Amazon conservation in the age of development

 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 1. Nature and the practice...
 2. Tracing the landscape of biological...
 3. The mosaic of opportunity
 4. Conservation ascendant
 5. The unseen limits of Amazon...
 6. The lees of success: The IBDF...
 7. Defending the natural areas...
 8. Hobson's choice -- SEMA in the...
 9. Discerning the limits of providence...
 Appendix 1. Acronyms
 Appendix 2. Interviews
University Press of Florida UFLAC
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Material Information

Title: Amazon conservation in the age of development the limits of providence
Physical Description: x, 366 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Foresta, Ronald A., 1944-
Publisher: University of Florida Press, Center for Latin American Studies
Place of Publication: Gainesville


Subjects / Keywords: Biodiversity conservation -- Amazon River Region   ( lcsh )
Rural development -- Environmental aspects -- Amazon River Region   ( lcsh )
Biodiversiteit   ( gtt )
Landschapsecologie   ( gtt )
Natuurbehoud   ( gtt )
Biodiversité -- Conservation -- Amazonie   ( rvm )
Développement rural -- Aspect de l'environnement -- Amazonie   ( rvm )
Biological diversity conservation -- Amazon River Region
Rural development -- Environmental aspects -- Amazon River Region
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 327-346) and index.
Statement of Responsibility: Ronald A. Foresta.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 23079681
lccn - 91000094
isbn - 0813010926
Classification: lcc - QH77.A53 F67 1991
ddc - 333.7/2/09811
bcl - 42.95
System ID: UF00100638:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00100638/00001

Material Information

Title: Amazon conservation in the age of development the limits of providence
Physical Description: x, 366 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Foresta, Ronald A., 1944-
Publisher: University of Florida Press, Center for Latin American Studies
Place of Publication: Gainesville


Subjects / Keywords: Biodiversity conservation -- Amazon River Region   ( lcsh )
Rural development -- Environmental aspects -- Amazon River Region   ( lcsh )
Biodiversiteit   ( gtt )
Landschapsecologie   ( gtt )
Natuurbehoud   ( gtt )
Biodiversité -- Conservation -- Amazonie   ( rvm )
Développement rural -- Aspect de l'environnement -- Amazonie   ( rvm )
Biological diversity conservation -- Amazon River Region
Rural development -- Environmental aspects -- Amazon River Region
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 327-346) and index.
Statement of Responsibility: Ronald A. Foresta.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 23079681
lccn - 91000094
isbn - 0813010926
Classification: lcc - QH77.A53 F67 1991
ddc - 333.7/2/09811
bcl - 42.95
System ID: UF00100638:00001

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
    1. Nature and the practice of development
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
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        Page 30
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    2. Tracing the landscape of biological value
        Page 32
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    3. The mosaic of opportunity
        Page 56
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    4. Conservation ascendant
        Page 95
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    5. The unseen limits of Amazon conservation
        Page 129
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    6. The lees of success: The IBDF in the eighties
        Page 163
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    7. Defending the natural areas in the eighties
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    8. Hobson's choice -- SEMA in the eighties
        Page 224
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    9. Discerning the limits of providence in the nineties and beyond
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    Appendix 1. Acronyms
        Page 267
        Page 268
        Page 269
        Page 270
    Appendix 2. Interviews
        Page 271
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Full Text

Amazon Conservation
in the

of Development

The Limits of Providence

Ronald A. Foresta

University of Florida Press
Center for Latin American Studies


Copyright 1991 by the Board of Regents of the State of Florida
All rights reserved
Printed in the U.S.A. on acid-free paper

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Foresta, Ronald A., 1944-
Amazon conservation in the age of development: the limits of
providence / Ronald A. Foresta.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-8130-1092-6
1. Biological diversity conservation-Amazon River Region.
2. Rural development-Environmental aspects-Amazon River Region.
I. Title.
QH77.A53F67 1991 91-94
333.7'2'09811-dc20 CIP

The University of Florida Press is a member of University Presses of Florida, the
scholarly publishing agency of the State University System of Florida. Books are
selected for publication by faculty editorial committees at each of Florida's nine
public universities: Florida A&M University (Tallahassee), Florida Atlantic
University (Boca Raton), Florida International University (Miami), Florida State
University (Tallahassee), University of Central Florida (Orlando), University of
Florida (Gainesville), University of North Florida (Jacksonville), University of
South Florida (Tampa), University of West Florida (Pensacola).
Orders for books published by all member presses should be addressed to
University Presses of Florida, 15 Northwest 15th Street, Gainesville, FL 32611.

To the memory of George Swope Mirick, naturalist


Preface ix

Introduction 1
1. Nature and the Practice of Development 6
2. Tracing the Landscape of Biological Value 32
3. The Mosaic of Opportunity 56
4. Conservation Ascendant 95
5. The Unseen Limits of Amazon Conservation 129
6. The Lees of Success: The IBDF in the Eighties 163
7. Defending the Natural Areas in the Eighties 188
8. Hobson's Choice-SEMA in the Eighties 224
9. Discerning the Limits of Providence in the Nineties
and Beyond 252

Appendix I. Acronyms 267
Appendix II. Interviews 271

Notes 275
Bibliography 327
Index 347



Writing this book was a perverse and unpleasant task from begin-
ning to end. During the years it took up, I felt trapped by my own
shortcomings as a scholar and betrayed by some of the more perfidi-
ous and shabby inhabitants of the districts I passed through. As
human nature would have it, now that the task is finally behind me,
the extent of my debts to others is beginning to dawn on me. It was
the good friends, gracious informants, and fine associates who made
it possible for me to see it through. I will never be able to repay them
for their help but I can at least gratefully acknowledge it.
Roger Sedjo was a source of advice and hard-nosed yet positive
criticism from the earliest stages of the project. His responses to my
evolving ideas were important measures of my progress.
Kent Redford had an uncanny knack giving exactly the right coun-
sel. It seemed to come so naturally to him that I'm not sure he was
even aware of it.
Gary Wetterberg showed a constant interest in the project and
gave it much of his valuable time. He generously shared his docu-
ments with me and patiently clarified points when needed, which was
Paulo Nogueira-Neto gave me access to his agency's staff, records,
and field stations, and even more important, to his own insights on
Brazilian conservation, which were always perceptive and frequently
Maria Tereza Jorge Padua took the project under her wing and
made me the beneficiary of her knowledge and observations from the
earliest formative stages to the final writing.
Kenton Miller was similarly willing to share his experiences and
insights with me.
Those Brazilian conservation administrators whom I interviewed
were unfailingly generous with their time and insights. I am in debt
to all of them, especially Heloiso Figueiredo and Raquel Milano.
The many American conservationists whom I interviewed and



from whom I otherwise sought advice showed the same consistent
Mike Wright gave the first draft of the manuscript a critical yet
sympathetic reading. In doing so, he forced me to think hard about
the broader implications of what I had found.
Alan Moore made me the beneficiary of his vast pool of practical
knowledge about Latin American park planning and management.
Marianne Schmink's knowledge of Amazon politics and field condi-
tions-and her skepticism about my conclusions concerning the Bra-
zilian sociopolitical system-improved the manuscript immeasurably.
An anonymous reader's detailed criticism forced me to think through
many of the logical tangles and discontinuities of the first draft.
Steve Sanderson's advice, faith in the project, and willingness to go
to great lengths to keep the book's production on track were greatly
Phil Martin was the consummate editor, by turns supportive, con-
spiratorial, and informative.
Emery Castle's early faith in the project meant much to me, as did
his willingness to secure an RFF grant for the field work.
Will Fontanez, who did the maps, met difficult deadlines with
superb work.
Becky Fontanez prepared the tables and provided secretarial sup-
port with unfailing competence and good humor.
The University of New Mexico's Latin American Institute gra-
ciously included me in its Summer Institute on Brazil, where I was
exposed to the literature of Brazilian history, politics, and economy
by a superb group of teachers.
Ricardo Paiva and Kate Craven instructed me in Portuguese,
although I will not embarrass them by claiming to be their student.
Ruth Haas was a source of consistently good advice. When I did
not follow it, I regretted it.
My department provided the supportive environment in which the
writing was done. Sid Jumper, the chairman, silently watched me let
scores of little things slide by, even if he had to pick up the slack
Sally Mirick put up with an absent or stressed-out husband far
beyond the call of duty, even for a professor's wife.
Finally, given my debt to others, it is important to emphasize that
responsibility for the errors of fact and interpretation, as well as for
all other shortcomings of this book, are mine alone.


Although a vast normative literature has grown up around biological
conservation, its analytic traditions are weak. Perhaps because of
conservation's great moral freight, it has tended to attract acolytes
rather than critical scholars. Those who have studied the evolution of
conservation thought or the rise of the organized conservation move-
ment have tended to be active conservationists themselves, and, per-
haps because of their insiders' perspective, they have treated these
processes as endogenic. Students of conservation also have generally
preferred to address conservation issues in restricted, local contexts
rather than grapple with the question of how conservation has been
shaped by its wider sociopolitical environment, again perhaps
because they are usually insiders. This has left biological conservation
with a set of ideals, a storehouse of tactics, and even a fairly well
understood sense of its own history as a sequence of events, but it has
also left its relationship to the main currents of twentieth-century
history, its place in the ideological and political world of the late
twentieth century, and even its relationship with the biological science
of our era only poorly understood. Likewise, it has left its complex-
ion as a political force largely unknown.
Biological conservation takes place within a vast temporal and
moral context. The current wave of human-induced extinctions
might surpass that at the end of the Mesozoic Era, 65 million years
ago.1 Insuring that the products of billions of years of evolution get
through the narrow passage of the present into a future that will, it is
hoped, be more hospitable to them is one of the basic aims of today's
conservation movement.2 Yet, in spite of this temporal depth of con-
cern, its lack of a broad sociopolitical perspective leads to an exag-
gerated sense of immediacy. Extremes of hope and despair abound
among those close to biological conservation, often giving way to
each other with startling speed. An environmentally sensitive admin-


istrator is appointed to an important post in a third world govern-
ment and optimism surges. A new dam is announced in a biologically
sensitive area and despair replaces optimism. Because signs of conser-
vation gain and loss have no common roots in a historical perspective
or in a sense of conservation's niche in contemporary public life, they
cannot be related to each other. The announcement of every new pol-
icy, appointment, or program becomes a new beginning, every set-
back an ending. Events cannot fuse into trends; a sense of the ground
covered or yet to be covered cannot emerge.
Preservation of biological diversity has recently become a major
global issue, and the resources being made available to conservation
groups and causes are greater than ever before. Yet without a deep
perspective, conservationists are forever positioning themselves to
take advantage of transitory opportunity and forever changing their
tactics to fit the changing shape of that opportunity. This reduces
conservation action to a series of disjointed, reactive moves-tactics,
in other words. However, progress toward the ambitious, long-term
goals of conservation will require deeply reasoned strategies that
transcend the moment. Optimal allocation of conservation resources
will depend on distinguishing ephemeral or illusory advantages from
the solid ones. Fashioning successful programs will require an under-
standing of the basic shape of the political space within which con-
servation operates.
Brazilian Amazonia is a good place to begin constructing such an
understanding. Perhaps no area of human affairs so taxes the present's
capacity for provident action as does the management of the world's
tropical rainforests. Their importance to posterity is undeniable; they
contain perhaps 50 percent of all living species, and a future without
them would have far fewer options for maintaining the common-
weal. The effect of massive forest clearing on global weather patterns
and chemical cycles is dimly understood but likely to be enormous.
The loss of the indigenous cultures the rainforest supports would
reduce the sum of human knowledge and adaptability. And as
Lovejoy and Oren write, the loss of the rainforest would help reduce
future biology to "paleontology, the biology of weedy species, labora-
tory and zoo biology and... the science of pickled parts."
The problem is unique to our era. Before the mid-twentieth cen-
tury, most of the world's tropical rainforests were protected by their
remoteness, vastness, and inhospitality to civilization. In fact, the
biome served as a metaphor for those qualities, as it did in Conrad's


Heart of Darkness. But advances in science and technology reduced
the rainforest's natural defenses, while population growth caused
increased migration into it. The result has been accelerated rainforest
clearing and species loss; one source estimated that loss of rainforest
habitat accounts for 70 to 90 percent of all present-day extinctions. If
these trends continue, rainforest clearing could reduce global species
diversity by a seventh or a fifth within decades. In our time, the trop-
ical rainforest has become a metaphor for civilization's, not nature's,
destructive power.
The South American forests are the most species-diverse of the
world's rainforests, and the scale of clearing in them cannot be com-
pared to anything in history.3 Millions of hectares have been trans-
formed into cattle ranches, sugar plantations, and soybean farms.
Millions of landless peasants have made their way into the forest,
where they have cleared plots for themselves. Enormous lakes have
formed behind new dams, drowning thousands of square kilometers
of forest. The forest has been diminished with each new project and
population surge.
Most of South America's rainforest is found in Brazilian Amazonia,
placing that nation in the eye of the issue.4 Like most of the biome,
the forest of Brazilian Amazonia has undergone extensive clearing in
recent decades. But it also saw considerable conservation activity in
the 1970s and 1980s. Brazil's Secretariat of the Environment (SEMA)
and the Institute for Forest Development (IBDF) established extensive
conservation programs. Foreign conservation organizations expended
much time and energy in Brazilian Amazonia. Perhaps nowhere else
in the world has such a serious, principled effort been made to fold
current science into conservation policy. These efforts brought mil-
lions of hectares of rainforest under public protection and led to the
promulgation of environmentally sound laws. In fact, Brazilian efforts
to preserve its natural patrimony were estimable enough to win the
Getty Prize, given for outstanding contributions to global conserva-
tion, for two of Brazil's leading conservationists.
During this period Amazonia also saw the expression of some of
the deepest normative impulses of our era: the promotion of regional
development, the search for national independence, the harnessing of
science to human welfare, and the struggle for social equality and a
stable political system. Conservation, therefore, had to find its niche
amid all the conflicts and contradictions that arose from this tangle of
values. Doing so involved a constant search for allies and unceasing


efforts to discern the shape of conservation's space in the modern
world. Brazilian Amazonia thus provides a rich and important
ground for an analysis of biological conservation's complexion as a
sociopolitical force.
In spite of this, conservation in Amazonia has inspired even less
analysis than elsewhere; change in Amazonia has attracted almost all
the scholarly attention. It is easier to see than conservation: forest
clearing means dams under construction, settlers on the move, and
bulldozers at work; conservation is often only the silence of the forest.
Billions of dollars have been spent promoting change in Amazonia,
and thousands of administrators and entrepreneurs have been
involved. Conservation agencies are few, small, and located on the
margins of power. They are led by middle-level administrators presid-
ing over small staffs and operating on relatively small budgets. The
importance of conservation to the federal government waxes and
wanes. Because of its modest scale and its location on the periphery
of the national political agenda, Amazon conservation appears to be
a less likely source of insights into national life than development
programs and their managing agencies.
This lack of an analytic tradition has given rise to a disjointed,
often contradictory perspective on conservation's achievements in
Amazonia. Even more than conservation events elsewhere, those in
Amazonia seem to lack antecedents, descendants, or connections to
concurrent events in the region. As a consequence, a fabulous, mythic
perspective has arisen and obscured Amazon conservation's real past.
Conservation and opposition to it have become an episodic play of
good and evil in which conservation action is the domain not of
administrators, scientists, and politicians, but of heroes: a few wise
Nestors, a few Horatii manning lonely bridges. The agents of change
in Amazonia have also become caricatures, usually ones acting out of
immediate, base motives: greed, desperation, and willful ignorance.
This perspective encourages indignation and enthusiasm-both
necessary for rallying support to conservation causes, perhaps-but
discourages the extraction of lessons from the past. Moral myth sel-
dom focuses on the context of human action. People are greedy and
ignorant everywhere; they are also noble and capable of foresight and
self-sacrifice everywhere. It takes values, institutions, and what might
loosely be called history to shape human actions into constructive and
destructive forms, and to allow them to form interpretable patterns.
The intention here is not to strip conservation of its moral dimen-

Introduction 5

sion, but rather to expand our understanding of conservation's rela-
tionship to some of the broader sociopolitical currents of our world:
the progress of science, the implementation of the development ideal,
the elaboration of the international capitalist system. Only once a
solid understanding of such relationships has been achieved will it be
possible to see conservation action as more than a bundle of tactics
in a play of good and evil, whose outcome can always be the object
of faith, but never of the reasoned interpretations on which success-
ful strategies for biological conservation will need to be built.


Nature and the Practice

of Development

The vision of the future in the early twentieth century was part bright
and part dark. In the West, the maturing industrial revolution and
the advance of civilization made life, in H. G. Wells's words, "heavy
with the promise of greater things."' Beyond the industrialized states
were cultures that discouraged invention and economies incapable of
productively using capital. The scarcity and stagnation that the classi-
cal economists had predicted, and that the West had avoided through
science and inventiveness, were their likely fate, and only imperial
rule brought a measure of well-being to them. But this dichotomy,
like the imperial order it fitted and legitimized, was swept away by
the Second World War. Those who would reconstruct the world on
the rubble of the old imperialism were determined to create a new
order of modern, prosperous states. The promotion of global devel-
opment became central to what Adler called "the agenda of the
Brave New World" that emerged after 1945.2 Everyone would
become heir to Wells's vision of heavy promise.
The instruments of universal progress were built into the institu-
tional framework of the postwar order.3 The creation of "conditions
of economic and social progress" was one of the United Nations'
basic goals, and specialized UN agencies-the Food and Agriculture
Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the UN Develop-
ment Programme, the World Health Organization-were set up to
carry out the development mandate. North American and then
Western European nations established development-promoting agen-
cies to supplement the UN's efforts. Private philanthropic founda-
tions turned their attention to the problems of underdevelopment.
A broad consensus was eventually reached on the basic prescrip-
tion for national development: the complete restructuring of national

Nature and the Practice of Development

economies and a massive expansion of their material output.4 The
old colonial economies based on the export of agricultural products
and extractive resources had proved poor engines of progress; they
were subject to rapid, unpredictable price fluctuations, and the terms
of trade had steadily turned against them. They had few multiplier
effects within the national economy. An economy of progress had to
be built upon an advanced industrial sector that made full use of
national resources and forced all other sectors along the path to
modernity; it drove the economies of the already-developed nations
of the world, and it would do the same for the rest of the world.5
Development theorists viewed such fundamental change as possible
only with active state participation.6 The state had to wrench the
economy out of its ingrained routines by matching fiscal policy with
national objectives. It had to adopt policies that insured the rapid
acquisition and efficient use of modern technology. It had to generate
large amounts of capital through the management of savings and the
creation of attractive conditions for foreign capital. Equally impor-
tant, the state had to force fundamental changes on society.7 It had to
turn peasants and campesinos into citizens of a modern state. It had
to educate people for new jobs and give them motives for participat-
ing in the national transformation. It had to create what Meier called
an ideology of progress.8 These economic and cultural tasks required
a greatly expanded state apparatus and a shift of power within the
state from traditional politicians to technocrats and professional
In few countries were the ideals and practices of national develop-
ment woven more tightly into public life than in Brazil. A planning
mentality permeated the federal government after 1945, and devel-
opment plans were a regular feature of the national economy by the
end of the decade.9 A national development bank was created, and a
sophisticated federal planning structure evolved in the early 1950s.
Brazil worked closely with many of the UN's development agencies
and received aid from the bilateral development programs of the
industrialized nations, especially those of the United States.
Juscelino Kubitschek, who began his five-year term as president in
1956 when the ideal of development was reaching its full ascendance
as an international vision, made national development the ideological
centerpiece of his administration, launching his presidency with the
promise of "fifty years progress in five." He established the Council
of Development, a planning and advisory body that reported directly

Chapter 1

to him, and under him specialized government planning groups
directed the growth of key industries: autos, computers, metallurgy,
even motion pictures. He built Brasilia to be the new capital of his
new Brazil, and the Belem-Brasilia Highway to draw more of the
nation into the modern national core. Although Kubitschek was not
fully successful in meeting his specific goals, he instilled in Brazilians
a new confidence in the nation's future and made economic develop-
ment a performance criterion against which all future governments
would be judged.10
The military government that came to power with the coup of
1964 was as willing to embrace developmentalism as its predecessors
had been, and acted quickly to rekindle the development process
according to its own lights. The old politicians were replaced as top
ministers by professional administrators, frequently economists or
military men, many of the latter with training as engineers. They in
turn began sweeping personnel changes in their ministries, replacing
old officials loyal to the civilian parties with technocrats created in
their own image. A similar process occurred in state governments,
whose independence was now severely reduced. Politicians and
administrators with allegiance to the old system were replaced by
professionals loyal to the generals and their ideas of development.11
Before the end of its first year in power, the military government
began reforming the structure of the administration to make it more
capable of promoting development. The next year, it introduced the
Piano Decenal, which laid out general performance goals for the
economy over the next decade. The ministries of planning and
finance were given the power to set long-term policy for the rest of
the federal bureaucracy, in effect making them superministries and
making their ministers national development czars. The Minister of
Planning, Roberto Campos, became the chief architect of Brazilian
economic development during the early years of the military govern-
ment, and Antonio Delfim Neto, as the Minister of Finance, later
succeeded him in this role.12 Under these men and their advisors, the
principles of development came to completely dominate Brazil's eco-
nomic life.13 More state-owned corporations were created to give
direction to what remained essentially an entrepreneurial and market-
oriented economy. Public policies strongly favored industrialization
and arranged the rest of the economy around it so as to make indus-
try the engine of modernization.
These efforts were successful beyond any reasonable expecta-

Nature and the Practice of Development

tion.14 Annual rates of economic growth ranged between 8 and 12
percent during the years 1967-1972, almost doubling the gross
national product during the period. Manufacturing had an average
annual growth rate of almost 13 percent, with the value of exports
expanding at twice that rate. The Brazilian press and much of the
public were mesmerized by the nation's economic performance,
referred to simply as "the miracle." Roett wrote, "Suddenly, Brazil's
economic role in world affairs was no laughing matter."1s Far from
it, in surpassing the ambitious performance goals set by the United
Nations for its development decade of the 1960s, Brazil became a
model for other developing nations.

