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Community Conservation Program Awarded Chile's Bicentennial Seal

On December 17, 2007, Chile's President awarded the prestigious Bicentennial Seal to WWF's community conservation project "Strengthening Governance and Sustainable Livelihoods in the Huilliche Territory of Mapu Lahual." The project won in the Environment category, and was nominated by WWF and the Mapu Lahual Indigenous Association to the Chilean Government.

The award ceremony is part of ongoing bicentennial celebrations sponsored by the Chilean government to commemorate the country's 200th anniversary in 2010. The Bicentennial Seal's environment category recognizes local and national initiatives that demonstrate the bicentennial spirit of social and environmental harmony in Chile.

WWF launched the program in August 2007 with the Mapu Lahual Indigenous Association and New Zealand International Aid and Development Agency (NZAID) to benefit nine Huilliche communities living along the coast of the Osorno Province in some of Chile's poorest counties. The project will allow families to significantly improve their quality of life while also conserving their environment. It will also help strengthen indigenous and community organization through planning and participation, as well as by developing sustainable economic alternatives such as ecotourism and the marketing handicrafts and canned goods.

Both people and nature benefit when local communities and organizations - in collaboration with the government and other agencies - proactively design and manage environmentally friendly development programs. WWF's work with the Mapu Lahual Indigenous Association helps protect Southern Chile's natural heritage - especially the endemic alerce tree, the southern hemisphere's equivalent of the Pacific Northwest's ancient redwood. This endangered species can live for more than 3,000 years - making it the second-longest living organism on Earth. And while the alerce is officially protected under CITES - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, it continues to be illegally logged.

This award-winning project is only part of WWF's work in Southern Chile. We have been active in the region since the late 1990's and also collaborate with other groups such as the Pehuenche of Quinquén. This and other programs reflect WWF's commitment to supporting local and indigenous communities in all regions of the world and across our priority places.