve agency collaboration with international partners. The visit was Chief Christiansen’s second international trip as Chief, and her first to Brazil.

“I am overwhelmed with the collaboration and the partnerships for conserving these great landscapes and ensuring we take an economic approach to maintain sustainability for these landscapes. There is much goodwill and a great amount of vision and energy,” said Chief Christiansen.

The visit started in the city of Rio de Janeiro, where Chief Christiansen took part in the Flavor of the Amazon Festival at CADEG, the city’s centenary municipal food market. The festival featured wild-caught pirarucu fish and was part of a broader effort to bring the fish from the Amazon to southern Brazilian audiences, strengthening its value chain and ultimately providing social and economic benefits to families that manage the pirarucu in protected locations of the Amazon. Next, the Chief visited the Tijuca National Park to see the changes in the Park’s public use materials and discuss the introduction of the Transcarioca long-distance trail. 

The visit continued in Curitiba, where the Chief welcomed guests at the very first International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) Summit held in Latin America. The Forest Service has partnered with IUFRO for almost a century. The event gathers a leading network of scientists from around the world on research topics across the spectrum of forest and wood products science. 

In Brasilia, Chief Christiansen met with officials from the Ministry of Environment, the Chico Mendes Institute for the Conservation of Biodiversity (ICMBio) and the Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) to discuss milestones of the partnership between USAID, the Forest Service, and several Brazilian Government environmental agencies. 

At the Brasilia National Park, the Chief met with ICMBio staff for presentations on Fire Management and Prevention in Brazil. During the demo she visited prescribed burn sites in the park, where she learned about the results of the collaboration on public use and management planning. 

“What we saw here today with the use of fire, is innovation in action,” said Chief Christiansen. “There is a plan for protecting the community around Brasilia and using fire as a tool instead of having it as an enemy. It’s really great work, and I commend the Brazilian government, ICMBio, USAID, and all the multiple partners. We are privileged to be a part of this great mission.” 

The Chief honored fire managers while at the park, presenting them with her Chief Christiansen Challenge Coin in acknowledgement of commitment to their challenging work.

The trip concluded with a four-day visit to the Rio Negro basin in Amazonas, the largest state of Brazil, where she viewed interpretive materials developed for Anavilhanas National Park through the Forest Service partnership with ICMBio. While there, she visited the Unini Extractive Reserve where the agency is working with partners to strengthen community-based Brazil nut and pirarucu value chains. She observed pirarucu stock assessment and fishing practices, and visited the only nut processing plant in Brazil located within a protected area.