There had always been doubt about the developmental ideal and
the progressive vision of material abundance that undergirded it. By
the early twentieth century, natural scientists had become aware of
the profound impact of human action on the natural world, and they
understood that modern humanity eclipsed its ancestors in potential
for destruction.16 A zoologist, Alexander Carr-Saunders, first treated
the human population as a biological force of great destructive
potential in his 1922 work, The Population Problem.17 A negative
view of human impact on the natural world became common within
the natural sciences as the century progressed, so much so that Sauer
could write in 1957 that "to the biologist, man's role often seems to
be that of a creature who... spoils the balance of the ecosystem."
Perhaps Wells and development theorists saw modern humans in the
image of Hephaestus and Athena, but to Sauer, we belonged in the
lineage of Daedalus.18
The accumulated work of scientists with an ecological perspective
was slow to have an impact on mainstream thinking about the
human condition, however.19 Ecological relationships often had a
complexity that precluded the precise measurements that had
become the accepted standards of evidence.20 Arguments of ecologi-
cal damage based on imputed general relationships and imprecise
data fared poorly when placed against precise engineering speci-
fications or estimates of economic benefit. The concepts necessary to
fuse the concerns of scientists into a broad critique of the norms of
development were also lacking. Without them, the record of human
damage to the environment remained fragmented by discipline and

could not be fused into a coherent image of mankind's ecological
relationship to nature.21
Perhaps most importantly, ecology-based questions about the wis-
dom of development practice had little intrinsic appeal to those who
shaped the postwar world. They appeared negative and cautionary
when optimism and a willingness to take risks and to pull out all stops
seemed called for. They offered no clear, simple path to the universal
betterment with which the international order was so bound up.
A coherent ecological critique was fusing beneath the hegemony of
the development ideal, however. The concept of biosphere, steadily
refined and increasingly rigorous, became available to serve as a focus
for thought about the dynamics of the natural world.22 "Ecosystem"
came into general use, making it possible to lift studies of individual
species or small groups of organisms out of the narrow confines of
their subdisciplines and to unify research on human impacts on the
natural world. With the introduction of the term "ecosphere" in the
late 1950s, ecosystem and biosphere were fused into a useful concept
that combined the integrating elements of the former and the univer-
sality of the latter.23 Once these terms became accepted frames of
analysis, concepts like carrying capacity, subsistence density, limiting
factor, and systemic stability transcended the hundreds of local con-
texts in which they had been used and became powerful tools for
understanding basic characteristics of human-nature relations.
The capacity of the natural sciences to measure the impact of
human activity on the ecosystem steadily improved while the analytic
concepts took shape.24 By the 1960s, instrument refinements made it
possible to detect human-placed substances in the environment at
very low concentrations. The discovery that contaminants such as
DDT and organochloride pesticides were widely present quickly fol-
lowed, and so did the realization that global carbon, nitrogen, and
phosphorus cycles were being altered by human actions. Satellites
allowed more efficient monitoring of the earth and its atmosphere,
and computers made possible an unprecedented accumulation and
manipulation of environmental data.
As ecologists armed with new concepts and instrumentation
probed modern development, a list of projects gone awry for ecolog-
ical reasons began to be accumulated.25 The deforestation associated
with agricultural development schemes caused landslides that swept
away highways and caused erosion that filled reservoirs with sedi-
ment. Dams spread schistosomiasis and created a favorable habitat


Chapter 1

Nature and the Practice of Development

for the tsetse fly. The resistance of insects to pesticides led to large
crop failures and a scattered resurgence of malaria. High levels of
industrial and agricultural contaminants accumulated in soils and
water throughout the developing world. Anthropologists and allied
social scientists added to the critique of modern development with
their detailed, critical scrutiny of the impact of development pro-
grams on the social structure, diets, and general welfare of their
intended beneficiaries.26
Critics of development practice began to argue that there had been
a failure to distinguish between the mere increase in a society's mate-
rial assets and what they saw as true development: an increase in a
society's capacity to sustain itself at a high level of well-being.27 They
held that as the scale of modern economic activity increased and came
to dominate more of the earth's surface, this failure had become one
of mankind's greatest problems. As the realization that economics
had grossly underestimated the size and pervasiveness of externalities
steadily grew, so did the feeling that development theory had inher-
ited this flaw.28 Development, like its core discipline, seemed too
caught up in linear, monetary relationships to model the world or the
commonweal in a sufficiently complete fashion, and this had led it
away from accurate measures of human welfare.29
The implications of this environmental critique for the human
future were profound. Within the progressive vision, the masterline
of history was human inventiveness and technological achievement.
Early civilizations progressed from lower to higher stages with the
accumulation of what Childe called "significant achievements": art,
pottery, metal working, writing, etc.30 During the industrial revolu-
tion, the accumulation of significant achievements speeded up,
allowing for a more rational reorganization of the material world.
There was nothing to prevent these trends from continuing and lead-
ing to increased mastery over nature in the future.
High regard for science had led to a relaxed view of the present's
responsibility for its own posterity. Roberts and others argued that
previous generations, employing new technology, had turned
resources into capital and knowledge, whose benefits to the future
outweighed their costs in depleted resources.31 The present was doing
the same for its posterity. Tullock rhetorically asked if we "must look
to the prospectively wealthy future for a source of worthy recipients
of our bounty?" Baumol argued that, if anything, the present should
try to share in the affluence of the future.32


The accepted dissent to this vision came primarily from intellectu-
als in the scholarly tradition of Spengler and Toynbee. Some dissi-
dents doubted human capacity to keep technology harnessed to
proper ends; others questioned Western civilization's ability to main-
tain itself in good order, even with an ever-increasing stock of tech-
nology.33 By the 1950s such dissent was usually dismissed as unrea-
sonable in the face of recent progress; Van Doren accused it of being
"isolated from social realities" and of reflecting arid, relict academic
traditions. He saved his admiration for economists, whose optimism
about progress "allowed them to concentrate single-mindedly on the
means of achieving it."34
The ecological perspective radically altered practically everything
connected to the future, including its antecedents, its likely shape,
and, perhaps most importantly, the present's responsibility for it.
Increasing manipulation and exploitation of the environment, rather
than any detached process of technological elaboration, became the
masterline of material history. The capacity of human cultures to
expand into diverse ecological niches became a convincing explana-
tion for the rise of early civilizations.35 The industrial revolution
became a period in which a switch from a renewable resource base to
a largely nonrenewable one took place. Within this perspective, the
material transformations that had taken place over the past two hun-
dred years, and from which current development theory took its
models, had been based on conditions unlikely to prevail indefinitely
into the future. Global systems modelers projected past trends of
population increase, resource use, and pollution into the future and
saw a world characterized by overpopulation, intolerable levels of
pollution, and industrial collapse.36 This view resembled that of the
classical economists, but now it had underpinnings in a powerful,
coherent interpretation of the past and in solid evidence of current,
increasing environmental disruption.
A future facing serious ecological constraints was not one capable
of getting along on the scraps of the present. It would be less, not
more capable of guaranteeing its own prosperity than the present,
making Baumol and Tullock's sanguine view appear improvident.
Thus while the relationship of the present to the progressive future
could be what Page called "self-administering," the new future placed
heavy moral burdens on the present and demanded active concern.37
The ecological perspective also brought great expanses of the
future into the moral pale of the present. Within the progressive
vision, the distant future was a very vague place. Its problems were


Chapter 1

Nature and the Practice of Development

not easy to foresee, but the technologies and scientific resources
available for solving them were likely to be so powerful that the far
future was an even less worthy object of the present's concern than
the more immediate one.38 Within the new view, however, the further
one looked into the future, the more likely it was that trends of
increasing material prosperity would play themselves out. In fact, the
scale of the future's problems, and the paucity of its resources for
dealing with them, seemed directly related to how far into it one was
inclined to look.39 Keynes's offhand comment that "in the long run
we're all dead" seemed to sum up the smugness and the shortsighted-
ness of past thinking about the future.
As the environmental critique coalesced in the 1960s, what McNeill
called "a noisy concern for the future" arose in the developed
world.40 Its press devoted increasing space to environmental issues
and its citizens began paying attention to them. Governments of the
developed world responded with new environmental laws and pro-
tection agencies. The environment became a global issue.41 The UN's
1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment attracted
widespread attention and had a profound influence in the developing
world, causing scores of less-developed countries to establish mecha-
nisms for protecting their environments.42
Brazil had not been in the forefront of the environmental move-
ment. It had heard only praise for its development policies from
abroad, and its accumulation of polluting industries and its destruc-
tion of biological resources had not mitigated that praise.43 The pro-
fessionals to whom national development had been entrusted were
not led to a concern for the environment by their calculus of costs
and benefits. Furthermore, several of the UN agencies with which
Brazil interacted closely were slow in reacting to rising concern for
the biosphere. The UN's Economic Commission for Latin America
(ECLA), for example, showed no serious interest in environmental
matters in the 1960s or early 1970s, and as late as 1970, the UN's
Advisory Committee on the Application of Science and Technology
to Development was asserting that the resources of the entire world
had to be developed to the fullest extent possible.44
When environmentalism emerged as an important issue in the
industrialized nations, Brazil responded with some token environ-
mental measures. Several Brazilian states passed legislation and a few
established agencies for environmental oversight, but the laws lacked
enforcement mechanisms and the agencies had little real power. The
national government established a Council for Pollution Control and


Chapter 1

wrote some antipollution passages into the National Sanitation
Policy of 1967, but neither the federal laws nor the council were taken
seriously.45 In fact, Brazil hoped to attract some of the industries fac-
ing stringent anti-pollution restrictions elsewhere. A Brazilian cabinet
minister argued that large and relatively underdeveloped Brazil could
be more flexible than smaller, more crowded nations like Japan in
accommodating polluting industries.46
The Brazilian government's position on the environment shifted
dramatically after the Stockholm Conference, however. The Brazilian
ambassador to the United States explained that his government
favored environmentally responsible development, not growth at any
cost. In line with this assertion, the national government insisted that
a new factory being built in Brazil by the Japanese be equipped with
advanced antipollution safeguards. The federal government enacted
antipollution legislation to toughen the mild environmental measures
already on the books and established a federal Secretariat of the
Environment (SEMA) to enforce the new legislation. Brazil's Second
Amazon Development Plan, which appeared in 1974, asserted that
development would not be allowed to cause the "deterioration in the
quality of life," or to "devastate the country's patrimony of natural
resources."47 With this passage, concern for the environment was
embedded at the core of the national planning process.

Biological conservation had been a part of the imperial system of
the early twentieth century: most metropolitan states were under
commitments to protect the flora and fauna of their colonies; inter-
national conservation treaties were in effect; private conservation
organizations flourished. But the Second World War destroyed the
edifice of prewar conservation just as it destroyed the imperial order
on which it was based.48 The new international order of the postwar
era did not particularly value nature for itself. The primacy of eco-
nomics within development theory led to a view of nature as a stock
of resources, and the era viewed natural resources as a relatively un-
important factor in the global economy. The values assigned to
nature were derived from its employment as a factor of production.
The important distinctions within nature were those of potential use.
The subtle and reticulate character of human-nature relations practi-
cally guaranteed they would be lost in the rigorous calculus of devel-
opment's costs and benefits. Such reasons to value nature as rarity,


Nature and the Practice of Development

aesthetics, and popular enjoyment did carry over from earlier eras,
but they were diminished by their lack of alignment with the key
values and perspectives of the early postwar era.
Steps to protect nature on an international level were further com-
plicated by conservation's imperial past. Many among the elites of
the newly independent nations saw nature protection as an element
of colonialism to be swept away with the rest of the structure of the
colonial era. Perez Olindo, a prominent Kenyan conservationist,
noted that the native elite of the immediate pre-independence era
thought of wildlife as a "bloody nuisance."49 At best, biological con-
servation could wait until more immediate problems of development
had been tended to.
The lack of importance accorded nature and its colonial associa-
tions condemned biological conservation to marginal status in the
international order during the first two postwar decades. Although
an International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was
established after the war, neither it nor conservation in general
received much support from the UN or national governments, or
much attention from the press or the publics of the developed world.
International conservation organizations were strapped for funds
and unable to carry out such basic tasks as keeping track of endan-
gered species and protected natural areas. Even in developed nations,
including the United States, the conservation issues of earlier eras
seemed to have burned out and the old organizations seemed
Protected nature assumed a new importance with the coalescence
of the ecological critique. Unaltered nature's capacity to absorb pol-
lution made it a buffer against environmental disruption. Nature also
came to be viewed as an ecological control, what Leopold described
as "a base datum of normality, a picture of how healthy land main-
tains itself."51 The more development projects that went awry for
ecological reasons, the more important this seemed. The new humility
about human capacity to understand the long-term effects of tech-
nology gave nature an important new dimension. As Odum later
summed up the argument, "Until we can determine more precisely
how far we may safely go in expanding [human activity] at the
expense of the [natural] landscape, it will be good insurance to hold
inviolate as much of the latter as possible."52 The argument con-
ferred on protected nature a central role in mediating between the
present and posterity.
The importance of nature's role as insurance against the self-


serving calculations of the present grew as distant posterity became
an object of concern. Discounting future values at some market-
determined rate, while perhaps a satisfactory way of mediating
between the present and the near future, appeared unsatisfactory in
ordering the present's relationship with the distant future: any but
the most minuscule discount rates would reduce any far-distant
benefits of today's actions to a current trivial value.53 It seemed more
provident to pass to distant posterity a natural world little dimin-
ished in biological options than to trust market-determined calcula-
tions, which might convert the future's biological endowment into
technology or sunk capital inappropriate for future needs.
The increasing theoretical fit of protected nature and the goals of
universal human betterment drew many development-oriented agen-
cies into international conservation in the 1960s. The Rockefeller
Brothers Fund supported the establishment of two schools of wildlife
management in Africa. The Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO), which, beyond some interest in the preservation of plants and
animals of obvious economic value, had considered conservation
outside its sphere of responsibility, began to promote wildlife and
natural area protection. The UN Development Programme (UNDP),
which had previously thought conservation programs incompatible
with economic development and had displayed an outright hostility
toward biological conservation in the world's poorer nations,
changed its attitude and began supporting them. By 1972, FAO, usu-
ally with UNDP support, was operating an advisory program in park
and wildlife management in twenty-two countries around the world.
Bilateral aid agencies of the United States, Great Britain, and West
Germany followed suit and began providing support for conserva-
tion planning in countries around the world. Financial help and tech-
nical advice from the British Ministry for Overseas Development, for
example, was important in drawing up an ambitious Peruvian
national park plan of the mid-1960s. The American Peace Corps sent
scores of its volunteers to third world parks and wildlife refuges,
where they wrote management plans and trained native personnel.
The Inter-American Institute of Agricultural Sciences (IICA), a facil-
ity of the Organization of American States, began training Latin
Americans in wildlife management on its campus in Costa Rica.
Conservation agencies in the developed world expanded their
range of operations beyond national boundaries. The U.S. National
Park Service established an office of international liaison and
through it forged links with conservation agencies in Asia, Africa


Chapter 1

Nature and the Practice of Development

and Latin America. The U.S. National Park Service joined its
Canadian equivalent in sponsoring an annual International Seminar
on National Parks for conservation officers from developing nations.
A crossflow of consultants and advisors created regional conserva-
tion networks and kept conservation administrators in touch with
their counterparts in other countries, creating a sense of camaraderie
among native managers and keeping them abreast of the latest devel-
opments elsewhere.54
While the new importance of nature greatly expanded the niche
for biological conservation in the international order, advances in
science expanded the pale of conservation's concern. Early twentieth-
century biology had placed great value on the unique and the excep-
tional: nature most clearly revealed its inventiveness and genius at its
extremes. It was assumed that most advances in scientific knowledge
would take place by studying these extremes, and by contemplating
them, laymen would most quickly develop an appreciation of nature's
majesty. The lingering romantic aesthetic canons of the nineteenth
century, which assigned great value to the spectacular and the dra-
matic, reinforced this tendency to find value in the extreme and
unique.55 Biological conservation undergirded by such views was
easy to formulate and relatively easy to execute. Conservation could,
and did, focus on unique areas and a few magnificent species.
As knowledge accumulated about hundreds of less spectacular
plants and animals, they were deemed worthy of protection.56
Advances in population genetics made it clear that the preservation
of species, even the spectacular species on which traditional conser-
vation had focused, would be difficult without maintaining breeding
populations in their natural habitats. With the emergence of ecology
as a recognized biological science, the ecosystem became an entity
worthy of protection in and of itself. For example, whereas just the
migratory birds that used wetlands were originally seen as worth
protecting, now entire wetland ecosystems became valid objects of

The new, expanded canon of biological importance and the new
niche of conservation in the international order demanded a new
operating doctrine for organized conservation. One of the leaders in
the effort to forge such doctrine was Kenton Miller. Although Miller
was only one of many conservationists out of whose work a general


synthesis arose, and although many of the ideas he espoused were
already prevalent in the international conservation community by
the time he expressed them, his work did represent perhaps the most
ambitious distillation of conservation thought into explicit opera-
tional principles. Miller's connections with Latin America were
strong, and his writing was especially influenced by the conditions he
observed there.
Miller, an American, was exposed to the recent conservation
thought in his formal education: as a master's degree candidate at the
University of Washington in the early 1960s, he worked under Frank
Brockman, a conservationist with long associations with the IUCN;
while pursuing a doctorate in wildlands planning at Syracuse
University, he became steeped in the new environmental movement's
basic literature and struggled with the question of how to apply it to
conservation practice.58 Miller began his involvement with Latin
American conservation in 1962, when he drew up a development
plan for Canaima National Park in Venezuela as part of his master's
work. After receiving his doctorate in 1968, Miller returned to Latin
America in the employ of the FAO to work on a number of manage-
ment plans for protected areas. Gradually, his academic training,
field experience, and participation in the regional network of Latin
American conservationists fused into a coherent, ramified approach
to biological conservation.59
Miller reasoned that conservation could be effective only if ideo-
logically linked with the basic goals of universal human betterment
at the core of the development ideal, and institutionally linked with
the organs of development. Miller had observed the great increase in
state power in South America in the 1960s and had seen that power
funnelled into development planning. With support from the
American-led Alliance for Progress, central planning by the national
states had increased (by the mid-1960s nine South American nations
had established central planning agencies) and the development of
many of the continent's backward and underpopulated areas had
come under state management. With lending countries and foreign
assistance programs insisting on state planning as a condition for
financial aid, such planning seemed likely to become even more
important in the future, both as a government activity and a determi-
nant of landscape change.60
Recent history supported the logic of the argument. South
America had long been a lagging continent with regard to nature


