USAID expands fire-related projects in partnership with Forest Service in 2021

This year, USAID will be supporting the delivery of a training and fire management preparation program, developed by the United States Forest Service (USFS) in partnership with the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) and the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA).

The announcement was made by Ted Gehr, USAID director in Brazil, during a webinar held on December 17 to share the results of the PCAB public use component. “I am very happy to see that USAID wants to expand its cooperation with ICMBio and other partners in the area of fire management. We are thrilled with this opportunity," said Mr. Gehr.

In 2020, with a view to overcoming the difficulties imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the USFS launched a cycle of virtual training events focused on firefighting in Brazilian biomes, in particular the Amazon and the Pantanal. Both regions were drastically affected by fires, especially in the second half of last year.

The USFS delivered training to firefighters, environmental analysts and volunteers in coordination with IBAMA and ICMBio, in addition to other partners. The training covered the application of the US Forest Fire Incident Command System, and how to act safely in air operations. 

Evaluation – The webinar focused on the results of the PCAB public use component, which was implemented by the United States Forest Service, ICMBio, and partner universities. Participants presented an overview of the program, and discussed the progress achieved in those Brazilian conservation units (UCs) that had implemented planning and monitoring processes under the partnership.

Over 100 participants from various countries attended the trilingual webinar, and were able to submit questions to panelists from all over the world. The event brought together scholars, government officials, members of organized civil society, and the private sector. 

Bonnie Lippitt, an expert in environmental interpretation recently retired from the USFS, took stock of the program since its inception, and identified its main focuses, including planning, monitoring and technical support. Toby Bloom, manager of the National Tourism and Interpretation Program at the USFS, rated the webinar as “excellent".

ICMBio environmental analyst Paulo Faria pointed out that the partnership with the USFS and the PCAB was important to leverage the vision of public use in Brazilian UCs. “Although the focus of the program was the Amazon, its processes had positive impacts on other conservation units outside this biome. In five years of partnership, we have practically doubled the demand for UC visits, reaching more than 15 million visitors in 2019,” he said. 

He also recalled that, before the partnership, Brazil monitored only 54 UCs, and this number has more than doubled now to 130.

For Pedro Menezes, a trail expert and a member of the Brazilian diplomatic corps, PCAB training “has changed the face of public use in Brazil, and given life to the Brazilian Trail Network,” thus contributing to the conservation of biodiversity in Brazil.

Mr. Gehr also addressed the Trail Network program (or Rede Trilhas, in Portuguese) in his speech. He mentioned how the rapid expansion of tourism could improve UC management.

“In Brazil, as in the USA, there is a struggle between conserving protected areas and preserving the subsistence of the populations living in those areas. The United States Forest Service has a lot of experience in this regard. In addition, the Forest Service shares lessons learned and best practices to help to understand how to promote sustainable use while conserving Amazon biodiversity,” he added.

The webinar is available here.