Protecting land: Webinar improve visitation monitoring in Conservation Units

Partnership between the PCAB, the US Forest Service and ICMBio is resulting in strengthening biodiversity conservation

Managers and analysts attended a short online training program on "Visitation Monitoring” in late June. This webinar improved understanding of Federal Conservation Unit monitoring, resulting in improved biodiversity conservation. 

The webinar was promoted by the United States Forest Service (USFS), inside the program Ecotourism and Visitation Structuring and Planning Coordination Effort, linked to the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), and supported by the Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB).

In recent years, the PCAB has promoted a range of activities, including training programs and a technical visit to the U.S. In addition, a publication named "Handbook of Methods for Monitoring the Number of Visits in Federal Protected Areas" (read more here) was launched in 2020  to help teams design or improve their visitation protocols.

By systematizing monitoring methodologies, Brazilian conservation units have seen their visits increase. In 2019 (see report here), 137 federal units received 15.33 million visitors, 20% more than in 2018. While this is an indicator that more people are visiting these areas, it is also due to improved monitoring. In the Amazon biome, the number of visitors grew by 256% between 2012 and 2019 – from 183,718 visitors/year to 471.759. In addition to preserving biodiversity and raising awareness, ecotourism helps drive the economy. This sector alone created approximately 90,000 jobs in 2018, and generated R$ 2.7 billion in revenue, according to data published by the Brazilian government.

Suelene Couto, US Forest Service Program Manager in Brazil, talked about the program in an interview with the PCAB.

What is your assessment of the minicourse? 

Our objective was to broaden the understanding of managers who already do some type of visitation monitoring in Conservation Units, and to provide information to those who still do not. After this webinar, managers are expected to consider more appropriate alternative solutions for the reality of their units. 

What should managers prioritize in order to leverage monitoring?

Several factors, actually. Once they gain this knowledge, they need to create task forces to put it into practice. There is no doubt that they are willing to do it, but they still face several bottlenecks, including shortage of staff and lack of equipment. We intend to continue supporting them if the program continues.

How does monitoring help to conserve biodiversity?

As visitation is growing, we can see more empowerment. When you get to know a conservation unit, you develop a connection with it. This personal connection leads to ownership, and all this has an impact on biodiversity conservation.

How can you increase visitation in UCs that still attract few visitors?

Mainly through partnerships with the private sector and the state government, so as to ensure that those units may offer more recreation options, and that people know about it. An example could be the air transport sector, which could help to promote these UCs, showing their passengers the stunning natural beauty of these places – something they will not find in cities.

What has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how is the work being adjusted to this new reality?

We have been talking about how to work on the impacts of the pandemic. The reality is going to be different, and people may want to be closer to nature. If a phase II of the program is approved, one way forward would be the empowerment of communities that are living with COVID-19. Partnerships with the private sector and state agencies will be great options.