Chapter 1

Nature and the Practice of Development

protection. It was of marginal importance in prewar international
conservation, and in the first two postwar decades, indigenous dis-
interest was reenforced by the lack of importance accorded conserva-
tion by development theory. Stillwell noted the lack of a strong
conservation tradition on the continent in the early 1960s.61 Yet
there had been a quickening of Latin American conservation activity
in that decade, mostly, as Miller had observed, in connection with
regional development programs. Colombia's Agrarian Reform Insti-
tute and the Magdalena Valley Corporation proposed a network of
parks for the lower Magdalena basin in the early 1960s.62 Peru
developed a national park system plan between 1966 and 1969 as
part of regional development efforts and with the assistance of inter-
national development agencies. A number of Latin American nations
established wildlife and wildlands management programs as parts of
forestry development programs.
Miller reasoned that conservation programs in South America
could be effective only if broad lines of communication were forged
between conservation planners and agronomists, economists, and
others involved in national planning. Conservation, he argued, had
to be recognized as a tool of development.63 Linking conservation to
national development would also insure that conservation planners
would be exposed to the broader goals of national planning, and that
other planners would be kept mindful of the benefits that conserva-
tion programs could provide. Miller wrote that, "As conservation
becomes integrated into development, the conservationist will move
from being the beggar on the street to a consultant, advisor and reg-
ular associate of the national planning board."64
Such a strategy demanded professionalism. Conservation planners
could take their place among the other planning professionals only if
they were as educated in their profession as the others were in theirs.
Miller understood how shared values and occupational mobility had
molded foresters into a powerful profession in the United States and
other developed nations, and he thought it important that the same
thing happen with biological conservation. Miller therefore stressed
the need to develop a cadre of professional conservationists and
advocated making training programs a prominent part of national
conservation efforts.65
Because national planning was demanding greater professionalism
throughout government and a corresponding decrease in the role of
politics in day-to-day public decisions, professionalism would also


link conservation to the future world of the rational discharge of the
public's business, not the past one of ideology and petty political
intrigue. Miller thought circumstances demanded an even greater
commitment to apolitical professionalism from conservation than
from other sectors of state planning: only by emphasizing the profes-
sional and technical could biological conservation keep clear of the
political controversies of the era, while retaining its positive referents
(in the abstract) all along the political spectrum.66 Avoiding political
controversy was essential, since only by implementing similar pro-
grams in countries of widely differing ideological casts could all the
continent's endangered species and samples of all its important eco-
systems be protected.
Conservation programs had to be comprehensive and national in
scope if they were to provide a wide enough range of tangible bene-
fits-watershed protection, resource management, education, tour-
ism, recreation-to appeal to those who directed national planning.67
They had to be systematic and geographically comprehensive if they
were to include the diversity of species and ecosystems that had
become the benchmark of modern conservation. To this latter end,
Miller thought it important to decide a priori and systematically what
an ideal national conservation program should consist of, and what
the criteria for selecting the natural areas included in it should be.
He stressed the importance of building national or regional con-
servation programs on a scientifically credible biogeographic base.
This would link conservation to science-derived values and would
give conservation programs added credibility with other planning
professionals. Throughout the 1960s, conservationists had devoted
much energy to the creation of such a base. The IUCN underwrote
the development of a global zoogeography, a mapping system for the
world's coastal and marine environment, and a world-wide biome
classification scheme.68 By the end of the decade, the scientific base
for systematic conservation was much improved.
In line with his systematic approach, Miller stressed the impor-
tance of placing each protected area in the appropriate management
category. The IUCN had worked through the 1960s to establish a
clearly defined, standardized set of categories for protected nature.69
Each of the IUCN categories-national park, biological reserve,
natural monument, national forest reserve, etc.-served a specific
end. An area in the wrong category would not provide maximum

Chapter 1


Nature and the Practice of Development

Miller stressed the need for extensive documentation and record
keeping: each nation should have a fully articulated approach to bio-
logical conservation; each policy should be explicitly documented;
each protected area should have documents showing how it fit into
national conservation goals and containing plans for its manage-
ment. This advocacy of documentation reflected the professional cast
of prevailing development doctrine, but it also reflected Miller's per-
sonal experience. His work at Conaima and elsewhere had convinced
him that one of the biggest obstacles to conservation in South
America was lack of continuity; the elaboration of a major program
of nature protection was a long, step-by-step process. Too frequently
he had seen managers and planners trying to deduce the intentions of
their predecessors and endlessly reinventing policy and procedures.71
Only with careful documentation could this waste of energy be
avoided and the continuity of intent be maintained.
Conversely, Miller opposed wholly opportunity-driven approaches,
arguing that programs pieced together over time without the benefit
of a master policy were unlikely to be satisfactory conservation
instruments, either biologically or politically. But he was also a prag-
matist who knew that circumstances sometimes called for speed in
decision making and for compromise. Indeed the sense of history that
led Miller to advocate comprehensive planning also led to his occa-
sional willingness to cut corners in the name of expedience. He was
part of a generation of conservationists that felt itself weighed down
by responsibility for all of posterity and therefore under great pres-
sure to act quickly. David Brower, executive director of the Sierra
Club, had suggested in 1960 that most of what would be saved for
the future would have to be set aside during the coming decade. At
his opening address to the First World Conference on National Parks
in 1962, Stewart Udall, the American Secretary of the Interior, sug-
gested that his generation would likely be the last with an opportu-
nity to set aside large areas of protected nature anywhere on earth.72
The weight of such a future meant that sometimes conservation plan-
ners had to, in Miller's words, "take the best they could get."
This "taking the best they could get" applied to science. In spite of
a decade's progress in forming a scientific base for conservation deci-
sions, that base was still incomplete, especially at the level of the
region or nation. One could not wait for science to answer all the
questions with certainty; decisions had to be made on the basis of the
best work available. In his own work, Miller used whatever biogeo-


graphic systems he could find: Holdridge's in Costa Rica, Tosi's in
Peru, and Di Castri's in Chile.73 If political obstacles or established
uses prevented the protection of the most biologically valuable area, as
they often did, conservationists should turn to more attainable areas.
Miller, unlike many policy theorists, had the opportunity to put his
ideas into large-scale practice. He assumed a teaching position on the
faculty of IICA in Costa Rica and from there spread his ideas among
the expanding conservation network in Latin America. Then, in
1969, Nelson Rockefeller visited the institute, which his family's phi-
lanthropies supported. Miller discussed his ideas with Rockefeller
and suggested a project to upgrade nature protection throughout
Latin America. The suggestion, and the reasoning behind it, hit three
sweet notes for Nelson and his tribe-development, conservation,
and Latin America-so Miller was invited to the New York head-
quarters of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to formally propose the
project he had suggested to Nelson.74 The fund agreed to support the
project, which was eventually named the Regional Project on
Wildlands Management. The FAO agreed to cosponsor it and the
UN Development Programme lent support.7s
Under Miller's direction, a national wildlands plan was drawn up
for Cuba, and the codification of Colombia's wildlife protection laws
was undertaken. Work was begun on national park system plans for
Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Colombia. Chile, in collaboration with the
regional project, began a major overhaul of its national park system.
Over the next several years, new parks were established in Chile, old
ones deemed unnecessary were decommissioned, and the entire sys-
tem was brought in line with the model Miller advocated.76 As
Miller had hoped, the regional project's stress on professionalism
and service to development goals shielded it from Latin America's
political turbulence and allowed compatible national conservation
programs for countries as different politically as Cuba and Colombia
to be drawn up. The emphasis on professionalism even allowed the
Chilean program to survive the military coup of 1973 with little
Miller's project brought a new cohesion to Latin American conser-
vation, while his approach brought it a new measure of respect and
vigor. Thanks largely to Miller's efforts, the number of protected
areas in South America meeting the criteria for inclusion on the UN
List of National Parks and Protected Areas rose from 98 in 1968 to
126 in 1972 and to 161 in 1975. The total area under protection rose

Chapter 1


Nature and the Practice of Development

even more steeply, from 13.7 million hectares to 18.3 and then to
25.9. Scores of management plans for individual protected areas
were prepared in the early 1970s under the project. The national
environmental legislation of several nations was streamlined and

Brazil had gradually accumulated a disparate collection of pro-
tected natural areas, but it remained without a systematic approach
to conservation during the early 1970s (see figure 2.1, below). Miller
tried to draw it into the regional project in 1970 and 1971, and
although the state of Sao Paulo surveyed state-held natural areas
with technical advisors from the project, the Brazilian federal gov-
ernment seemed little interested;77 it feared participation in multi-
national initiatives might threaten its sovereignty in its lightly settled
frontier areas.78 As more countries were drawn into the project,
Brazil's lack of participation weighed heavily on the project's staff;
no program of biological conservation for South America could be
wholly successful without Brazil's participation, whatever its achieve-
ments elsewhere.
Miller's frustration was most acute in connection with Brazilian
Amazonia. The interest of early conservationists in large mammals
and other spectacular fauna had not led them to prize the tropical
rainforests, which were relatively poor in such animals, but as esti-
mates of the percentage of the world's species found in the tropical
forests rose, so did the importance scientists and conservationists
accorded the biome.79 The rainforests were also among the world's
least protected biomes in the 1960s, and those of South America,
especially those of Amazonia, were no exception.80 Although some
protected areas on the periphery of the basin had been established in
the late 1960s and early 1970s, many in connection with the
Regional Wildlands Project (figure 1.1, table 1.1), the Brazilian heart
of the forest remained without protected areas or a coherent conser-
vation plan; it was the largest geographical gap in South American
nature protection, and Miller and his associates were anxious to fill
what he called the "hole in the doughnut."81
Miller's comprehensive, development-related approach seemed
ideal for Amazonia. The region was so vast, and past human assaults
on it had been so minor and intermittent, that most of the rainforest


Chapter 1

Protected Natural Areas in Non-Brazilian Amazonia, 1973

was still undisturbed at the beginning of the 1970s. It would there-
fore be possible to plan in the comprehensive fashion Miller felt was
Moreover, Amazonia had long been the object of regional plan-
ning efforts, which Miller saw as the ideal vehicle for biological con-
servation. After the Second World War, the federal government
began its efforts to overcome the isolation and poverty that had char-
acterized Amazonia since the collapse of the rubber boom in the
early twentieth century.82 Although only a modest amount of federal
money was allocated to Amazonia in the first postwar decade, the
institutions of regional development were gradually put in place in
those years. The Credit Bank of Amazonia was established and given
a mandate to support development projects. A regional development
authority, SPVEA, was set up with headquarters in Belem.
In the late 1950s, Amazon development became a part of President
Kubitschek's ambitious plans. New federal highways linked
Amazonia to the rest of Brazil for the first time. The federal govern-
ment sponsored a mix of programs to improve the region's health
and education facilities, communication network, and electric grid.
More federal credit was made available for agriculture, and farms
and ranches began to dot the southern and eastern margins of the
region by the end of the 1950s.83 Under federal guidance, the pace of


Nature and the Practice of Development

Protected Areas (10,000 Hectares or Larger) Established in Amazonia by 1973
Size in
Date Hectares
Country Unit Established (x 1000)
Bolivia Bella Vista National Park 1946 90
Isiboro Secure National Park 1965 1,100
Ulla Ulla Wildlife Reserve 1972 240
Colombia El Tuparro Faunal Reserve 1970 290
Guyana Kaieteur National Park 1929 12
Peru Tingo Maria National Park 1965 18
Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve 1972 1,388
Manu National Park 1973 1,533
Surinam Eilerts de Haan Gebergte Nature Reserve 1966 220
Raleighvallen-Voltzberg Nature Reserve 1966 56
Tafelberg Nature Reserve 1966 140
Wia Wia Nature Reserve 1966 36
Coppename Nature Reserve 1966 10
Brownsberg Nature Reserve 1969 11
Sipaliwini Nature Reserve 1972 100
Venezuela Canaima National Park 1962 3,000

Source: Wetterberg et al., "Conservation Progress," p. 8.

natural resource exploitation in Amazonia quickened in the 1950s.
In Amapai territory, Brazilian business interests joined with
Bethlehem Steel in developing an enormous manganese-mining com-
plex. Tin mining began in Rondonia and gold production through-
out Amazonia steadily increased. When Brasilia became the nation's
capital in 1960, Amazonia seemed even less remote and its develop-
ment seemed an even more important national concern.
The military formulated its own prescriptions for Amazon devel-
opment when it came to power.84 A new regional agency, the
Superintendency for Amazon Development (SUDAM) was created
and ordered to draw up a new five-year plan for the region. The fed-
eral government enlisted the aid of the U.S. Air Force in the Radar
Amazonia or RADAM project, an extensive aerial survey to map the
region's topography, geology, soils, and mineral deposits for the first
time. In accord with the new government's preference for managed
development by private capital, new fiscal incentives for private
investment in Amazonia were instituted. Roberto Campos, the first
architect of development policy under the generals, persuaded
American businessmen to invest in Amazonia, and in 1967, Daniel


Ludwig, the American shipping magnate, committed to the Jari
Project, which would produce vast amounts of wood and pulp for
world markets. In that same year, the discovery of the Serra dos
Carajas iron deposits allowed for collaboration with foreign capital
on another giant exporting project.
Then, in 1970, a new initiative with the potential to eclipse all for-
mer ones was instituted: President Medici announced the ambitious
Program of National Integration (PIN).85 The spine of the plan would
be a network of roads, the most important being the Transamazon
Highway crossing Amazonia from the arid Northeast to Peru in the
far west. Large colonies, called Integrated Colonization Projects, or
PICs, would be developed along the highway. Colonists would be
offered free land, credit at attractive rates, agricultural advice, and
guaranteed access to markets. Towns and small cities providing the
services a developing area would need would be be placed at regular
intervals along the highway. Thirty percent of all federal funds ear-
marked for Amazonia between 1971 and 1974 would go to the PIN
program, which was to provide farms for 100,000 families within
five years, and perhaps for a million within ten.
The road building associated with the PIN program proceeded
according to schedule in the early 1970s. The Transamazon Highway
was opened as far west as Itaituba in 1972 and the long stretch
between Itaituba and Humaita was completed in 1974. Colonies
along the highway started taking shape, and in 1972, the program,
scheduled to run to 1975, was extended to 1978.86 Work on the
Northern Perimeter Highway, a second great east-west road through
Amazonia and another spine of colonization, was begun in 1973.
Amazon planning, especially PIN, was not the kind of vehicle for
conservation Miller had in mind. The compatibility of conservation
and development assumed that the latter would be based on a sensi-
tivity to the innate biological and physical potential of the region.
Development would be focused on those areas that had the greatest
potential for agriculture, resource extraction, or other wealth-pro-
ducing activities. Conservation would then protect the interstices,
offering a range of environmental services that would complement
the development efforts and make it a net plus in the eyes of regional
Thus, while Brazil's new environmentally sensitive attitude follow-
ing Stockholm was an encouraging sign, there was little of substance
to show for it in Amazonia, where planning provided little purchase


Chapter 1

Nature and the Practice of Development

for conservation. Given the indifference of the Brazilian government
to Miller's previous overtures, and the turn development in
Amazonia had taken with the PIN program, the near future threat-
ened to do what four centuries of European presence had failed to
do: substantially alter the region, perhaps destroying the rainforest
that dominated it.
Prospects for Amazon conservation changed in 1974: the PIN pro-
gram was abandoned. The National Institute of Colonization and
Agrarian Reform's (INCRA's) settlements had fared poorly after
1970: the agency had settled fewer than 6,000 families by 1974.87
Many of those who did come reverted to subsistence agriculture,
drifted to the cities, or left the region entirely. The program suffered
from inadequate supplies, bad professional advice, delays in land
titling, and inadequate access to markets and credit, but the main
cause of failure seemed to lie deeper than operational shortcomings.
As an expression of the logic of conventional development, PIN
seemed flawless. A developing nation's agricultural sector was to
hold surplus populations until the other sectors of the economy were
ready to absorb them. It was to provide ample, inexpensive, and
increasingly high-quality food for a rapidly increasing urban popula-
tion. Eventually the rural work force would have to become a source
of effective demand for the products of the industrial sector.88 Private
forces in agriculture were too inefficient and undercapitalized to
accomplish these goals, however, so government had to take a
hand.89 Brazil was fortunate; it had vast, fresh Amazonia, where it
could build new agricultural regions, create a class of prosperous
farmers, and quickly raise agricultural production.
Yet on an ecological level, PIN, like much of conventional devel-
opment theory, seemed lacking. The PIN program was established in
ignorance of Amazonia's development possibilities, but rather than
restrain planners, the ignorance had exactly the opposite effect: it
allowed them to fall back on the vague myths of soil fertility and
only the most tentative soil surveys. ECLA, from which so much
Brazilian planning doctrine was derived, did not stress caution.
Rather it emphasized action and placed great stock in the trial-and-
error learning that came from implementation.90 Such was the era's
faith in technology and the capacity of public planning that it was
assumed any unforeseen problems could be overcome as they arose.
Nor did the Brazilian geopolitical tradition stress caution; Humboldt
had once speculated that Amazonia would become "the granary of


Chapter 1

the world," and Brazilian nationalists assumed such a future was
only a matter of time and planning. Physical conditions had defeated
past settlement efforts in Amazonia, but such conditions were part of
the "tyranny of geography" that modern technology had broken.91
By 1974 the ignorance of Amazonia upon which the program had
been founded was being dispelled by new data, much produced by
the RADAM project, and the emerging picture was of isolated
patches of arable land surrounded by vast areas with little potential
for commercial agriculture. It became clear that a uniformly settled
and prosperous Amazonia was an ill-founded dream. The publica-
tion of RADAM soil data for Amapa and northern Pari, showing
how poor were the soils of the region, produced immediate disillu-
sionment with plans for the Northern Perimeter Highway.92
Scientific work in the early 1970s added to the disillusionment by
resolving the contradiction between the apparently poor soils and the
luxuriance of the rainforest: The trees of the forest recycled nutrients
from dead organic litter on the forest floor through the action of
mycorrhizal fungi. The cycle excluded the soil. Subsequent analysis
indicated that 90 percent of the soils of Amazonia were deficient in
nitrogen and phosphorus, and more than 75 percent were deficient in
potassium. A like percentage contained toxic levels of aluminum and
calcium, and sulphur and magnesium deficiencies were present in
more than half the region's soils.93 Moreover, the poorest soils were
in the uplands, where road-based PIN concentrated most of its settle-
ment efforts.94
While RADAM data was disproving the myth of ubiquitous soil
fertility, the pace of mineral discoveries in the basin increased (table
1.2). These discoveries coincided with the increasing importance pri-
mary resources were assuming in the calculations of economic plan-
ners around the world. Whereas previous decades had assumed that
overabundance of natural resources would characterize the future
world economy, a steep rise in the price of several metals in the early
1970s was taken as a sign that an era of resource scarcity was ahead.
Amazonia took on the appearance of an archipelago of development
opportunities based on metals such as iron, gold, tin, magnesium,
and bauxite set in a matrix of very limited agricultural potential. The
mystique of the conquest of Amazonia lingered on in the popular
imagination, but those who were directing the economy now knew
better.95 Rather than lead Brazil to greatness, the region was better
suited for the prosaic role of generating foreign exchange and fueling
the industries of the South, the real engine of Brazil's recent rise.


Nature and the Practice of Development

Major Resource Discoveries in Amazonia to 1973

Year Locale State or Territory Resource Discoverer

1612 Gurupi
1855 Calqoene
1912 Maui-Tacutui
1915 Upper Solim6es
1937 Araguaia-Tocantins
1941 Serra do Navio

1952 Unspecified
1955 Middle Amazon
Nova Olinda
1958 Middle Tapijos
1963 Tropas
1966 Sereno
1967 Carajis
1968 Morro do Felipe
1969 Maraconai
1970 Velho Guilherme


1971 Carajfis
1972 Jabuti
1973 Onqa-Puma






Sodium chloride



Mario Cruz/
Bethlehem Steel
Union Carbide
U.S. Steel
U.S. Steel
Ludwig group
Union Carbide
U.S. Steel
Rio Tinto Zinc

1Subsidiary of the Rio Doce Valley Company (CVRD)
Source: Santos, Amaz6nia, Potencial Mineral, pp. 12-13.

The change in planning perspective was embodied in the Second
Amazon Development Plan, PDAM II, unveiled in 1974 and sched-
uled to run from 1975 to 1979. Its centerpiece was the Polamazonia
program, which comprised investment plans for fifteen "develop-
ment poles," areas of Amazonia with special economic potential
(figure 1.2).96 In one, Serra dos Carajas, the largest iron mine in the
world would be developed. An enormous new hydroelectric dam
would supply electricity to the mine, and the longest railroad con-
structed in modern times would carry its ore to new export facilities
near Sdo Luis in Maranhio. A development pole in Amapa would be


Chapter 1


( 9

Amazon Development Poles and Subsidized Livestock Operations. Adapted
from Kleinpenning, "Evaluation of the Brazilian Policy." Small dots show
location of subsidized ranches. Hatched areas are development poles.

based on the already-extant manganese mines in the territory. The
large bauxite deposits along the Rio Trombetas would be the base
resource of another pole, while one in the far northern territory of
Roraima would be based on gold deposits. Large-scale ranching,
plantation agriculture, and wood harvesting would play an impor-
tant role in many of the poles.
The transition from PIN to Polamazonia seemed like a triumph of
the rational: plans based on ignorance of nature and the distribution
of natural resources were replaced by those based on knowledge.
With that triumph, conservation appeared compatible with state-
directed development. The new, more archipelagic view of Ama-
zonia's development opportunities devalued the interstices, those
vast areas where the soils were poor and no valuable minerals were
found. Leaving many of them in a natural state would have little
impact on the national or regional economy and, in fact, seemed like
a reasonable complement to the development planned for the poles.
Polamazonia's planners apparently saw it the same way: the
Polamazonia decree of 1974 stated that conservation should be con-


Nature and the Practice of Development 31

sidered a key part of development and that the "designation of lands
for forest and biological reserves [and] national parks" should be
part of the Polamazonia program.97
While the shift in planning emphasis was taking place, the
Brazilian government requested the FAO's help to modernize its
forest industry. The FAO, which had been intermittently active in
Brazilian forestry since the early 1950s, consented. The project, the
Forest Development and Research Project (PRODEPEF), would
assess Brazil's forest industry, develop commercial uses for unused
tree species, and conduct a forest inventory. The FAO, however, sen-
sitized to the new international mood by the Stockholm Conference,
recommended that an assessment of Brazil's nature preservation needs
be included in the program. Brazil consented and the FAO asked
Miller, then completing the Regional Wildlands Project, to oversee
the assessment. Miller accepted, signaling the beginning of system-
atic planning for biological conservation in Brazilian Amazonia.


Tracing the Landscape

of Biological Value

Gary Wetterberg, who was selected to do the actual PRODEPEF field
work in Brazil, had much experience in South American conservation
and a long exposure to Miller's ideas. He had met Miller in 1968,
while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in a Chilean national park,
and the careers of the two remained intertwined for years afterward.
When Wetterberg returned to the United States to complete a doctor-
ate, Miller served on his dissertation committee. Later, Wetterberg
was drawn into the Regional Wildlands Project and developed a set
of national environmental codes for Colombia under Miller's direc-
tion. During the long association, Wetterberg became imbued with
Miller's approach and Miller formed a high opinion of Wetterberg's
skills as a conservation planner.1 Wetterberg joined the PRODEPEF
project as a consultant in early 1975, and Miller arranged for him to
be stationed at Brazil's National Institute of Amazon Research
(INPA) in Manaus. Wetterberg's specific charge was to evaluate the
overall needs of Brazilian conservation, with particular emphasis on
Amazonia, and produce a detailed set of recommendations on which
a concrete conservation program could be based.
When Wetterberg arrived at INPA in May 1975, he understood
the significance of his task. A conservation program for Brazilian
Amazonia would fill the last great geographical gap in South
American nature protection, capping a decade of international con-
servation work.2 He also appreciated its uniqueness. Miller had
stressed how, ideally, plans for biological conservation should be
sketched onto a landscape before human occupation reduced free-
dom of action, but it was already too late in most areas of the world;
conservationists normally had to choose from among a few policy
options and among the few natural areas that remained on a settled


Tracing the Landscape of Biological Value

landscape. Amazonia, however, had been so little altered that it pre-
sented a nearly clean slate of conservation opportunities; here ambi-
tious, systematic conservation principles could be applied to a major
bioregion, an opportunity Miller never had, and perhaps no one but
Wetterberg ever would.
Wetterberg also appreciated the strategic advantages of the scien-
tific, systematic conservation Miller advocated.3 The fate of the first
major conservation initiative in Amazonia, a group of forest reserves
established by President Quadros in 1961, offered a lesson (figure
2.1). The idea of the reserves was a whim, as were many of Quadros's
ideas, and the task of identifying suitable areas caught SPVEA
unaware. Uncertain of the intended purpose of the reserves, the
agency arbitrarily made river accessibility the key selection criterion.4
After the formal establishment of the reserves, no administrative
machinery was set up for them. Undemarcated, unmanaged, and
without any clear purpose, they were invaded by posseiros (squat-
ters) and subjected to speculative schemes. By the time Wetterberg
arrived in Brazil, there was little outside the statute books to show
they existed at all.
The recent history of the Brazilian national park system also
underscored the point in Wetterberg's mind. He had discussed
Brazil's few extant national parks with Alceo Magnanini, then direc-
tor of the IBDF's National Parks Department (DN), at the Second
World Conference on National Parks in 1972, and had been struck
by the weakness of the director's position.s Magnanini had inherited
no overall strategy for managing or expanding the park system, nor
had he been able to forge a clear set of norms on which a policy
could be based. Although Wetterberg thought Magnanini was a com-
petent administrator, his lack of a strategy meant he was constantly
forced to, in Wetterberg's words, "deal with the cards that had been
dealt him; he was always reacting."
A new national park had been added to the system in 1971 and
another in 1972, but they were the result of local initiatives behind
which the right political coalitions had accumulated.
The first major protected natural area in Amazonia, a million-
hectare national park on the banks of the Tapaj6s River in eastern
Pari, was established by presidential decree in 1974, but the event
was anomalous. The park's location and shape had been decided by
regional planners with no input from conservationists, and it was
unconnected to any wider conservation plans. When Wetterberg



Chapter 2


/ / UBAJARA N.P 1959
." J GURUPI / ,

-. -/- ... /ARAGUAIA N.P. 1959 L..-
/ N.P. 1961
EMAS NP 1961961 N.P 1961
/ oSOORETAMA B.R. 1943
/ A CAPARAO N.P. 1961
/ TIJUCA N.P. 1961
0N.P. 1939 SERRA DA BOCAINA N.P 1972



FIG 2.1
Brazilian National Parks, Biological Reserves, and Forest Reserves, 1961.
Triangles indicate forest reserves.

arrived in Brazil, he quickly deduced that this passivity and lack of
direction still characterized the IBDF's conservation efforts, and that
changing this was essential; whatever plan he developed would have
to "permit those public agencies responsible for nature conservation
to gain an offensive position."6 This would require a consistent set of
principles that focused departmental energies on clear, practical goals.
Those principles would also have to align conservation policy with
the dominant values of the administration as a whole. The cast of the
administration established by the military was technical and profes-
sional. The second plan for Amazonia (PDAM II) had accepted the
need for biological conservation, but insisted such conservation be
systematic and, according to Wetterberg, based on "solid biological
criteria."7 Any conservation plan that appeared capricious or based
on specious, facile arguments would be out of alignment with both

Tracing the Landscape of Biological Value

the dominant sentiments of the federal government and the norms to
which it expected future planning for Amazonia to conform. Thus the
only politically viable approach seemed to be the systematic, com-
prehensive one Miller advocated and Wetterberg inherently preferred.

Such an approach required a firm base in scientific knowledge.
Without one, it would be impossible to defend choices or bring pro-
fessionalism fully into play. Comparatively little scientific work had
been done on the world's tropical rainforests, however. Most were
located in poor nations with only modest scientific capacities. The
forests were inhospitable and frequently inaccessible, and funding
for research in them was difficult to obtain. Studying the forest
canopy, where much of the insect and other animal life was concen-
trated, was especially difficult. Ignorance about the rainforest had
recently begun giving way before scientific initiatives like the UN's
Man and Biosphere Program, but the unknown was still vast.
Of the world's great equatorial rainforests, that of Amazonia was
the least known. Its vastness and continental location made it the
least accessible of the major rainforests. Research in Africa and
Southeast Asia benefitted from colonial rule during Europe's great
age of scientific exploration, but that in Amazonia did not. After the
breakup of the empires, the scientific interests of the metropolitan
powers tended to remain focused on their former colonies, so except
for the Guianas, Amazonia continued to be left out. New knowledge
had begun to accumulate here too as a result of INPA's research
efforts and the UNESCO-sponsored Flora Neotropica project, but so
much remained unknown that Prance discovered twenty-two new
species in the Chrysobalanaceae family in Amazonia in the early
1970s, and even what turned out to be common trees in the Manaus
region were still being discovered when Wetterberg arrived. One con-
servationist wrote with casual certainty that most of the species in
Amazonia had never been seen by a scientist.8 This meant that one of
Wetterberg's most important and formidable tasks was forging the
little scientific knowledge available into a firm base for Amazon con-
servation policy.
For Wetterberg, the first specific problem arising from this scien-
tific ignorance, or what Lovejoy called "unplumbed biology," was
the lack of regional differentiation. Tree species were difficult to dif-


Chapter 2

Biogeographic Subdivisions of Amazonia According to Udvardy. Adapted from
Wetterberg et al., "Conservation Progress"

ferentiate through casual observation, and the morphology of the
forest was strikingly uniform. Miller wrote that to most observers,
Amazonia was a "giant sea of homogeneous green jungle."9 Scien-
tists were beginning to understand that this was not so; they knew
that rainforest species composition could vary greatly from one
locale to another, but there had been little systematization of this
knowledge. The lack of information might not hinder conservation
planning in Ecuador or Bolivia, which had relatively little rainforest
within their boundaries, but since almost half of the basin's forests
were within Brazil, finding a convincing set of regions was essential
for systematic representation.10
Extant biogeographies were of little use. The new global bio-
geographies were too general. Udvardy's recently completed scheme,
for example, placed most of Brazilian Amazonia into two vast
provinces (figure 2.2), hardly an improvement on the popular view
of the region as homogeneous green jungle; if anything, it seemed to
support that view. The biogeography the IUCN adopted in 1974 was
worse: it placed most of Brazilian Amazonia in one province.
Schemes developed specifically for Amazonia were too uncertain.
Ducke and Black had delineated seven rainforest regions in


Tracing the Landscape of Biological Value

Amazonia in 1953 and 1954, but their scheme was based on very
limited sampling and was too tentative to bear the weight of policy.
Rizzini divided the region into eight subregions in 1963, but his
scheme, which differed greatly from Ducke and Black's, was also
based on very limited field sampling.11 The large differences between
the two schemes discredited both of them and pointed out how much
more work had to be done. Holdridge's "life zone" scheme, which
Miller had used and advocated, was useless in Amazonia because its
differentiations relied on more extreme variations in climate and ele-
vation than were present.
Fortunately, current scientific work held promise. Ghillean Prance,
a plant taxonomist, was developing a new phytogeography of
Amazonia. His scheme, which used the distribution of eight fre-
quently occurring plant species, divided Amazonia into eight regions
(figure 2.3).12 Prance's scheme was backed by more evidence than
any of the older ones-he had spent years collecting Amazon flora
and examining herbarium collections-but since it was generally
similar to Ducke and Black's scheme, it drew authority from the con-
vergence. After its publication, it quickly became the standard phyto-
geography of Amazonia.
Prance was the director of INPA's graduate program when
Wetterberg arrived in Manaus, and Wetterberg quickly learned about
Prance's work. Prance was sensitive to the conservation implications
of his work (as were others-it had been supported by the World
Wildlife Fund [WWF]) and argued that unless a portion of each
region was put under public protection before development altered
it, a unique component of Amazon biota would be lost. Wetterberg
realized that Prance's scheme, unlike earlier Amazon biogeographies,
had the scientific credentials necessary to dispel the idea that
Amazonia was a homogeneous green jungle. Unlike Udvardy's
scheme, it also set out enough regions to serve an ambitious pro-
gram. Wetterberg would therefore propose Prance's phytogeography
as the scientific core of Amazon conservation policy.13
A focus on Amazonia's upland rainforests was a logical outgrowth
of this choice; Prance's scheme was based on species from these
forests, so it was only a useful guide if conservation policy focused
on them. Wetterberg also felt this decision was scientifically
justifiable and provident. Recent surveys showed these upland forests
comprised approximately 90 percent of the forests of Amazonia, and
research was beginning to reveal their full complexity, diversity, and


Chapter 2

Phytogeographic Subdivisions of Amazonia According to Prance. Adapted from
Wetterberg et al., "Conservation Progress"

degree of endemism.14 The other major forest types in Amazonia-
the inundated and semi-inundated forests of the wetlands, with their
lower species diversity and composition that changed little from one
area to another-could be adequately represented in relatively few,
small reserves.
Once the decision to use Prance's scheme was made, the specific
areas most worthy of protection-those whose diversity or other
characteristics gave them a special biological value-had to be
identified. In principle, such a task could arise in connection with any
region-based conservation program, but human activity so limited
the choices in most areas of the world that it almost never arose in
practice. Amazonia was different; because so much of the region's
biota remained undisturbed, this was a pressing task with few fore-
closed options. The selection criteria had to be solid if they were to
pass muster at higher levels of government, but little was known
about any discrete parts of Amazonia, except for those few small
places where research had been carried out. Gathering such informa-
tion would be a mammoth, time-consuming task, and, as Wetterberg
wrote, "the luxury of extensive or detailed studies of entire floras
and faunas" was out of the question.15 Reprising the situation later,


Tracing the Landscape of Biological Value

Thomas Lovejoy observed that "some sort of shortcut was needed:
some emerging biogeographic pattern on which conservation plan-
ning [could] depend.'16
Before leaving the United States, Wetterberg had sought advice on
his task from several conservationists and tropical biologists, includ-
ing Lovejoy, program director of the World Wildlife Fund-US, who
suggested that the recently coalesced Pleistocene Refuge Theory
might be useful. Conventional scientific wisdom up to the late 1960s
held that the equatorial rainforests were among the world's oldest
and most stable bioregions. The Pleistocene glacial periods, which
had profoundly altered the biogeography of the temperate regions,
were thought to have little affected the equatorial regions except for
changes in sea levels. Biologists assumed the great species diversity of
the rainforest was due to this stability-that it had permitted the
undisturbed evolution of a great many specialized organisms.17
Haffer, in 1969, deduced from bird species distribution in
Amazonia that the region had been much drier during the late
Pleistocene.18 This, he argued, had caused savannas and dry wood-
lands to take over most of the area while the forest fragmented and
survived only in the wettest parts of the basin. Other biologists found
evidence for a fragmented and diminished Pleistocene rainforest in
the distribution of other taxa. Vanzolini identified several former for-
est islands from his work on lizards, and Prance identified several
from the distribution of plant species. The argument from species
distribution was tentatively corroborated by pollen core analysis.19
During the drier epoch, rainforest species would have fragmented
into separate populations as the forest contracted and fragmented.
Allopatric speciation-that caused when a formerly unified breeding
population is split-would have then taken place in the forest
islands, producing a large number of new species. With the return of
a wetter climate at the end of the Pleistocene and the expansion and
eventual fusion of the forests, individual forest species that had
evolved in the fragments would have expanded their ranges at differ-
ent rates, depending on their intrinsic dispersal capacities. The more
rapid dispersers would have reestablished contact with their former
cospecifics. Slower dispersers might not yet have reclaimed all their
former ranges.
Haffer saw Pleistocene Refuge Theory as having strong conserva-
tion implications.20 He argued that only the sites of the former forest
fragments were certain to contain the full richness of the Tertiary


forests, so their preservation would the surest way of preserving
maximum species diversity in a region where so little was known
about individual species distribution. It also seemed like the most
efficient way to proceed for a program with deadlines and limited
resources. As Myers summarized the argument, protecting these
species-rich refuges "could yield a greater return for the conservation
dollar than setting aside much larger areas elsewhere."21 Wetterberg
concluded that refuge theory could serve as the guide he needed to
the high-value areas within Prance's phytogeographic regions.
All the Pleistocene forest islands were large, however, and some
were enormous. (Smaller fragments might have existed, but dispersal
dynamics would have erased all trace of them since the return of a
wetter climate.) One occupied most of the Brazilian state of
Rondonia, and another stretched westward from Belem for hundreds
of kilometers. Wetterberg knew the practical restraints on Amazon
conservation made these areas far too large to protect in their
entirety, but how much less would do?
There was little in the conservation literature from which an
answer could be fashioned. Conservationists had grappled with the
question of reserve size for decades, and as the goals of biological
conservation became more ambitious the question became more
problematic. Advances in community ecology made it clear that pre-
serving certain species required areas large enough to preserve the
species on which they were dependent.22 Preserving large predators
in the wild, for example, meant setting aside areas large enough to
maintain sufficient prey populations. Preserving species in symbiotic
relationships with other species required that enough territory be
allowed for their symbionts.
Once maintaining more abstract entities like ecosystems became a
major conservation goal, the size question became even more com-
plicated. It was easy to formulate a general answer from ecological
principles: a protected area had be large enough to allow the system
to perpetuate itself in all its complexity,23 but such abstractions, even
if widely agreed upon, were of little use in making decisions about
actual reserve size. Was it better to set aside several small reserves or
one large one of the same total area? The question lacked a scientific
or even intuitive answer. Naturalists had known since the early nine-
teenth century that bigger reserves were likely to contain more
species than small ones simply by chance,24 but they also knew that
several smaller reserves spread over a large region would likely

Chapter 2


Tracing the Landscape of Biological Value

include a greater number of habitats than a single protected area.
The lack of size guidelines became a pressing matter for conserva-
tionists; when Richards asserted at the 1972 World Conference on
National Parks that the problem of the minimum size of protected
areas was of great practical importance few disagreed.25
Island Biogeography Theory offered an answer when Wetterberg
needed one. The biology of islands has fascinated biologists ever since
Darwin visited the Galapagos,26 but the subject was first approached
with theoretical rigor by Robert MacArthur and E.O. Wilson in
1963, and over the next several years they laid the foundations of
what they called Island Biogeography Theory.27 MacArthur and
Wilson argued that, assuming a uniform habitat, small islands would
have fewer species than large ones because they had fewer resources
with which to sustain minimum breeding populations, and the
smaller populations they did sustain would be more subject to
extinction through random misfortune. MacArthur and Wilson also
argued that very isolated islands would have fewer species than less
isolated ones of the same size because the former were more difficult
for colonizing species to reach. All other things being equal, an
island's species richness would thus be a function of its size-depen-
dent species maintenance capacity and its isolation-dependent colo-
nization rate. Its biota would be in equilibrium when its rates of
extinction and colonization were equal-although the actual species
composition might vary over time. They expressed these rela-
tionships in a series of equations that, given an island's area and
degree of isolation, could be solved for the expected number of
By logical extension, the theory predicted that if the isolation of an
area were to increase-for example, if a peninsula became an island
through a seismic upheaval-it would now have too many species to
be maintained with its now-reduced accessibility to new stock. The
number of species would begin to decline, a process MacArthur and
Wilson called "relaxation," and eventually a new and lower equilib-
rium would be reached. The same process of species reduction would
occur if an island were suddenly reduced in size; it would be in a
state of "superequilibrium," without the resources to support popu-
lations of all its inhabitant species.
MacArthur and Wilson saw their theory as applicable to far more
than literal islands. They argued that since "insularity is a universal
feature of biogeography, [and it] applies to a lesser or greater degree


in all natural habitats," their work might provide the foundation for
a general theory of community diversity.29
Field tests of MacArthur and Wilson's construct began soon after
it was formulated. The species diversity of islands in the Caribbean
and in the Bismarck Sea off New Guinea produced a good agreement
with the theory's basic predictions with regard to island size and
degree of isolation. Studies of recently isolated islands also found
higher diversity than might have been expected from island size and
isolation, supporting the theory's predictions with regard to super-
equilibrium. Following up on MacArthur and Wilson's claims of
universal applicability for their theory, scientists began testing it in
different types of isolated habitats, and here too results were encour-
aging. The species diversity of patches of savanna woodland in the
moist rainforest on New Guinea exhibited the island-like character-
istics the theory predicted. Isolated mountain-top communities in the
Andes seemed island-like in the relationship of their species diversity to
their area and isolation from like communities. Even the aquatic com-
munities on isolated patches of reef showed the predicted diversity.30
The theory implied that establishing many small reserves would be
unwise because a small, isolated area would almost immediately lose
those species requiring a large territory: they would not have the
space to maintain breeding populations, and random extinction
events would then quickly take their toll on other species.31 More-
over, the same species would be at greatest risk in all the reserves.
Therefore it was better to concentrate as much protected acreage as
possible in very large reserves so as to reduce loss rates. Field work
had enabled scientists to calculate historical rates of species loss from
areas of a known size once they were isolated; Terborgh, for exam-
ple, estimated that the island of Trinidad had lost 0.6 percent of its
avifauna during its first hundred years as an island.32 This fixing of
the rate of loss meant that whereas ecological principles gave only
general prescriptions for the size of protected areas, Island
Biogeography Theory offered specific guidelines.
Wetterberg was vaguely aware of the theory before he took on the
Brazil assignment, but Lovejoy pointed out its conservation implica-
tions and informed him of the recent field work it had inspired.33
Once in Brazil, Wetterberg delved into the literature and realized that
here was the third major prop of a scientific, systematic approach to
Amazon conservation. Prance's phytogeography gave him the
regions to represent. Pleistocene Refuge Theory pointed him toward


Chapter 2

Tracing the Landscape of Biological Value

the best areas to protect within those regions. Now Island
Biogeography Theory gave him a guide to the size of the reserves.

Wetterberg was fortunate to have this recent bloom of scientific
work to guide him, but science is seldom useful to policy makers in
its pure form: it is seldom as conclusive as policy demands, and it fre-
quently points to politically improvident actions. The science
Wetterberg wished to use was no exception. One problem was with
Pleistocene Refuge Theory. Scientists using different life forms had
found evidence of greatly restricted distributions during the
Pleistocene, findings that seemed to support refuge theory. Yet each
of those life forms indicated a different pattern of refuges (figure
2.4). Working with lizards, Vanzolini found evidence of four large
refuges located on the periphery of the Amazon basin-three, in fact,
on the eastern slopes of the Andes. Prance's botanical evidence led
him to discern fourteen refuges scattered widely throughout the
basin and varying widely in size. Haffer's pattern based on bird dis-
tribution had little spatial overlap with the others.
If the forest had retreated to the few wet parts of the basin during
the Pleistocene, the evidence should have pointed to the same places.
The simplest explanation for the discrepancy was that the theory was
wrong: the forest had not retreated and fragmented. The mass of evi-
dence, however, seemed too substantial for it to have been wholly
wrong. Two other explanations allowed for the correctness of the
theory in spite of the spatial incongruity of the evidence. One was
that the rainforest had fragmented during the Pleistocene, but time
had erased the traces of the fragments, and the present distribution
of the supposed indicator species was due to not-yet-understood eco-
logical causes.34 The other was that the forest fragments had existed
and were reflected in present species distributions, but understanding
of the distributions was still too tentative to produce a coherent pic-
ture of the forest during the Pleistocene. Such inconsistencies were
common early in the development of general theory, and presumably
a coherent pattern of refuges would emerge with more species distri-
bution studies.35
Wetterberg could not wait for further research to clear up the
uncertainty, so he decided to accept areas identified by two or more
scientists as valid Pleistocene forest fragments. Wetterberg knew that


Chapter 2

Postulated Pleistocene Refuges: a. Identified by Vanzolini; b. Identified by
Brown; c. Identified by Prance; d. Identified by Haffer. Adapted from
Wetterberg et al., "Analysis of Nature Conservation"

chance alone would likely cause some overlap in the patterns, but he
assumed that if the forest had been fragmented during the
Pleistocene, areas where there was already some agreement among
scientists were more likely to have been fragments than areas where
there was none. He also reasoned that while the decision may have


Tracing the Landscape of Biological Value

(Figure 2.4, continued)

been outside the bounds of strict scientific reasoning, if refuge theory
was wrong or if the forest fragments were figments of incomplete
data, these areas were still highly diverse parts of the rainforest, so
preserving them would still advance biological conservation. In
short, Wetterberg assumed he had little to lose and much to gain by
using a tentative geography of Pleistocene refuges.
He next took the practical step of matching the eleven areas he
assumed were Pleistocene forest fragments against the development
poles of the Polamazonia program.36 He found overlap in only three


cases, and the overlap was only partial in all three. Even here,
Wetterberg suspected that conflict could be avoided because only
some parts of any pole would be transformed by the development
program. For example, RADAM judged the high Uopiane and
Pacaas Novos massifs, near the very center of the Northwest
Development Pole in Rondonia, as unsuitable for almost all eco-
nomic activities:37 their elevation and rough topography made them
inaccessible, poor soils made them unsuitable for agriculture, and
even commercial ranching was deemed unfeasible. Likewise, the spa-
tial requirements of bauxite extraction and processing in the
Trombetas Pole in western Para were modest, and there were no
development plans whatsoever for much of the territory within the
official limits of the pole. Therefore the preservation in the
Pleistocene refuges, even those near areas of planned development,
would involve few costs in forgone economic opportunities.
Island Biogeography Theory posed its own problems as a basis of
policy. First, it had attracted vociferous criticism from the beginning;
Simberloff, Abele, and others faulted the theory for failing to take
full account of habitat diversity and the chance accumulation of
localized flora and fauna in explaining species distribution.38
According to Abele and Connor, this failing left the entire theoretical
edifice as "simply a formalization of the observation that large areas
usually contain more species than small areas."39 Field studies by the
theory's critics found less of a relationship between area, degree of
isolation, and species diversity than Terborgh and other supporters
of the theory had found. Lynch and Johnson asserted that much of
the species loss on the Channel Islands, which Diamond had
attributed to relaxation, was due to human action.40 Armed with this
work, the theory's detractors attacked its usefulness as a conserva-
tion guide, arguing that in many cases, size was a less important
determinant of an area's biological worth than habitat characteristics
or the presence of unique species. Conservationists, they concluded,
should concentrate on saving as many diverse habitats and unique
species as possible, even if this meant smaller protected areas or less
total area protected within a region.41
Therefore while Pleistocene Refuge Theory appeared to be an
immature but basically valid theory, Island Biogeography Theory's
inherent capacity to advance understanding of the biological world
or to produce useful conservation guidelines was still in dispute
among reputable scientists. Using Pleistocene Refuge Theory required


Chapter 2

Tracing the Landscape of Biological Value

some improvising but using Island Biogeography Theory required an
act of faith. Also, whereas negative consequences of embracing
Refuge Theory were likely to be slight if it turned out to be incorrect,
if Island Biogeography Theory was wrong about the optimal size and
number of protected areas and the criteria to be used in selecting
them, the consequences could be serious.
Second, while the Island Biogeography Theory's posited species-
area relationship implied that bigger reserves were better than small
ones (as a rough rule of thumb, each tenfold increase in area would
double the number of species held in equilibrium) the theory could
not say how large a reserve should be; only once it had been decided
on some extrinsic criterion how many species should be protected
and what were acceptable rates of species loss could the theory be
employed to determine how large a protected natural area should be.
Wetterberg weighed the arguments and concluded that those in
favor of Island Biogeography Theory were convincing enough to jus-
tify giving priority to the establishment of a few large reserves.42 The
decision was almost as much an act of faith as a scientific judgment,
but it was buttressed by other lines of reasoning. In 1971 Richards
had pointed out that large ranges and low densities of many rainfor-
est animals meant that only large reserves would be able to maintain
breeding populations. Two years later Fittkau and Klinge braced that
argument when they determined that a typical hectare of upland
rainforest contains 900 metric tons of plant biomass but only about
0.2 tons of animal biomass.43 By the mid-1970s, most conservation-
ists assumed areas that aimed at protecting whole rainforest eco-
systems would have to be very large.
The question of acceptable rate of loss ultimately turned on the
nature of the future and on the present's responsibility to it. While
Island Biogeography Theory did not directly address these questions,
its implication that an isolated reserve would become biologically
impoverished over time, and its calculation of rates of loss in cen-
turies and millennia, led conservationists to think of the far future,
and to think of it as a place where the negative consequences of pres-
ent actions with regard to the globe's biological endowment would
accumulate.44 There was thus a strong synchrony between the new
vision of the future that grew up with the ecological critique and the
implicit dictates of Island Biogeography Theory; both forced the long
term into the pale of conservation concern.
The literature of Island Biogeography Theory also supplied a use-


ful specific number. Terborgh had calculated from his work on rain-
forest birds of the neotropics that a forest patch of 259,000 hectares
would lose no more than 1 percent of its bird species per century.45
Wetterberg knew of no work on the range of large rainforest mam-
mals, but he inferred from work done on wolves, grizzly bears, and
mountain lions in North America that an area of this size was prob-
ably sufficient to maintain breeding populations of large rainforest
fauna such as jaguars, as well as the bird populations on which
Terborgh had made his estimates.46 Wetterberg also intuitively felt
that Terborgh's rate, which measured appreciable species loss in cen-
turies, was a sufficiently provident basis for policy, and he under-
stood that just the appearance of the number in the scientific litera-
ture made it a firm peg on which to hang a policy decision.47
He decided to propose 259,000 hectares as the minimum necessary
size for a reserve that would represent a major forest region. Since
Island Biogeography Theory implied that a protected area would bet-
ter retain its species if the hospitality of its immediate surroundings
was maintained, and recent experience in other Latin American coun-
tries had shown the value of a buffer around parks and reserves to
protect them from squatters,48 he also decided to propose a ten-kilo-
meter protective strip around this 259,000-hectare core area, which
brought the total minimum area to be protected to approximately
500,000 hectares.49 Wetterberg argued that while this would be a
very large area to set aside in other parts of the world, in Amazonia
there was still room and time to preserve nature on such a scale.
Two other problems arose once the decision was made to use
Island Biogeography Theory as a key policy prop. First, one of points
raised by the theory's critics was an undeniable fact, if not necessar-
ily a damning criticism. It had become axiomatic that samples of all
important biogeographic regions and biological communities should
be placed under public protection, but turning this into operating
principles was difficult.50 At the level of the species and community,
the natural world seemed more characterized by gradation than by
abrupt breaks, so a conservation planner faced the question of how
many reserves were needed to do justice to variation within a region.
The question was acute in Amazonia, where variation was usually
subtle and so little was known about changes in species composition
over space, but Island Biogeography Theory could not help deal with
it; the logical edifice rested on the assumption of uniform conditions.
Without any guidance from the theory or other elements of the con-

Chapter 2


Tracing the Landscape of Biological Value

servation literature,s1 Wetterberg decided to propose two representa-
tive reserves for each of Prance's regions. He reasoned that a second
large reserve, distant from the first, would provide a hedge against
chance biological misfortune, as well as protect additional species.
He also judged two large reserves politically within reach, while
more might not be.s2
Second, even among Island Biogeography Theory's strongest pro-
ponents there was little disagreement on the need to preserve the
smaller, biologically special areas so valued by the theory's detrac-
tors. Terborgh, who had done much to promote Island Biogeography
Theory as a basis for conservation policy, argued that special vegeta-
tion communities like bogs, oases, and coastal habitats; areas of spe-
cial faunal importance like turtle nesting beaches, bird migration
funnels, rookeries; and rare, highly localized plants had to be pro-
tected in small, sometimes actively managed reserves.53 Island
Biogeography Theory, with its stress on uniform habitat and cos-
mopolitan species, could provide little insight into how policy for
such areas should be formulated. A set of guidelines based on other
principles was needed, but there was none in the scientific or con-
servation literature. Prescriptions for such areas were inevitably indi-
vidualistic, based on unique biological characteristics, and not useful
in fashioning a policy for a whole class of areas a priori. Wetterberg
was forced to accommodate the special areas in an intuitive fashion.
He decided to propose allowing twenty of these smaller reserves,
averaging 100,000 hectares, to protect the important places neither
Island Biogeography Theory nor his emphasis on representing the
dominant ecosystems of the regions had led him to.
With these decisions Wetterberg had fashioned science into a
coherent approach to Amazon conservation squarely within the
mainstream of wider conservation thought, but there were two fur-
ther problems. The first was a logical outgrowth of the science he
had used: two of Prance's phytogeographic regions, Jari-Trombetas
and Roraima, contained no Pleistocene refuges, and only two of the
eight regions had two or more. Since preserving the best representa-
tives of regional ecosystems-not preserving Pleistocene refuges,
per se-was the mainspring of Wetterberg's approach, additional
selection criteria had to be found for six of Prance's regions.54
The second sprang from the fact that Amazonia was not a blank
slate from a conservation perspective. One large area, the recently
established Amazonia National Park, and several smaller areas,


mostly turtle nesting sites along the tributaries of the Amazon River,
were already under the protection of the Brazilian forestry institute.
There were also the forest reserves President Quadros had estab-
lished almost fifteen years earlier. Ignored by the forest code of 1967,
they were in an administrative limbo, but they did exist on paper. In
addition, many proposals for protecting areas of Amazonia had been
advanced over the years. The RADAM program had identified areas
it deemed appropriate for national parks on its maps of Amazonia.
Some proposals had been advanced by individual scientists or had
grown out of past surveys of Brazil's conservation needs.
The biological value of many of the areas in question was slight or
uncertain, and Wetterberg was led to few of them by his own selec-
tion criteria. Amazonia National Park, for example, owed little to
ecological values. INCRA, when asked to cooperate with the IBDF in
the establishment of the park, decided that it could spare a million
hectares from projects in the Itaituba region, so that would be the
size of the park. Once this was determined, the park's boundaries
were drawn to keep it away from the Transamazon Highway and the
Tapaj6s River, and therefore out of the way of regional economic
development.55ss Preservation also tended to be a residual category for
RADAM. Although some of the smaller sites it recommended pre-
serving had important biological features, the larger areas were gen-
erally picked because they were remote from development projects
and unsuited for agriculture. The biological reasons RADAM gave
for its larger selections were usually post hoc.56
If Wetterberg made allowances for these areas, their mediocrity
and ragtag eclecticism would undercut the rigor of his approach,
debasing it in the eyes of his primary clients, the military and techno-
cratic elite, and clouding the clear policy trajectory he hoped to
establish. On the other hand, it was unwise to ignore them. The IBDF
was committed to Amazonia National Park. RADAM was a favored,
high-priority project. Some of the proposals enjoyed the sponsorship
of prominent scientists or conservationists. Ignoring them would
thus risk alienating those whose cooperation might be crucial in
implementing his proposals. Furthermore, while many of the propos-
als had only slight scientific justification, some were more solid, and
taken together they did represent a wide range of conservation
thought and values. Excluding them from his planning would be at
least arrogant.
Wetterberg solved both problems with a priority system. Eleven
areas identified as Pleistocene forest fragments by two or more scien-


Chapter 2

Tracing the Landscape of Biological Value

tists would get top priority for protected status. Five additional areas
identified as likely fragments by only one scientist, but suspected of
exceptional biological value on the basis of other evidence, were
assigned second priority. Third priority went to the old forest
reserves and to all areas proposed for protection by a credible source.
Twenty-three areas were placed in this category, although Wetterberg
intended it to be an open-ended group to which new proposals could
be added as they were formulated. Wetterberg stressed that second-
or third-priority status did not mean innate inferiority, but rather
that an area did not pass muster on the criteria he thought should be
at the heart of conservation policy for the region.57
The priority system allowed Wetterberg to emphasize the primacy
of science in a systematic approach to conservation while at the same
time circumventing the practical limits of the approach: the
identification of an insufficient number of areas to protect, the alien-
ation of elements of the conservation and scientific communities, and
the exclusion of alternative but perhaps valid selection criteria.
Combined, the three priority groups contained at least three and as
many as eleven areas in each of Prance's regions (table 2.1, figure
2.5). This would mean a surplus to choose from. If Wetterberg's pro-
posal ever led to the actual selection of reserves, it would give play to
the pragmatism and flexibility Miller had insisted were necessary in
building a successful conservation program.58
Wetterberg felt he could not concentrate exclusively on protected
natural areas, however; embedding them in a broader regional plan
for conservation seemed essential. Miller's argument that conserva-
tion would be successful only if its compass included areas beyond
parks and reserves had become part of prevailing conservation doctrine
in Latin America.s9 Wetterberg thought such measures especially
important in Amazonia for several reasons. First, a large number of
Amazon species had limited ranges, so any area of the forest was
likely to contain a number of species found there and nowhere else.60
Therefore even the most extensive set of protected areas could not,
by itself, prevent a large number of extinctions as the region became
Second, Island Biogeography Theory implied that outside condi-
tions had a great bearing on the capacity of parks and reserves to
maintain the species they protected. If the surrounding area became
very dissimilar to the reserve, the latter would become the equivalent
of a newly isolated island. The process of relaxation would set in and
would continue until a new, lower equilibrium and a less diverse

Priority Conservation Areas by Phytogeographic Region

Phytogeographic First Second State, Territory Number of Third
Region Priority Areas Priority Areas or Country Priority Areas

Atlantic Coast Bacia do Capim



Upper Rio Negro

Guiana Shield
Ponta do Flechal


Pico da Neblina

Solim6es- Cutiuaia
Amazonas Loreto
Northern Napo

Southwest Southern Napo
Serra do Divisor
Serra das Oncas

Cabo Orange Amapa
Marabi Para
Surinam/French Guyana
Para/Mato Grosso/
Upper Xingu Mato Grosso
Caxiauia Amazonas
Panauia Amazonas
Rondonia/Mato Grosso
Parecis Rond6nia

Source: Wetterberg et al., "Analysis of Nature Conservation," p. 23.

complement of species was reached.61 Diamond recognized this as an
especially severe problem in the tropical rainforest, where so many
species, adapted to the stable conditions within the forest, were slow
dispersers and inefficient colonizers.62 Maintaining at least an element
of similarity between the reserve and surrounding lands would help
the protected areas slow the species loss that Island Biogeography
Theory argued was the fate of any isolated biological community. It
would also allow fauna in the protected areas to forage beyond their
boundaries and thereby maintain a larger population than would be
possible on just the resources within the protected areas themselves.
Finally, protected natural areas in Amazonia would not be isolated
from their surroundings by elevation or other natural barriers; most









Chapter 2

Tracing the Landscape of Biological Value

First- and Second-Priority Conservation Areas. Adapted from Wetterberg et al.,
"Analysis of Nature Conservation"

would simply be demarcated areas. This would leave them greatly
exposed to human activity around them: pesticides and herbicides
could contaminate their air and water; exotic, weedy species that
accompanied agriculture could invade them; increases in the human
population could bring squatter invasions and hunting forays.
Wetterberg therefore concluded that the establishment of pro-
tected areas should be accompanied by conservation measures for
the entire region:63 greater efforts to enforce hunting regulations
throughout Amazonia; the management of Amazonia's commercial
forests on a sustained-use basis; the prohibition of large-scale defor-
estation or the introduction of exotic species; the institution of a
national bird banding program; and the establishment of incentives
for landowners to manage their land for conservation values. He also
decided to recommend such indirect measures as adding conserva-
tion to the public school curriculum and training rural police in the
enforcement of conservation laws.

Wetterberg had decided on the essentials of his proposal by late
1975, although his doubts about some of the science on which it


Chapter 2

rested and about the way he had fashioned science into policy made
him hesitant to fully commit to it.64 As Miller and his own experi-
ence had taught him, however, it was impossible to wait until every-
thing was known; one had to use the best current information and
build enough flexibility into plans to accommodate new knowledge.
Wetterberg satisfied himself that he had done this by early 1976, so
he circulated a short report spelling out his proposed approach
among a few scientists, conservationists, and public officials.
The reception was positive, in large measure because Brazilian
conservationists were ready for its message. The connections between
Brazilian conservationists and the international conservation move-
ment had became substantial in the 1960s; Jose Candido de Melo
Carvalho became the director of the Brazilian Foundation for the
Conservation of Nature (FBCN) in 1966, and under him the FBCN
became an important link between Brazilians and the international
conservationists.6s New doctrine flowed into Brazil as a result of
these links, and awareness of Brazilian problems increased abroad.
Sensitized to conservation theory's increasingly ecological perspec-
tive, Brazilian conservationists had turned their attention to
Amazonia. This and the Campo Cerrado woodlands south of it were
the only two regions of Brazil where the preservation of major,
undisturbed ecosystems was possible. Elsewhere, the landscape was
largely the product of human activity. It might be possible to protect
small, unique ecosystems or populations of important species on
these altered landscapes, but only through intensive management.66
IBDF officials were especially receptive to the report. Amazon con-
servation was squarely within the agency's pale of responsibility. As
part of a reorganization of the federal bureaucracy in 1967, the old,
ineffectual Forest Service was replaced with the larger and more
powerful Institute of Forest Development. As its name implied, the
new agency was to actively manage the nation's forests to make them
contribute to national development, but responsibility for the
national parks, biological reserves, and several non-site-specific pro-
tection programs was also given to it.67
Carvalho became one of the chief advisors to the IBDF president,
and through him international conservation doctrine flowed into the
institute as well as into private Brazilian conservation organizations.
The IBDF's 1969 report on Brazil's conservation needs showed the
degree to which the IBDF and international thought were in align-
ment by that time. It asserted that protecting representative samples


Tracing the Landscape of Biological Value

of Amazonia's major ecosystems was a top national conservation pri-
ority, and while the report recommended no specific minimum size
(there were no firm guides to size yet) it argued that the protected
areas had to be large enough to maintain entire biological communi-
ties.68 Because the Brazilian government as a whole gave little atten-
tion to biological conservation in the years before the Stockholm
Conference, neither the report nor the thinking behind it had any
impact on public policy. The report itself sank into obscurity, and the
national park system floundered without a sense of direction.69
Increasingly, however, signs from elsewhere within the federal gov-
ernment pointed to a more favorable top-level disposition toward
conservation: Brazil had signed an accord with Colombia to suppress
the pelt trade in endangered species in 1973, and the president of the
republic, the minister of interior, and several other high government
officials had taken part in the impressive dedication ceremonies
establishing Amazonia National Park in 1974. Brazil signed an
accord with Peru to suppress the pelt trade and ratified the Inter-
national Convention on Endangered Species (CITES) in 1975. The
IBDF now sensed the time was right for a new, ambitious conserva-
tion initiative, and Wetterberg's report was the ideal basis for one.
The agency asked Wetterberg to help it develop a specific program
based on his report. Since IBDF sponsorship would give him the
chance to put his ideas into practice, Wetterberg accepted and shifted
his base from Manaus to the institute's headquarters in Brasilia.



The Mosaic of Opportunity

When Wetterberg arrived in Brasilia in early 1976, he met Maria
Tereza Jorge Padua, a young administrator rising through the IBDF's
ranks and a conservation advocate. Politically shrewd, she worked
with Wetterberg during 1976, helping him deepen the political and
pragmatic dimensions of his work.1 Aligning conservation with the
dominant values of the government was the most important political
task during the early, formative stages of conservation planning for
Amazonia, but now a more delicate task arose: fitting conservation's
ambition to the political space and energy available to it. If the limits
of the possible were undershot, conservation might fail to save what
was within its grasp. If the limits were overstepped, the opportunity
to fill the last great gap in South American conservation might be lost.
To Jorge Pidua and other Brazilian conservationists, the limits
appeared broader than ever before. While the military government
had not put conservation at the forefront of its concerns, especially
in the years before the Stockholm Conference, it did make changes
that, while aimed at other ends, laid the administrative and political
groundwork for a substantial program of Amazon conservation.
First, as part of a general effort to mold the nation's legal code into
an instrument of development, the disjointed and often contradictory
forest legislation that had accumulated over the preceding several
decades was replaced by a new and strengthened forest code in
1965.2 The new code's restrictions on deforestation expanded earlier
legislation: it was now illegal to clear forest from steep slopes, near
springs, along river banks, and on the margins of lakes, even on pri-
vate land; landowners could clear no more than 50 percent of the
forests on their land. A companion faunal protection code was
passed two years later.3 It declared all wild animals government
property and outlawed professional hunting, the pelt trade, and the


The Mosaic of Opportunity

export of any products made from wild animals. These reforms gave
biological conservation a strong grounding in federal law.4
Second, in 1971, the federal government had assumed ownership of
all state lands in Amazonia within 100 kilometers of any federal road
and within 150 kilometers of an international boundary, 311 million
hectares in all.s The move was intended to secure the national fron-
tiers and give INCRA, the newly formed National Institute of Colo-
nization and Agrarian Reform, a sufficient land base for the coloniza-
tion component of the PIN program; it also gave the federal government
an ample land base for an ambitious conservation program.
Finally, the new federal-state relationship that evolved under mili-
tary government provided a more favorable political climate for
Amazon conservation. From the nineteenth century onward, national
politics included a large measure of respect for the interests of the
regional elites; even the strongman Getuilio Vargas was careful to
respect them.6 This aligned the actions of the federal government
within a state with the wishes of the state's politically powerful, or at
least insured that such actions seldom went directly against those wishes.
Historically, nature protection was a political issue only in the
urbanized South, where there was a substantial middle class and a
style of pluralist politics that made politicians somewhat sensitive to
middle-class concerns. In Amazonia, the middle class was small and
the political system was less open to it. The traditional elite of the
region, largely merchants and those who controlled access to
Amazonia's natural wealth, had never been particularly mindful of
the resources on which their incomes were built.7 They viewed pub-
lic protection of nature as irrelevant, or even as a threat to their vital
interests. Consequently, most early federal conservation initiatives
had been directed toward the South, where they had local support.8
Lacking such support in Amazonia, the federal government's ability
to protect nature in the region was limited.
When the national legislature was vitiated in the aftermath of the
1964 coup, much of the direct political power of the regional elites
was destroyed, tilting the federal-state relationship sharply in favor
of the federal government.9 The military regime also instituted a tax
reform that concentrated more power over the public fisc at the
national level and made the states dependent on the federal govern-
ment for much of their budgets, and especially for capital spending.
With these changes, the power of state interests to determine the
nature of federal activities within their states was greatly reduced.


With Jorge Padua's encouragement, Wetterberg's ambitions for
conservation expanded to fill the large political space that appeared
open to them. He would recommend three rather than two large
reserves for each of Prance's bioregions. He would recommend
twenty-four rather than twenty smaller protected areas for Amazonia
as a whole.
He also increased his plan's flexibility by adding more candidates
for protected-area status. In 1975, Brown delineated a set of Pleisto-
cene forest fragments based on his research on butterflies, adding
another voice of support to Pleistocene Refuge Theory and more
Pleistocene forest fragments.10 Brown's fragments allowed Wetterberg
to expand his first-priority category to fifteen areas and his second to
seven. As Wetterberg uncovered more areas recommended for pro-
tection by outside sources, he increased his third-priority category
from twenty-three to forty-two areas. The total number of candidate
areas for protected status rose to sixty-four.
These refinements were incorporated in a second report, "An
Analysis of Nature Conservation Priorities in the Amazon," published
jointly by the IBDF, the FAO, and the UNDP in late 1976.
"Analysis" was both original and faithful to the principles of main-
stream international conservation.11 The tone of the report was sci-
entific, emphasizing the science used in determining minimum size
and selecting the priority areas. The report was biocentric in its val-
ues, stressing that all protected-area selections should be made pri-
marily on biological criteria. But "Analysis" was also a politically
attuned document, playing down the less systematic elements of the
approach so as to not detract from the impression of internal logic it
hoped to project.
The report deviated from Miller's principles in one important way.
Rather than detailing the broader conservation measures Wetterberg
thought should be taken in Amazonia, the report simply asserted that
a system of protected areas was but "one aspect of land-use manage-
ment that must be complemented by other environmentally compati-
ble land uses."12 Jorge Padua deemed it unwise to stress conservation
measures for all Brazilian Amazonia. Establishing national parks and
biological reserves was a clearer part of the IBDF's legal mandate
than were more general measures, and therefore a report focusing on
the former was more likely to be favorably received by top adminis-
trators. Wetterberg was not happy with mere generalities, but he
accepted the political need for them. The managers of the IBDF's

Chapter 3


The Mosaic of Opportunity

national park system had become the principal clients for his plan-
ning and the instruments of its implementation. As Wetterberg later
recounted, "Their mandate...did not extend beyond protected
areas. We had to give them the pieces they could use."13
Several thousand copies of the report were printed in Portuguese
by the IBDF and distributed in Brazil while the FAO published addi-
tional copies in English and distributed them internationally. The
report was enthusiastically received, especially among scientists.
Many of the prominent figures in Amazon research and conservation
responded in writing, and while some questioned details, none took
issue with the basic approach.14 Terborgh wrote that if Brazil imple-
mented the plan it recommended, it would take a large step toward
the best system of protected natural areas in the world.15 The pro-
posal received additional credibility and prestige when the Inter-
governmental Technical Group on the Protection and Management
of Amazon Flora and Fauna (CIT), an international steering body for
Amazon conservation representing all the nations with territory in
Amazonia, accepted it as a model for conservation planning through-
out the basin.
The military government approved the report in late 1976, and its
acceptance throughout the federal bureaucracy ensued.16 The forestry
section of the Second Amazon Development Plan was rewritten in
1977 to allow large areas of Amazonia to be set aside "according to
the recommendations" of the report. RADAM, pleased by the inclu-
sion of so many areas it had identified for preservation, placed all the
priority areas on its own land-use suitability maps of Amazonia.
INCRA agreed to delineate the priority areas on its maps of land-use
potential and to give the IBDF access to its own data on the areas.17
Taken together, these actions placed the IBDF's areas of conservation
interest in front of those who would plan the region's future.

The next step was drawing up a slate of specific proposals. The
biological underpinning of "Analysis" was a mix of theory and non-
judgmental eclecticism, in part because so little was known about
Amazon biology. Specific proposals for protected areas would have
to be grounded in specific knowledge, however. Some high-priority
areas probably did not have the outstanding natural qualities they
were suspected of having. Some were probably already so altered


that protecting them would not be worthwhile. On the other hand,
some low-priority areas probably had unsuspected biological virtues.
Because the program, even under the best of circumstances, could
bring only a small percentage of the region under public protection,
the opportunity costs of picking the wrong areas could be high. From
this stage onward, natural history would eclipse high-level theory as
a factor in the IBDF's conservation decisions.18
This stage also posed a new set of political considerations. Those
informing "Analysis" were general, focusing on images and orienta-
tion and adjusting ambitions to the perceived level of political recep-
tivity. A slate of proposals would involve a far more specific set of
political considerations. Parts of Amazonia were already occupied.
Much more of it was already the object of powerful interests and
ambitions. Each set of actors in Amazonia had its own types of power.
The strength and character of these interests, as they expressed them-
selves in each priority area identified in "Analysis," had to be assessed
before conservation plans for Amazonia could take definite forms.
One of the most perplexing elements of the equation was the
caboclos, or the Amazon peasantry, and the more recently arrived
poor settlers from elsewhere in Brazil. Portuguese-speaking and
Catholic in belief, but retaining many elements of indigenous mate-
rial culture, caboclos lived along the watercourses of the region in
small family groups. They raised crops in small forest clearings and
cattle on wet grasslands and natural upland prairies.19 They fished
the rivers and lakes, and they collected wild fruits, tapped rubber
trees, and hunted in the forest around them. Some cut commercially
valuable trees on the vdrzeas, the seasonally inundated bottomlands,
and in the more accessible parts of the upland forests. They traded
forest products for commercial goods at small trading posts or with
itinerant merchants who plied the rivers of the basin, but the low
population densities meant inefficient, monopolistic collection and
distribution and usually kept the caboclos impoverished.
Where new roads and other development initiatives had pene-
trated, caboclos were joined by poor settlers from other parts of
Brazil.20 The settlement frontier had reached well into the eastern
and southern flanks of Amazonia by the 1960s. The lure of the PIN
program increased the flow of settlers in the early 1970s, mostly
from the closing frontiers in the South and from the poor, overpopu-
lated Northeast. According to one analyst, for every family brought
to Amazonia by INCRA, another five came on their own during the


Chapter 3

The Mosaic of Opportunity

PIN era. In all, perhaps a million and a half migrants came to the
region during the early 1970s.21 The immigration of small-scale
farmers was no longer officially encouraged after the demise of
PIN,22 but many came anyway; the promise of available land and the
opportunity for a new life remained strong lures.
Some were lucky enough to find places in the remaining govern-
ment-sponsored schemes. Some were hired for clearing gangs on the
new large farms and cattle enterprises. Some made arrangements
with ranch managers by which they would be allowed to grow crops
for a time in return for clearing the land, and after the arrangement
expired, they looked for a similar arrangement elsewhere. Most simply
found unoccupied land and begin farming it. Secondary roads in
developing areas were dotted with the untitled homesteads of poor,
recent arrivals.
Fitting caboclos and small settlers into conservation planning was a
problem with many dimensions. They could not be ignored because
native lifeways were destructive to wildlife, which like the land itself,
was viewed as common property. Manatee populations were a frac-
tion of what they had been a century earlier, a testament to the hunt-
ing pressure that even relatively small numbers of caboclos could
bring on a species. Thanks also to caboclos (and to the markets they
served), the large turtles were now gone from the Amazon River and
most of its major tributaries, and many fish species were becoming
rare. Selective cutting of commercially valuable tree species such as
rosewood (a source of linalool, a perfume ingredient) had led to
widespread depletions. New settlers presented a similar threat
because they frequently adopted similar attitudes and behavior
toward the region's wildlife.
On the other hand, caboclos and poor settlers could not simply be
removed; a law prohibiting the uncompensated expulsion of caboc-
los from the land they occupied "by custom" had been in effect since
the nineteenth century.23 The military government and its economic
advisors were disdainful of squatters' rights (which devalued land as
a market commodity, impeded accumulation of the large blocks of
land necessary for commercial agriculture, and discouraged the capi-
tal investments on which modern agriculture relied) but they were
careful not to tamper with them. Historically, the frontier had been a
safety valve for those dissatisfied with the socioeconomic order else-
where in rural Brazil, and squatters' rights were an essential part of
this function of the frontier.24 A vague responsibility for the security


of small farmers and caboclos went along with INCRA's manage-
ment of rural colonization, so these groups also had some measure of
formal representation in the federal bureaucracy.25
Rights and administrative protection were often vitiated by politi-
cal reality. The suspension of democracy deprived poor rural people
of their vote, and the military had moved against the rural unions
that had formed in the years before it came to power. These steps
deprived caboclos and small settlers of what little political leverage
they had. Low-density settlement patterns, an atomized social struc-
ture, and the absence of institutions that might have served as a cat-
alyst for collective action compounded the problems of political
articulation for the caboclos. Small settlers were further hindered by
a landscape that made few provisions for them and, in the case of the
newest arrivals, by their lack of legal rights to the land they occupied.
Accordingly, INCRA and other settlement agencies in Amazonia sel-
dom vigorously discharged their responsibilities to small settlers or
caboclos, especially when they got in the way of well-funded private
development initiatives. INCRA predictably sided with large owners
when they were in conflict with small settlers. Whenever possible, the
agency found alternate lands for settlers, but it was not above
forcible expulsion.26
Nevertheless, caboclos did have the power to create what the gov-
ernment euphemistically called "social tensions" by violently pro-
testing their treatment at the hands of government or private forces
of development. Government agencies, especially INCRA, could find
themselves in trouble if they allowed such tensions to develop. When
settler unrest on the Araguaia-Tocantins frontier in the late 1970s
boiled over into violence, INCRA's responsibilities in the area were
transferred to a special agency, which took over INCRA personnel
and answered directly to the National Security Council.27 The slap in
the face demonstrated that sometimes government agencies had to be
mindful of even lowly small farmers and caboclos.
The problem of finding these people further complicated all calcu-
lations. Unlike most peasants worldwide, caboclos seldom had
strong attachments to particular sites and frequently moved along
the watercourses of Amazonia in search of better opportunities. The
lack of extensive kin ties or complex social organization among
caboclos heightened the problem of determining their numbers or
exact locations: there were few local informants with an extensive
knowledge of a region's inhabitants.28 Frequently the little informa-


Chapter 3

The Mosaic of Opportunity

tion available was inaccurate or, given the mobility of caboclos, out of
date. Similar problems prevailed with regard to more recently arrived
small settlers, many of whom also relocated frequently. Moreover,
many of the newcomers did not have rights to their lands, and were
not anxious to make their presence known to government officials.
Tribal Indians were another important and, from a conservation
perspective, perplexing element of the human landscape of Amazonia.
When Europeans penetrated Amazonia in the sixteenth and seven-
teenth centuries, they destroyed the advanced Indian cultures they
found along the major rivers, but less advanced Indian groups sur-
vived for centuries in more remote areas. The twentieth century was
even less hospitable to Indians than previous ones had been: whole
tribes were eliminated through deculturation or extirpation. The
number of extant tribes had been reduced to 143 by 1957, and that
number had been halved by the mid-1970s. Yet tribal life continued
in areas distant from the main axes of transportation and develop-
ment. In some cases, the tribes formed tenuous commercial links to
the national economy (through pelt traders, for example) but others
had no contact with whites, or only fleeting, intermittent contact.29
The idea of allowing indigenous peoples to remain in protected
natural areas was being discussed with enthusiasm in international
conservation circles in the 1970s; Indians left in protected areas
would, so the argument went, be protected against the depredations
of settlers, while the Indians, in turn, would protect the natural
areas.30 Such an arrangement went against the conventional norms
of development, however, which viewed indigenous cultures as pris-
ons of backwardness.31 This was the orthodox thinking in South
America, even among conservationists. At the Second World Confer-
ence on National Parks in 1972, Carvalho argued against mixed
Indian and nature reserves because they would retard integration and
thus be unfair to the Indians.32 They also seemed unwise from a con-
servation perspective. Latin American history seemed to teach that
Indians were inevitably deculturated by contact with national culture
and that such contact was inevitable. Latin American conservation-
ists felt that deculturation, even in its early stages, made Indians a
threat to nature. The Argentine Italo Constantino had argued in
1972 that modern weaponry made it easier for natives to kill ani-
mals, and the intrusion of the national economy and culture into
their lives was "an inducement to kill and capture more of them."33
While the integrationist policies Carvalho espoused lost favor with


Chapter 3

many in Latin America, just as they had elsewhere, objections to mix-
ing Indians and conservation remained. Brazilian conservationists had
seen pelt and hide merchants establish commercial links with tribes in
the remotest areas of Amazonia and felt it was only a matter of time
before all Indians became what Carvalho called "authentic predators
and destroyers of the environment." Nogueira-Neto, secretary of the
environment, felt that once Indians were exposed to whites, they
became "bellicose, unreasonable, and impossible to deal with."34
Thus, prevailing opinion among Brazilian conservationists in the
late 1970s was that the protection of indigenous cultures and biolog-
ical conservation, while perhaps having a conceptual symmetry, did
not mix in Amazonia.
Therefore, like the caboclos and small settlers, Indians were seen
as a threat to the region's biota and conservationists could not ignore
them. Yet dealing with Indians, like dealing with caboclos and small
settlers, was not simple. Indians had their own rights to land outside
the legal titling process. Brazil had ratified the convention of the
International Labor Organization in the 1950s, which stated that
aboriginal peoples should be left in control of their ancestral lands.
The right was embedded in the Brazilian constitution of 1967, which
guaranteed Indians exclusive use of the lands they occupied. The
Indians also had a federal agency, the National Indian Foundation
(FUNAI), charged with protecting their rights. Shortly after the
agency's establishment in 1967, its leadership, with strong connec-
tions to the anthropological community and sensitive to the plight of
Indians in Amazonia, instituted a program to find all Indians and
identify and protect their lands.35
Here too political reality often vitiated official rights. The policy of
protecting Indian lands aroused broad opposition: public planners
feared that large demarcated Indian reserves throughout Amazonia
would threaten their ability to acquire unfettered control of the vast
acreage needed for their development schemes; land speculators
feared it would reduce their field of operation. Moreover, FUNAI's
ministry, Interior, saw economic development as its job and was not
intrinsically sympathetic with the agency's goal of setting off Indian
lands. Within a few years of FUNAI's founding, its progressive, uni-
versity-based leadership had been replaced by military men for
whom national security and development were more important than
Indian welfare.36
In this political environment, identification and demarcation of


