Over 62,000 acres of pristine tropical rainforest in Bolivia were protected with Rainforest Trust help, following a decision by an indigenous community to create a Tourism Refuge in the Sadiri rainforest.
On February 22, 2010, the indigenous village of San Jose de Uchupiomonas voted overwealmingly in favor of a plan to protect a wide swath of the forest they control, within the designation of a Tourism Refuge. This decision represents a victory for conservation and prevents old growth tropical timber in the region from being cut. