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All that glitters is not gold

Balancing conservation and development in Venezuela's frontier forests

Warns that allowing uncontrolled extractive activities in Venezuela's Guayana region risks opportunities for economic growth and conservation. Identifies policy options for development plans with safeguard measures based on conservation, sustainability.

Executive Summary

The raging fires that recently destroyed large portions of the Brazilian Amazon, have generated global concern for the future on the world's last few intact forest frontiers. Indeed, Indonesia's and Venezuela's forests have also suffered fire-induced destruction. The fires, worsened by development activities such as mining and logging, and the clearing of forests for agriculture, point to the vulnerability of these forests when faced with development, and emphasizes the need for carefully planned forestry management.

Venezuela is at a crossroads regarding such crucial development decisions. Faced with serious national economic pressures and the desire to reduce its long time dependence on oil, the Venezuelan government is now considering plans to open the country's Guayana region (a forest area south of the Orinoco river that covers half of the country) to large-scale extractive activities. The authors of this WRI study explain that Venezuela can best maximize economic benefits from extractive activity in its southern region if safeguard measures based on conservation and sustainability are incorporated into the development plans. Without incorporating the appropriate safeguards, Venezuela's development plans are likely to lead to higher social and environmental costs and the country risks missing opportunities for economic growth.

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