The Mosaic of Opportunity

Indian lands fell hopelessly behind schedule, leaving many-perhaps
most-Indians in Amazonia still without the benefit of protected
lands in the mid-1970s. Moreover, FUNAI seldom had sufficient per-
sonnel or political power to defend even demarcated Indian lands.
They were invaded with impunity, and when this provoked violent
resistance, FUNAI moved the Indians elsewhere.37 It could seldom
resolve disputes with development-promoting agencies in favor of
Indians; in one case, legal obstacles to the construction of a road
through an Indian reserve were overcome by simply extinguishing
part of the reserve. An impotent FUNAI was prey to corruption: its
program of certifying that no Indians were present in an area, a pre-
requisite for conveying public lands to a private owner, was routinely
undermined by bribery and other illegal entreaties.
FUNAI's performance, plus the fact that assimilation doctrine
remained popular at high levels of the federal government (the
Geisel administration proposed new measures in 1978 to speed
assimilation)38 made the tribal Indians of Amazonia appear to be a
modest and diminishing political force. Nevertheless, because their
rights to land were embedded in the federal constitution and Brazil's
international treaty obligations, Indians were not wholly without
weight in regional political equations. The question for conservation-
ists was how seriously those rights should be taken and how long
they would last.
The well-capitalized players in Amazon development-speculators,
large ranchers, commercial farmers-also had to be considered.
Ranching in Amazonia was little hampered by the shortage of labor
or lack of a large local market. The price of beef was usually high
enough to sustain the cost of transporting cattle to distant markets
on poor roads from isolated settlements on the frontier, and bull-
dozers and power saws made clearing forest for pasture far easier
than it had been in the days of the ax and handsaw.39 Moreover, the
FAO had estimated that global demand for beef would increase by
more than a third during the 1970s, and international development
agencies were heavily promoting cattle projects in tropical Latin
America.40 As Brazilian ranchers were joined by international corpo-
rations and their Brazilian subsidiaries in establishing new ranches, a
huge ranching region stretching from the eastern fringe of the rain-
forest in Para westward along the southern margin of the forest in
Mato Grosso began to form.
Large-scale commercial agriculture also made inroads into


Amazonia during the 1970s. Although agriculture did not have all
the inherent advantages of cattle ranching as a frontier activity-it
was more capital intensive and it needed better roads and access to
markets-well-capitalized farmers from other parts of Brazil rushed
to take advantage of Amazonia's low land prices. As a result, large
areas near Amazonia's new roads were transformed into agricultural
districts producing soybeans, sugar, and other plantation crops.
Speculators complemented and lubricated commercial land devel-
opment. During the early 1960s investment in the newly accessible
areas of Amazonia seemed like a good hedge against the political
uncertainties and inflation of the era. Many of those investments
paid off spectacularly, as land on the margins of Amazonia rapidly
appreciated in value with the stability and economic growth in the
late 1960s. During the miracle of the 1960s and 1970s, speculation
in Amazon land was an outlet for profits made in southern industry,
and it remained a hedge against inflation, which was never fully
brought under control.
The private forces of development in Amazonia could bring con-
siderable power to bear on local decisions. Ranchers, commercial
farmers, and speculators had the money and connections to make
their way in the unsettled arena of local-interest conflict. They bribed
state officials into registering false claims, hired gunmen to take land
they wanted by force, and exercised strong influence on the local
judiciary. More power came from the conformity of their goals to
what the government saw as important public ones. Brazil's eco-
nomic planners hoped to double Brazil's beef production, enabling
the country to become the world's leading beef exporter by 1980,
and Amazonia had a large role in meeting these goals. Farming in
Amazonia was producing soybeans for export and sugarcane to be
turned into the biogas that reduced Brazil's costly dependence on for-
eign petroleum. The conversion of Amazonia into a settled region
secured the nation's claims to it.
Government supported these interests. The federal government
sold public land at low prices to ranchers, allowed them liberal tax
write-offs for their investments in land and stock, and subsidized the
construction of meat packing plants in Amazonia. Cattle ranching
was allowed to capture more than half of the economic development
incentives offered by SUDAM between 1970 and 1973, and addi-
tional incentives were captured by commercial crop raising.41 The
state of Para offered its own incentives for opening new lands to
commercial ranching and farming.


Chapter 3

The Mosaic of Opportunity

Yet government had a large say in determining where and how
these interests would express themselves. State and federally con-
structed roads gave speculative value to land and permitted farmers
to market their crops. Government subsidies set the parameters of
investment and profit. Federal officials used infrastructure planning
and fiscal incentives to funnel private investment into areas where
they thought it would do the most good. Thus, from a conservation
perspective, the key question with regard to these interests was not
how much power they had-that was clear-but rather how govern-
ment action would shape the expression of that power.
A final consideration-and further uncertainty-arose from land
ownership in Amazonia. Although much of Amazonia was already in
private hands, which parts were in whose hands was not always
clear. Most of Amazonia was originally given over to private owners
in enormous patents by the Portuguese crown, but land ownership
was relatively unimportant to any of the participants in the economy
that evolved there in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; access
to the caboclo as producer and consumer, not the ownership of land,
drove the system. Land was so plentiful it was treated like a free
good.42 As a consequence, title records were allowed to fall into a
chaotic state. Several national land inventories were conducted in the
nineteenth century, and although they only noted de facto posses-
sion, they assumed a quasi-legal status over the years. The states of
Amazonia had accumulated vast amounts of land through patent
cancellations and other types of ownership lapses, but they seldom
had a good idea of exactly which lands they owned. Even as late as
the decade after the Second World War, land in most of Amazonia
had so little market value this confusion caused little concern.43 By
the early 1960s, however, inflation and increasing accessibility
caused demand for titles to swamp titling mechanisms.44 Two or
more titles to the same tract were sometimes issued out of incompe-
tence or corruption. Sometimes overlapping titles were issued.
Sometimes dubious old titles suddenly appeared. Investment and
development pressure was so great that it simply overflowed the con-
fused titling process: many large holdings without clear title were the
object of capital improvement loans made by the Amazon develop-
ment bank; others received tax breaks under SUDAM's development
incentive programs. When the federal government took control of
large amounts of public land in Amazonia in 1971, another set of
bureaucratic actors and another layer of confusion were added.45
Although complex and sometimes ambiguous, these factors were


not abstract. Each interest expressed itself in a concrete fashion:
Indians, small settlers, and caboclos were present in some areas and
absent in others; land speculation had reached some areas of
Amazonia but not others. Some areas were being rapidly trans-
formed into ranching and agricultural districts, while others were
untouched by these processes. This meant a unique political calcula-
tion had to be made for each area under consideration. Jorge Padua
and Wetterberg assumed that the strong hand of the federal govern-
ment, with its ascending power and its commitment to rational
regional planning, would eventually impose a high degree of order
on the Amazon landscape, but for now, conservation planners had to
take this interest, uncertainty, and conflict into account in every
specific decision they made. Neither conceptual shortcuts nor political
generalizations would be useful at this stage.

The IBDF sent out evaluation teams to gather the large amounts of
human and biological information that selecting the best areas would
require, and Wetterberg and Jorge Padua drew up formal evaluation
criteria to guide the teams in their work (table 3.1). Non-theoretical
and practical, they were the bridge between the detached elegance of
theory and the reality of Amazonia. As befitted the now-favored sta-
tus of the conservation initiative, the military provided logistical sup-
port. A large number of institutions with a stake in the future of
Amazonia, including INPA, FUNAI, the FAO, the FBCN, and several
Brazilian universities, joined in the evaluations.
Evaluation typically began with an overflight to assess the general
characteristics of the area and perhaps identify features that would
serve as boundaries for a park or reserve. This was followed by sur-
face exploration to confirm details or investigate anything of interest
spotted from the air. The expedition to the lower course of the
Trombetas River in August 1977 was typical in most ways (see
figures 3.4, and 7.4, below). Although Wetterberg had given the area
only a third-priority rating, it seemed like a prime candidate for pro-
tection: RADAM had suggested it as a park; Russell Mittermeier, an
American primatologist, had suggested protecting it for the primates
found in the area; and it contained some of the most important turtle
nesting beaches remaining in Amazonia. The evaluation began with
an overflight to confirm RADAM's identification of the major vege-


Chapter 3

The Mosaic of Opportunity

IBDF Criteria for Selecting Protected Areas in Amazonia

For Biological Reserves
1. Area should contain those biological characteristics that led to its inclusion
in "An Analysis of Nature Conservation Priorities."
2. Area should be unoccupied by settlers; if settlers are present, their removal
should be possible.
3. Area should be large enough to assure the self-perpetuation of the ecosystem
and meet other management objectives. Areas intended to represent phyto-
geographic regions of Amazonia ought to contain at least 250,000 hectares
and be surrounded by a buffer strip 10 kilometers in width.
4. Area should not contain Indians.
5. To the extent possible without sacrificing important biological phenomena,
areas known to contain commercially valuable mineral deposits should be
6. Area should have easily identifiable and defendable natural boundaries-i.e.,
those that follow rivers, drainage divides, or other notable topographical
7. Area should be compact.
8. When possible, area should include a variety of landscapes and plant com-
For National Parks:
1. In addition to the above criteria, area should contain some unique element
of the nation's natural or cultural patrimony.
2. Area should have scenic beauty, recreation potential, and/or good accessi-

Source: Wetterberg and Jorge Padua, "Preservacio da Natureza," pp. 39-40.

station types and to look for previously unknown areas of unique veg-
etation. (The team discovered several patches of savanna, which it
recommended including in any reserve established.) The team then
traveled by boat up the Trombetas River and into the lakes north of
the river to observe the turtle nesting areas close up, determine the
number of caboclos present, and assess the degree of disturbance
they had caused.
The expedition to the upper Xingu River region of northern Mato
Grosso was similar in scale but different in specific objectives.46 The
area had been included on the third-priority list on the basis of a
FUNAI agent's report that it contained a large population of giant
river otters (Pteronura brasiliensis). The preservation of this species
was one of the Brazilian conservation movement's top priorities,
which gave the area a special significance.47 The team spent four days


Chapter 3

in small boats trying to determine the size of the otter population.
They sighted enough individuals to confirm the Indian agent's report.
When possible, several areas were assessed at once. The four
promising areas Wetterberg had identified in the small territory of
Amapai-Cabo Orange, Cabo Norte, Oiapoque, and Lago Piratuba
-were relatively close to each other, so one expedition sufficed for
all four. In all, IBDF teams surveyed thirty-four of the areas
Wetterberg had identified during 1977 and 1978.
The expeditions were complemented by information gathered in
Brasilia and Amazon state capitals. The land ownership picture was
clarified as much as possible by searching through land office
records. The intentions of other federal agencies toward each area
were probed, as was the possibility of special sources of support for
a protected area (through the Polamazonia program, for example).
The question of whether an area's protection was likely to cause any
political problems for the forest institute was explored, and finally
the powerful central organs of the military government, especially
the National Security Council, were sounded out for any objections.
As information from the field and government offices accumu-
lated, whittling Wetterberg's list of prospective areas into a set of
proposals began. Sometimes reports from the field indicated so many
Indians or squatters that a prospective area was immediately ruled
out. This was the case for the old Gurupi Forest Reserve, an area of
considerable biological appeal.48 Sometimes the survey teams discov-
ered that the commercial frontier had already reached the area,
degrading it or making a fierce fight over its protection likely. Some
promising areas were found not to have the expected biological char-
acteristics. For example, the field team visiting the Bacia do Capim, a
first-priority area, discovered it was not dominated by the rainforest
it expected to find, but by more xeric vegetation, making the area a
poor choice to represent the bioregion.
Sometimes promising areas were scuttled by high-level politics.
Prance had placed most of the northern territory of Roraima into a
distinct phytogeographic region, and Wetterberg had identified eight
promising areas in the territory in "Analysis," many of which
received favorable reports from the field evaluation teams. The
boundary between the territory and Venezuela was tense, however,
and the National Security Council feared the presence of parks or
reserves near it might compromise national security. Furthermore,
rich mineral resources had recently been discovered in Roraima, and


The Mosaic of Opportunity

the territorial and federal governments feared that protected natural
areas might impede access to them. Jorge Paidua considered it pru-
dent to avoid Roraima entirely for the time being.49
Sometimes INCRA or FUNAI objected. Normally, if INCRA had
no plans for the area in question, it would go along with the IBDF's
wishes; such cooperation cost the colonizing agency little, while
advancing a program with high-level approval and accommodating a
fellow agency within the Ministry of Agriculture. If, however, it had
plans for settlements in the area, or thought the removal of squatters
might lead to social unrest, it would oppose the transfer, or it would
at least insist that any protected area exclude the land in question.
Likewise, if FUNAI thought Indians were present, it would oppose
the establishment of a protected area.50 The IBDF had no uniform
response to such objections. If it thought it could bring power to bear
on the decision, or if it thought it had allies elsewhere in government,
it might attempt to override them by appealing to a higher authority.
Normally, INCRA's objections carried more weight than FUNAI's:
INCRA had considerable power in Amazonia, while the Indian
agency was politically weak and, given the state of its program to
identify Indian lands, often unable to back up its assertions about the
presence of Indians with conclusive evidence.51
As the list was pruned, tentative proposals were shaped for those
still-promising areas. There was no fixed upper size limit:52 the IBDF
reasoned that the larger the area, the more species it was likely to
include, the slower the rate of species loss, and the more likely it was
to be a self-regulating ecosystem. On the other hand, Terborgh's
259,000 hectares was adhered to as a rough lower size limit, although
the idea of a buffer zone was dropped. The retention of this number
from Island Biogeography Theory might seem surprising in light of
the scant attention otherwise paid to the dictates of theoretical biol-
ogy at this stage, but it retained a practical value. Abele and Connor
had argued that Island Biogeography Theory was little more than a
restatement of an obvious fact: large areas usually contained more
species than smaller ones.53 While meaning this as a criticism, Abele
and Connor pointed out one of the theory's virtues as a policy guide:
even if the specific numbers Diamond, Terborgh, and their associates
had attached to the relationship of size to diversity proved wrong,
the relationship itself would remain. Very small areas would contain
fewer species than large ones and thus be less satisfactory in repre-
senting a region's biota. Terborgh's number itself was not scientifi-


cally special, but there was cause for believing it was approximately
the minimum necessary size for maintaining viable populations of
large predators.
Shape and boundaries were another area where theory and practi-
cality converged. Ecological theory indicated that the best shapes for
reserves were compact ones, which reduced destructive edge effects.54
Compactness also reduced a reserve's exposure to unauthorized
incursion and made management easier. Natural boundaries also
made both ecological and management sense. A river was a barrier
to human and nonhuman invaders and was easily demarcated and
patrolled. A boundary at the edge of a watershed prevented the area's
penetration by boat while protecting its water from the effects of
outside activity.
In some cases, the presence of natural features made the proper
shape of a protected natural area seem obvious from the start. By
using as boundaries the rivers that paralleled the Jau River, a small
tributary of the Negro River, a large, compact natural area with an
easy-to-guard perimeter could be delimited (see figure 3.5, below). A
large, compact protected area in the Oiapoque region of northern
Amapai could be almost completely delimited by placing boundaries
along convenient rivers (figure 3.1).
Sometimes there was little choice with regard to boundaries, how-
ever. The Machado River was the ideal western boundary of a pro-
tected natural area carved out of the old Jaru Forest Reserve, but a
large cattle ranch had been established on its eastern bank, and
INCRA was considering the establishment of an agricultural settle-
ment there. The IBDF would have to settle for a surveyed boundary
east of the river if it wanted a reserve in the area (see figure 7.8,
below). Elsewhere, the boundaries of established Indian reserves or
agricultural settlement schemes were the necessary limits of any pro-
tected area; they had to be accepted as they were.55
Ideally, a protected area would be free of privately owned land, in
which case a simple property transfer from a state government or
another federal agency to the IBDF could be effected. Amazonia
National Park had been established quickly and with little objection
because the land was almost entirely under INCRA's control. The
presence of private land or clouded titles made this impossible in
many areas, however.
Land prices in Amazonia were still very low relative to the rest of
Brazil (table 3.2), so even large purchases were economically possi-

Chapter 3


; 6 'Lourenco

I ,


0 20 40

Estimated Average Cost of Unimproved Land in Protected Areas-1977
(Cruzeiros per Hectare)

Region Protected Area Cost
Amazonia Amazonia NP 20
Trombetas BR 52
Center-NE Sete Cidades NP 108
Chapada dos Veadeiros NP 131
Emas NP 260
Serra da Canastra NP 600
South-SE Serra da Bocaina NP 2,152
Sdo Joaquim NP 5,100
Iguaqu NP 5,200
Aparados da Serra NP 1,700
Urban Tijuca NP 67,660
Source: IBDF/FBCN Piano do Sistema: Primera Etapa, p. 8.

ble, but the IBDF preferred to minimize the amount of private land it
had to buy and to avoid conflict over clouded titles.
These considerations produced inherent tension; on one hand was
the desire to protect as much land as possible, and on the other was
the desire to avoid management problems, acquisition expense, and
conflicts with other interests. The contrary pulls produced an ideal
size and shape for each area under consideration, one at which the
conservation benefits of protecting more acreage were offset by the
additional problems this would entail. Determining where the equi-
librium lay was unsystematic because it depended on many imprecise
calculations: the presence of squatters or Indians, the extent of pri-
vate lands, the probable effectiveness of boundaries, intrinsic man-
ageability, and, in some areas, the compatibility of conservation and
development goals. Nevertheless, finding it was important because it
produced a conservation optimum. If areas were underdrawn, they
would be less effective conservation instruments, protecting fewer
species and less complete ecosystems. If overdrawn, establishing them
might be impossible, and if established, they might be impossible to
While local considerations were important in determining where
the equilibrium for each area lay, the master determinant was the
strength of biological conservation as a goal within the IBDF, the
government, and Brazilian society as a whole. Recent events made
Jorge Padua and her associates optimistic. Her conservation message


Chapter 3

Proposed Stage One IBDF Protected Areas

Priority Phytogeographic State or Date Proposed Size as
Unit Category Region Territory Established Size Established

Cabo Orange 2
Lago Piratuba 2

Oiapoque 1
Maraj6 3
Rio Trombetas 3
Upper Xingu 2
Jaui 2
Pico da Neblina 1
Abufaril 3
Guapore 2

Jaru 1

Pacaas Novos 2

(Cabo Norte)


Atlantic Coast

Atlantic Coast
Atlantic Coast
Atlantic Coast
Upper Rio Negro


(Serra das Oncas) Southwest




Mato Grosso




July 15, 1980

July 16, 1980
Not established
Not established
September 21, 1979
Not established
September 24, 1980
June 5, 1979
September 20, 1982

July 11, 1979

September 21, 1979

September 20, 1982
Median Proposed Size

526,000 619,000





1,498,000 600,000

268,000 268,000

765,000 765,000

1Not included in original group
Source: IBDF/FBCN, Piano do Systema:

Primera Etapa.


Chapter 3

IBDF Stage One Protection Proposals

had found favor among the IBDF's top administrators, and an ambi-
tious conservation plan had been ratified in principle at the highest
levels of the federal government. Agencies involved in Amazon devel-
opment had shown a willingness to cooperate with a conservation
program for the region. Moreover, ample financial resources seemed
likely. The Brazilian economy was booming and the budgets of gov-
ernment agencies reflected this; further prosperity and increased bud-
gets seemed to lie ahead.
Their optimism encouraged Jorge Padua and her associates to
favor very large protected areas.56 The formula for deciding how
many posseiros or how much private land was tolerable in a pro-
tected area was never fully articulated and varied according to local
circumstances, but it was almost always ambitious. For example, the
presence of an estimated 100 caboclo families in the Jai area was not
considered a serious problem. The several hundred families in the
Pico da Neblina area did not deter the IBDF from drawing ambitious
boundaries. Jorge Padua was willing to include areas known or sus-
pected to have Indians in them, even though this was likely to bring
the IBDF and FUNAI into eventual conflict. In short, she was willing


The Mosaic of Opportunity

to gamble that the future would provide solutions to problems
caused by defining conservation's stake in Amazonia so ambitiously.

By late 1978, Jorge Padua and her associates at the IBDF had
selected eleven areas in Amazonia and three beyond the region to
propose for protection (table 3.3, figure 3.2). Scattered throughout
Amazonia, the eleven ranged up to 2,321,000 hectares in size. Three
were considered scenic enough to be national parks, the rest would
be biological reserves. Each was the result of a distinct set of calcula-
tions. In some cases, biological qualities were paramount; in others,
management considerations or the presence of important allies and
special sources of support was an important determinant. Some-
times, the nature of the problems protection would entail were clear;
in others, they were only poorly understood. Each was thus a sepa-
rate pact with the future.

