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Permanently Protecting Forests


More than 15% of the world’s land is designated as protected—an area nearly twice the size of the US. 

In order to ensure this land is permanently protected—from deforestation, decreases in wildlife populations and the like—we need more than just a listing on a piece of paper. We need to protect investments we’ve already made, too: the decades of work establishing parks.

Funding is integral to the permanent protection. Funding to train and equip people who can prevent illegal activity—from poaching of wildlife to illegal logging—as well as conflicts between humans and wildlife in and around protected areas. Funding to properly mark protected areas and keep invasive species out of them. Funding to start nature-based businesses in protected areas. And more.

WWF and its partners use an innovative funding approach—called Project Finance for Permanence (PFP)—that ensures the long-term financial stability of protected areas or networks of protected areas. It is a means for permanent and full funding for protected areas. PFP addresses an issue often seen in the conservation community: piecemeal or insufficient funding for the management of protected areas.

Although funding is key to PFP, the approach is about much more. It is, for example, a means for inspiring governments to commit to effective policies for long-term conservation and to create the institutions needed to permanently protect natural resources.

Protecting progress in the Brazilian Amazon

This will be one of the great litmus tests of the conservation movement: can we marshal the resources necessary to secure the gains we’ve made in the Amazon and chart a new path forward?

Aerial view of Amazon

Why It Matters

  • Carbon Sink

    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 in Brazil through the Amazon Region Protected Areas Program, we’ve avoided the emission of 1.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air.

  • Tremendous Biodiversity

    Eighty percent of the world’s known terrestrial plant and animal species can be found in forests, many of which are protected. A square kilometer of forest may be home to more than 1,000 species.

  • People Depend on Forests

    Most protected areas include land set aside for sustainable uses that benefit local people—such as harvesting rubber and nuts from trees. This provides incentives for local communities—not just the government—to play a role in creating and managing protected areas.

  • Slowing Deforestation

    Protected areas slow the spread of deforestation. The network of Brazilian forests protected through the Amazon Region Protected Areas program, for example, is credited with helping to reduce deforestation by 75 percent from 2000 to 2012.

What WWF Is Doing

Through WWF’s Earth for Life initiative, we’re building funds to help several key countries create and manage protected areas in the coming years. We will initially focus on land areas and will later expand to marine 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 protected 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, where all funds are committed at the same time and the government makes a commitment to the long-term funding of its protected areas.

We know this is a monumental undertaking. Each PFP deal requires finding the political 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. Economists are needed 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 funds in Brazil and Bhutan and is now doing so in Peru and Colombia.


WWF first used the PFP approach in Brazil. Public and private entities—including WWF, the Linden Trust for Conservation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation—announced in 2014 a new $215 million fund to create, consolidate and maintain Brazil’s 150 million acre network of protected areas (15 percent of the Brazilian Amazon). The network of 114 areas, called the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA), is almost three times larger than all US national parks combined.

Amazon at sunset


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, WWF and the Government of Bhutan committed in 2014 to use the PFP approach to permanently protect the country’s 5 million acre network of parks and wildlife corridors. This initiative, called Bhutan for Life, will involve a variety of donors and is expected to be completed this year.


Eucalyptus forest, Peru

The Peru PFP, called National Parks: Peru’s Natural Legacy, will proceed in phases. The first phase, which is expected to begin by the end of 2017, is the most significant. It will provide Peru’s government with $70 million to be used from 2018-2027 to expand and effectively manage 41 million acres of the Amazon, covering 87 percent of the protected areas network. This initiative, launched in late 2014, will be the cornerstone of a national vision for Peru’s protected areas. Once completed, it will help secure the gains made over the last 20 years to create protected areas in Peru.


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 addressing climate change and other issues—is strengthening its system of protected areas. The main tool for doing this is a PFP initiative called Heritage Colombia. This PFP initiative is different from other PFPs because it includes land outside of the 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.