Colorado State University Researchers Provide Training for Park Rangers in One of the World’s Most Important Biological Regions

Colorado State University researchers are working to preserve one of the planet’s finest biological treasures that houses a rich array of life. Researchers are in the second year of a three-year grant from the World Wildlife Fund designed to train park rangers located in the Amazon Basin who protect the basin’s valuable natural resources.

"The Amazon Basin region is a global biological treasure that benefits us all," said Ryan Finchum, Colorado State researcher and assistant director of Colorado State’s Center for Protected Area Management and Training. "It helps purify our air, stabilizes our climate and houses perhaps the most diverse single assemblage of life on earth. However, if park rangers on the ground charged with staffing the parks and other protected areas do not have the tools and techniques to properly care for these areas, there is no real safeguard against illegal activities."

This biodiversity-rich Andean region ranges from 20,000-foot peaks to the lowland tropical forests of the Amazon Basin. The northwest area of the basin is home to 38 plants used to treat intestinal ailments, 25 for headaches, 18 for muscular pains and 38 for toothaches. Derivatives of these plants are now used in many commercially available medications. Additionally, 70 percent of the 3,000 plants identified as potentially containing anti-cancer properties by the U.S. Cancer Institute come from rainforests like those found in the Amazon Basin.

The region is under increasing pressure from those who would exploit its natural resources. Colorado State researchers are helping build the capacity for sustainable management of Amazon protected areas, especially important for long-term biodiversity protection.

This reality was recognized on a global scale in 2003 during the 5th World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa, where protected areas were identified as one of the most important long-term vehicles for protecting biodiversity. The effectiveness of protected areas, however, is largely determined by the ability of park rangers, technical staff and park directors to manage these areas in the face of conflicting demands made by a variety of stakeholders.

Finchum is working with a team from Colorado State and the Andes-Amazon region to provide training for park rangers in Bolivia, Ecuador, Columbia and Peru. The latest training was completed during summer 2006, and the next training will be held in Peru in May 2007.

Key training objectives for park rangers include developing an understanding of the importance of biodiversity and their values provided by protected areas regionally, nationally and internationally. Park rangers increase their knowledge of conservation laws and develop the tools and techniques to pass that knowledge on to park visitors and local communities. Applied field skills that also are taught include land navigation, patrolling, search and rescue, field monitoring and others.

"This program is particularly important because it focuses on field-level park rangers," said Craig MacFarland, protected area management specialist at Colorado State and lead instructor of the Amazon Basin training program. "These are the men and women who are on the front lines of conservation and rarely have the opportunity to participate in capacity-building activities."

The issue of developing the capacity to manage natural areas including the Amazon Basin continues to be a significant topic on a global scale. During the 2005 conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Global Program of Work on Protected Areas was adopted. This program outlines a series of goals that are important to the convention’s target of significantly reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. Developing the capacity to manage protected areas is one of those key goals.

"Whether they are mitigating global climate change, housing medicinal plants that help to cure diseases or providing a space for grandparents and grandchildren to enjoy family traditions, protected areas such as those found in the Amazon Basin are essential to maintaining a healthy human spirit – a spirit needs to be nurtured by natural places. Local communities and visitors to the Amazon benefit from experiencing it first-hand, while school children in Colorado and around the globe can visit virtually, learning about one of the world’s biological treasures," Finchum said.

The Center for Protected Area Management and Training, or CPAMT, is based out of the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department in the Warner College of Natural Resources. The center primarily focuses on providing assistance in strengthening the management of the world’s protected areas. CPAMT develops and carries out protected area management training programs around the globe. The center has worked in every country in Latin American in addition to Afghanistan, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Vietnam, Thailand, Italy and Indonesia. In the United States, the center provides technical assistance the carries out research for the U.S. land management agencies.

The project is funded by the World Wildlife Fund – Education for Nature Program through the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service Office of International Programs and the Consortium for International Protected Area Management.