Pico da Neblina

Pico da Neblina was undoubtedly the most prized of the group. Its
biological virtues were great: naturalists and scientific teams had
been visiting the area since 1908 and had confirmed the presence of
many endemic species; Haffer, Prance, and Brown had all identified
Pico as a Pleistocene forest fragment. The IUCN's 1968 Bareloche
conference had proposed making the area a national park, and
Brazilian conservationists had taken up the cause;57 the IBDF's 1969
conservation study called for the area's protection, and more recently
so had RADAM. Venezuela had already established the Serrania de
la Neblina National Park on its side of the border, so the combined
protected area would be one of the largest in the world. Moreover,
Pico was the highest peak in Brazil, appealing to nationalist senti-
ments, and its dramatic topography gave it potential as an interna-
tional tourist draw. In keeping with its promise, it was the object of
the most thorough field evaluation. The World Wildlife Fund and the
New York Zoological Society helped support the expedition, and
George Schaller, Keith Brown, and five other scientists took part.58
The team rated the area as "excellent" on eight of its thirteen eval-


nation criteria and "good" on the other five, the highest combined
rating of all eleven areas.
Pico's drawbacks were as impressive as its virtues, however. The
Northern Perimeter Highway was already under construction in the
area, and, once completed, the road would transect the park (figure
3.3). A road connecting the upper Amazon region of Brazil to
Venezuela was also under construction in the area. Several hundred
caboclo families would have to be relocated, and tracts of private
land along the Negro River would have to be purchased; Pico's esti-
mated land purchase costs were the highest of the eleven. Gold had
already attracted miners to the area and turned the state government
of Amazonas, anxious to profit from it, against the idea of a park.
Most troubling, perhaps, was that Indians were well established in the
area; the proposed park included all of one FUNAI-demarcated indig-
enous area and much of two others. One had a large Salesian mission
with a school, an airfield, and a complement of foreign priests.
Such drawbacks might have caused the IBDF to propose a much
smaller area for protection or perhaps entirely lose interest in the
area, had not Jorge Padua sensed that the IBDF had a powerful ally
in the National Security Council. The secretive council, which
included the president of the republic, all the ministers of state, and
the heads of the three branches of the military, was the most power-
ful of the Brazilian military government's central agencies: it was a
virtual government within the government. Its mandate was to insure
national security, and its broad interpretation of its mandate drew its
attention to Amazonia.59 The council feared that self-awareness and
political mobilization of the tribal Indians of Amazonia would make
policing the national frontiers difficult.60 Concern was especially
sharp with regard to the 21,000 Yanomami living along the
Venezuelan border, who constituted the largest relatively traditional
Indian society left in Amazonia. Few of them spoke Spanish or
Portuguese, and although they were found on both sides of the bor-
der (approximately 12,000 lived in Brazil), they did not recognize it
as applying to them.61
The niceties of the constitution and the concerns of FUNAI or the
missionaries counted for little in the eyes of the council when placed
against the prospect of a politically mobilized Yanomami nation on
the Venezuelan border, perhaps the most tense of Brazil's frontiers.
Jorge Padua saw signs that the council would support a national
park in the region, probably because it would add another overlay of


Chapter 3



enous Area

Pico da Neblina National Park



interest to the area, thereby diluting the Yanomami's territorial
claims. The IBDF proposed a two-million-hectare Pico da Neblina
National Park.
The decision reflected Jorge Paidua's political acumen and her
operating style; she could sense anomalously favorable circum-
stances and she was willing to play them to full advantage. It also
reflected her long-range vision: she knew the military government
would not last forever and that the National Security Council's con-
cerns would not always play a deciding role in Amazonia, but she
assumed the future would provide park managers with the resources
to solve problems as they arose, especially with regard to Indians.62

Rio Trombetas Biological Reserve

The proposed Rio Trombetas Biological Reserve also had great bio-
logical appeal (figure 3.4). The presence of a number of endangered
species had been confirmed, and the area contained five distinct rain-
forest subtypes, making it a good representative of central Amazonia.
It included turtle nesting beaches that had been under the IBDF's pro-
tection since 1970,63 and their incorporation into a biological reserve
would make their protection easier. The proposed reserve contained
what were thought to be the largest concentrations of brazilnut trees
in Amazonia, which allowed the IBDF to stress the compatibility of
biological conservation and its forest development mission: the trees
might someday be important in improving the stock on which the
brazilnut industry depended.
The drawbacks were also formidable. The area had been subjected
to considerable disturbance in the past and had received only a
"fair" rating from the field evaluation team on "lack of human dis-
turbance." There was considerable private land to be purchased: ini-
tial surveys found 103 privately owned parcels (mostly natural
brazilnut groves) that totalled 67,000 hectares, or 32 percent of the
proposed reserve.64 Current occupation was heavy: several hundred
caboclo families, most of whom made their living collecting brazil-
nuts, lived along the large shallow lakes in the southern part of the
proposed reserve. Although collecting nuts was a relatively benign
form of forest exploitation, the inhabitants did exert a constant,
destructive hunting pressure on the area's fauna.


Chapter 3

The Mosaic of Opportunity

Lower Trombetas Region

The area's location in a development pole presented the most seri-
ous threat. Once the Polamazonia program was underway, the fed-
eral government's commitment to it remained strong; it was the main
thrust of Amazon development during the 1970s, and the most spec-
tacular projects in the region during this period, including the Serra
dos Carajis mines and the Tucurui dam, were associated with it.
New roads already penetrated the lower Trombetas River region in
connection with the bauxite mining that would provide the economic
base of the Trombetas development pole. Mineraaio Rio Norte, a
company with foreign and Brazilian participation, was scheduled to
begin bauxite shipments in mid-1979, and some shipping and pro-
cessing facilities were already in place on the southern bank of the
Trombetas River, across the river from the proposed reserve.
The evaluation team warned that this development would create a
number of formidable threats to the area. Poaching, already a prob-
lem, was likely to increase, as would illegal timber extraction. As the
value of land in the region increased, fraudulent titles to lands within
the reserve were likely to appear. The area would become a tempting
target for squatters.
The juxtaposition of conservation and development might work to


conservation's advantage at Trombetas, however: the Polamazonia
program, with its large budget, could afford to underwrite nature
protection in its areas of operation. It was already supporting the
IBDF's turtle protection along the Trombetas River, and it had helped
defray the expenses of the IBDF's expedition to the area.65 It was
therefore likely that a biological reserve along the lower Trombetas
River would enjoy greater financial support than the IBDF alone
could give it, which would translate into additional personnel, greater
funds for land acquisition, and, in general, greater capacity to handle
problems as they arose. With this in mind, Jorge Padua decided to
propose protecting the area.
The decision, like so many that informed the IBDF's conservation
program for Amazonia, was based on the assumption that conserva-
tion and development in the region were inherently compatible, and
would be made so in practice by government action. Acting on this
assumption made conservation dependent on the long-term capacity
and willingness of the Brazilian state to defend nature, so it entailed
a risk, but Jorge Padua, who fully understood the faustian nature of
the bargain, thought it a good one nevertheless.

Jau National Park

Its large size, compact shape, conformity to the local drainage pat-
tern, and mix of forest types made Jati the very model of the UN's
Man and Biosphere Programme's ideal rainforest reserve in the
Amazon basin,66 but it was not biologically exciting. Its vegetation,
although largely undisturbed, was typical of the region: closed
canopy forest predominated on the upland sites; mixed hardwood
and palm forests prevailed in the semi-inundated areas along the
watercourses; more open patches of grass, shrub, and woodland
were scattered throughout the area. Its fauna included the giant otter,
the manatee, and the endangered black caiman, but its overall bio-
logical diversity was thought to be low. It appeared to contain no
special biological communities nor anything biologically unique.67
Flat to slightly hilly, the area was scenically unexciting, and the field
team gave it low marks for tourist potential.68
Jati had great advantages from an administrator's perspective,
however. It was an interest vacuum: no Indians were thought to be

Chapter 3


The Mosaic of Opportunity

present, so FUNAI had no concern for it; the region was an economic
backwater and there were no government development plans for it;
there were no known gold deposits, and it presented no security con-
cerns. Human occupation was light, even for Amazonia, and there
was little private land to be acquired. Roughly a hundred caboclo
families lived in the proposed park, most along the lower course of
the Jau River.69 Aside from itinerant traders and priests, few out-
siders ever entered the area. The thirty tracts of private land, mostly
brazilnut groves along rivers, comprised only about 1 percent of the
park's area.70
With such a thin veneer of settlement and interest, the establish-
ment of the national park was likely to involve little monetary or
political expense. Moreover, its physical characteristics made it a
manager's dream (figure 3.5). The park was roughly diamond
shaped, with the three rivers that drained it converging as they
approached the Negro River, and providing the only avenues to the
park's interior. A guard post at the mouth of the Jaui would control
access to more than two-thirds of the area, and another at the mouth
of the Unini would control access to the rest. Jaui National Park was
a low roll: it neither asked nor needed much of the future.
Neither low endemism nor lack of special biological features
counted for much against these advantages in the IBDF's decision to
propose the area for protection. Nor, as it turned out, did lack of the-
oretical pedigree. Wetterberg had assigned top priority status to Jau
because Haffer and Prance had identified the area as a former forest
fragment. Later it was discovered that its status was the result of a
cartographic error. The large fragment Prance had identified north of
the middle course of the Amazon River did not extend west into the
Jau basin; only the slip of a pen made it appear to do so on the
IBDF's maps. Given Jaii's other virtues, the discovery of the error-
and the area's loss of official priority status-did not dampen the
IBDF's enthusiasm. Jorge Padua said regarding the discovery, "At
that point, we were not concerned with theoretical errors."71


The IBDF proposed three protected areas in Rondonia Territory:
Guapore and Jaru biological reserves and Pacais Novos National


I / Amazonas

Jau National Park

The Mosaic of Opportunity

Park. Rondonia had long been a remote, thinly settled region far
west of the nation's commercial frontier. Then, in 1960, a road from
southern Brazil reached Porto Velho, the territorial capital, and a
stream of settlers began to arrive.72 Rond6nia became an area of col-
onization under the PIN program, and although events there were
often overlooked in the excitement of the Transamazon Highway, the
large areas of good soil in the territory insured that the colonization
would be vigorous. The planned colonies were soon full, and the new
arrivals began settling wherever they could.73 These successes caused
Polamazonia's planners to make Rondonia an agricultural develop-
ment pole, the Polonoroeste. Under the Polamazonia program, INCRA
continued to concentrate on small-scale agriculture in Rondonia.
First under PIN and then under Polamazonia, the territory was
steadily transformed from a backwater to a booming region of com-
mercial agriculture. Between 1970 and 1975, the number of small
farms in Rondonia rose from four thousand to twenty-four thou-
sand.74 Its rural population, which stood at only fifty thousand in
1970, was growing at the unparalleled annual rate of 17.6 percent
during the 1970s.
The biological disruption that accompanied this transformation
was enormous; Myers identified the rainforests of the state as among
the most threatened in the world,75 but as was the case at Trombetas,
the possibility of outside support for conservation seemed promis-
ing. SUDECO, the regional development agency responsible for
Rondonia, accepted biological conservation as a part of develop-
ment, at least in principle, and had helped underwrite the IBDF's
expeditions in the territory; it had also expressed a willingness to
help support parks or reserves that grew out of those expeditions.76
The World Bank, then being drawn into the territory's development,
had also signaled a willingness to support nature protection and
from a Brazilian perspective the resources of the bank appeared limit-
less. Seizing the opportunity she sensed, Jorge Padua proposed three
protected areas for this relatively small part of Amazonia.
The proposed Guapore Biological Reserve contained vast, grassy
floodplains with the appearance and faunal richness of the more
famous Pantanal several hundred kilometers southeast in Mato
Grosso state.77 The evaluation team had found it exceptionally free
of human disturbance, thanks largely to its location far south of the
territory's main axis of development.
The outstanding feature of the second proposed area, Pacais
Novos National Park, was its highlands: large, tabular massifs bor-


dered by dramatic, dissected escarpments. The massifs were covered
with cerrado formations that, unlike similar formations further east
in Mato Grosso, had not been grazed or burned, giving them a spe-
cial importance for research. Forest predominated in the surrounding
lowlands. Panthers and jaguars were known to inhabit it, and the
presence of many other rainforest species was suspected. Surveys
indicated no squatters and very little private land. At its closest point
the proposed park was only sixty kilometers from the national high-
way, BR 364, the main axis of settlement in the territory, and settle-
ment roads were already being cut in its direction from the highway;
however, most of the soils were infertile, lessening its appeal to set-
tlers. There had been many confirmed sightings of Indians, but the
IBDF held that they were only hunting parties from outside.78
The third proposed area, Jaru Biological Reserve, was in the
northeast corner of Rondonia, where protecting nature was likely to
be difficult. RADAM saw much agricultural potential in that part of
the state, and INCRA was already establishing agricultural colonies
there. The IBDF had initially considered proposing the old Jaru
Forest Reserve as a biological reserve in spite of these drawbacks, but
when the National Security Council, for its own reasons, ruled out
the IBDF's appropriation of the private holdings on the east bank of
the Machado River the forest reserve was dropped from the narrow-
ing list of prospects. Jorge Padua later changed her mind, reasoning
that there might not be another chance to preserve a sample of the
region's biota. Working within the narrow limits of the possible, the
IBDF drew up a proposal incorporating approximately a quarter of
the old forest reserve, an area not much larger than Terborgh's mini-
mum. Because the bank of the Machado River was off limits, the
reserve's western boundary would be a long, difficult-to-patrol sur-
vey line cutting across the area's drainage pattern. Nowhere else in
Amazonia did IBDF conservationists show quite this willingness to
take chances in reserve design, or to protect nature in the very teeth
of regional development.

Eastern Amazonia

The IBDF also proposed protecting three of the four areas it had
evaluated in Amapa. One, the Oiapoque Biological Reserve on the
border with French Guiana, was mostly covered by dense rainforest.


Chapter 3

The Mosaic of Opportunity

The field evaluation team found evidence of considerable human dis-
turbance and saw little tourism potential in the area, but its biologi-
cal representativeness, the suspected presence of a number of endan-
gered species, and the opportunity to delimit a large yet compact
reserve outweighed these deficiencies.79
The proposed Cabo Orange National Park along the northern-
most stretch of the Amapa coast contained vast tidal flats formed in
recent times from sediments carried from the mouth of the Amazon
River (figure 3.6). They were covered with plant communities whose
character depended on length and frequency of inundation, but that
normally included aquatic grasses and buriti palms. Mangroves were
found along the seaward edge of the flats, and there was rainforest
on the higher ground along the western margins of the proposed park.
Lago Piratuba, further south, was smaller but similar in most ways.80
Cabo Orange and Lago Piratuba had great faunal wealth; the
Amapa coast was the last stronghold of many Caribbean birds-
flamingos, scarlet ibises, and other birds could be found there in large
numbers. (The presence of the birds, whose protection was the re-
sponsibility of the DN's Division of Nature Protection, created a built-
in bureaucratic constituency for these areas.) Pumas, giant otters,
manatees, and several species of sea turtle were found in these areas,
and their accessibility from Belem gave them a tourist potential.81 The
human characteristics of both areas were also a plus. There were sev-
eral small caboclo settlements, an Indian village, and two FUNAI posts
close to the proposed Cabo Orange park, and caboclos and Indians
undoubtedly hunted and fished in the area, but none were thought to
live permanently within it. The field evaluation team discovered no
permanent inhabitants, Indians or otherwise, in the Lago Piratuba.
The land in both was in the public domain, so the establishment of the
two protected areas was likely to be quick and inexpensive, and
together they would protect more than half the territory's coast.
Two other areas in eastern Amazonia rounded out the group. One
was on Maraj6 Island, a vast island at the mouth of the Amazon
built on fluvial sediments. The island was covered with forests and
large stretches of grasslands. At 88,900 hectares, the proposed
Maraj6 Biological Reserve was the smallest of the group, far smaller
than the 250,000-hectare minimum for representing the full com-
plexity of a major bioregion. Such was not the aim here, however;
Maraj6 was the only one of the eleven proposed areas belonging to
the second class of protected areas Wetterberg recommended, the
smaller one designed to preserve a site of special value rather than a


Cabo Orange National Park


Marca-Jipioca Ecological Station


Lago Piratuba
Biological Reserve

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Protected Areas on the Amapa Coast

The Mosaic of Opportunity

whole, representative ecosystem.82 The area was exceptional among
the eleven in its high rating on historical and anthropological value;
the island had been the site of a well-documented pre-Columbian
culture, and the proposed reserve would protect important archaeo-
logical sites.
The area selected for the reserve was little disturbed, but cattle had
been raised on the island for more than three hundred years, and
planners had made it a development pole, hoping to build a modern
livestock industry on the island's traditions of cattle raising. Maraj6
was thus another of Jorge Padua's faustian bargains; she was willing
to place the reserve in the path of development in hopes that the
agencies responsible for that development would fit conservation
into their planning.
The final proposal was the Xingu Biological Reserve. The field
evaluation team had confirmed that the area on the upper Xingu
River was the home of a breeding population of giant otters, could
be considered representative of the larger regional ecosystem, and
was generally rich in fauna,83 but some of its discoveries were less
promising: there were numerous squatters already in the area, and
much of it was in private ownership. These factors, plus the proxim-
ity of two Indian reserves and a national highway, meant that man-
aging a biological reserve was likely to be difficult, but because of the
high marks it received on biological criteria, the IBDF proposed its
protection anyway.

Taken together, the proposals revealed much about those who
advanced them. One was a loyalty to the original biocentric princi-
ples on which Wetterberg's approach was based (table 3.4). The
highest ratings for the group as a whole were for representativeness
of the natural region, presence of habitat for rare species, ecological
diversity, and potential for scientific research. They also revealed a
confidence in the IBDF's political and administrative capacity. Half
the proposed areas were already the site of activities that conflicted
with biological conservation, and only one got top marks for preser-
vation in its natural state. It was assumed that the IBDF could over-
come management difficulties, prevent future degradation, and even
reverse that which had already occurred.
They revealed a willingness-and capacity-to blend science and
pragmatism for maximum advantage. Jorge Padua and Wetterberg,


IBDF Evaluation of Proposed Protected Areas in Amazonia

Unit 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Lago Piratuba 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 4 4 3 1 1 1
Cabo Orange 4 4 4 4 4 3 4 3 3 3 3 2 3
Oiapoque 4 4 4 4 3 3 3 4 1 2 2 3 2
Pacais Novos 4 4 4 4 3 4 4 4 3 3 1 1 3
Guapore 4 4 4 4 4 3 3 4 3 4 1 1 1
Jau 4 4 4 4 4 3 3 4 2 3 2 1 2
Pico da Neblina 4 4 3 4 4 4 4 3 4 3 4 3 3
Rio Trombetas 4 4 4 4 4 3 4 3 3 2 2 1 3
Maraj6 4 3 4 4 4 4 3 3 4 3 4 4 1
Xingu 4 4 4 2 4 3 3 2 3 3 1 2 1
Mean Value 4.0 3.9 3.9 3.8 3.8 3.4 3.4 3.4 3.0 2.9 2.1 2.0 2.0

1 Natural region 4.0
2 Habitat for rare species 3.9
3 Potential for scientific research 3.9
4 Physiographic region 3.8
5 Ecological diversity 3.8
6 Unique characteristics 3.4
7 Aesthetic appeal 3.4
8 Absence of conflicting use 3.4
9 Potential for education 3.0
10 Current state of preservation 2.9
11 Value for international tourism 2.1
12 Cultural, anthropological, and historical value 2.0
13 Potential for recreation 2.0
Matrix Values
4 Excellent
3 Good
2 Average
1 Poor (Inadequada)

Source: IBDF/FBCN Piano do Systema: Primera Etapa.

aware of the uncertainty still associated with the scientific theories
they had embraced, forged a double relationship with these theories.
They publicly stressed their importance in shaping the IBDF's pro-
gram because the theories gave it pedigree and coherence. Yet because
they knew future research might undercut them, they were careful
not to let the theories dominate the selection process: they selected
no area solely, or even primarily, because it had been identified as a


Chapter 3