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Public use planning in Brazil’s protected areas

Brazilian Protected Area directors and managers discuss a strategic vision for implementing public use plans in national parks, forests and reserves. . Forest Service photo.

BRASILIA, Brazil - How can natural heritage be protected while allowing tourism and recreation to occur in protected areas? This question was addressed in a workshop sponsored by the Partnership to Conserve Amazon Biodiversity, a program implemented by the Forest Service International Programs Office, with funding from, and in partnership with, the United States Agency for International Development. 

The workshop took place from June 26 to July 1 in Brasilia, Brazil. Jim Bacon, Region 5 Director of Public Services, Dr. Steve McCool (retired), Dr. Jennifer Thomsen from the University of Montana, and teams from the Brazilian Chico Mendes Institute for the Conservation of Biodiversity, worked alongside the Brazilian government to facilitate the development of a public use planning process for Brazil’s protected area system.  The workshop emphasized using the best available science, management experience, and understanding of visitor experiences to develop public use plans that protect resources while also supporting recreation and local economic development. The facilitators and participants focused on developing high quality visitor experiences while ensuring natural heritage is appropriately managed for the type of protected area. Speakers discussed case studies from the United States, Brazil, Europe and Africa to build an understanding of best practices in public use planning.

Providing opportunities for high quality visitor experiences is particularly significant as visitors who experience those are more likely to understand the importance of protecting natural heritage and thus support conservation efforts.  A good public use plan and framework also provides employment and income opportunities for local communities.