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Earth for Life

Overview

man traveling by boat down a river in Brazil

Almost every state in the United States—and almost every country in the world—has a national park or wildlife refuge. And while they are beautiful places to explore and enjoy, they are also our lifeline. Trees help keep our air and water clean, rivers help generate energy, and vegetation feeds much of the world’s wildlife.

Though often referred to as protected areas, most of these vital places are only protected on paper. Limited funding, government policies, and skills to ensure they are properly managed make it nearly impossible to keep the threats to protected areas—such as illegal logging and mining and wildlife poaching—at bay. If we let them become degraded, downsized, or erased altogether, we break our lifeline.

To address this issue, WWF works with government leaders, public and private sector donors, NGOs, and others to securing funding that is used to cover expenses related to properly managing conservation areas, which includes protected areas, community lands and other types of land designated for sustainable use or no development. Funds are allocated to buy boats that are used to patrol coastlines to look for people fishing illegally or to buy drones that are used to spot wildfires. Funds also are used to convene workshops to teach people about ecotourism opportunities in or near protected areas. And so much more.

Although most of the funding is used for better management of conservation areas, some is used to create new conservation areas or expand existing ones, as there simply are not enough of them in the world to combat climate change and ensure that people and wildlife live healthy, long lives. Mangroves, for example, serve as a barrier between people and large waves during coastal storms. And rivers supply us with fish—one of the most popular sources of protein around the world.

To be eligible for the funds, the national government of a given country must commit to putting in place the policies and staffing needed to make sure the conservation areas program runs smoothly. Also, a source of in-country funding must be identified to fully finance the areas after the initial funding from donors runs out.

Protecting the Peruvian Amazon

One of the best ways to stop deforestation is to ensure there’s long-term funding to properly manage the country’s national parks.  

peruvian amazon sunset WW1103396 Day's Edge Productions

Why It Matters

  • Reduce Biodiversity Loss

    Wildlife populations in our forest and other terrestrial protected areas have declined at less than half the rate of wildlife populations overall. That’s important, given that 80% of the world’s known land-dwelling plant and animal species can be found in forests—many which are protected. Two-hundred-and-fifty acres of forest may be home to more than 1,000 species.

  • Decrease deforestation

    Trees and other plants in protected areas soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it away as they grow and thrive. By protecting forests, we remove heat-trapping gases from the atmosphere that contribute to climate change. Through the Amazon Region Protected Areas  (ARPA) program in Brazil, for example, we’ll avoid an estimated 5.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. That is roughly equivalent to the total US energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2016.

  • Combat Climate Change

    Trees and other plants in protected areas soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it away as they grow and thrive. By protecting forests, we remove heat-trapping gases from the atmosphere that contribute to climate change. Through the ARPA program, for example, we’ll avoid an estimated 5.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions w by 2050. That is roughly equivalent to the total US energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2016.

  • Maintain Benefits of Nature

    Estimates suggest that for every $1 we spend on properly managing protected areas, we receive $100 in return of vital resources those spaces provide, such as clean air and water. Nature provides the services we need to sustain us and other life on this planet at a lower cost and more efficiently than any human-engineered substitute.

What WWF Is Doing

Through our Earth for Life initiative, we work with partners to create, expand and ensure proper management of conservation areas. We use a financial approach called Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) that addresses an issue often seen in the conservation community: piecemeal, insufficient, and short-term funding for the management of conservation areas, often because conservation budgets are the first to be cut in the face of legitimate and difficult tradeoffs. The PFP approach relies on a single closing, which is the moment in time when funding commitments are made and all of the other closing conditions (such as having performance monitoring systems in place) have been met.

We know this is a monumental undertaking. Each PFP deal requires finding the leaders who are willing to work with us to create the program in their country or region so the program is durable, as well as the public and private sector donors who are willing to put money in. Technical experts are needed to determine how to allocate the funds so that conservation goals are met, and to figure out how much it will all cost. Lawyers pour through stacks of paper to make sure the right legal frameworks are in place. Community outreach experts spend hours and hours in meetings with local and indigenous people to get their input on how to shape the program and more.

WWF has helped create such programs in Brazil and Bhutan and is now doing so in Peru and Colombia.

Brazil

WWF first used this innovative funding approach in Brazil. Public and private entities—including the Government of Brazil, WWF, the Linden Trust for Conservation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation—announced in 2014 a new $215 million program to create, consolidate, and maintain Brazil’s 150 million acre-network of protected areas. The network is almost three times larger than all US national parks combined and comprises15% of the Brazilian Amazon. Brazil’s government will add an additional $600 million over a 24-year period to this program, called ARPA for Life.

 

bird in flight

Bhutan

hilltop structure

Bhutan is one of the smallest countries in the world, but its commitment to conservation is bigger than most. To ensure that Bhutan remains environmentally—and economically—sustainable as it grows, the government of Bhutan, WWF, and several partners announced in 2018 a new $43 million program to permanently protect the country’s 5-million-acre network of parks and wildlife corridors. Bhutan’s government will contribute an additional $75 million over a 14-year period to support this new program, called Bhutan for Life. It is the first program of its kind in Asia

Peru

butterflies and a turtle on a log

Peru ranks second worldwide in its diversity of birds, first in freshwater fish and butterflies, fourth in amphibians, fifth in mammals and reptiles, and eight in plants. Many of these species live in the Amazon. For this, and many other reasons, we need the Peru PFP, called National Parks: Peru’s Natural Legacy. This PFP strives to create financial sustainability for the entire national protected areas system of Peru, starting with the Amazon. In May, $140 million was secured to expand and effectively manage nearly 42 million acres of the Peruvian Amazon, covering 87% of the country’s protected areas network.

Colombia

Orinoco River in Colombia

The 52-year armed conflict in Colombia is coming to an end. A key component of the country's strategy for peace—as well as for addressing climate change—is strengthening its system of protected areas. The main tool for doing this is a funding initiative called Heritage Colombia. This initiative is different from other projects providing permanent funding for protected areas because it includes land outside of protected areas, such as private reserves, land managed by Afro-Colombian communities, and land owned by indigenous communities. This land is part of larger regions that will be healthier if managed as one landscape, given the interconnectivity of the rivers, mountains, and other natural resources that cut across their borders.

 

 

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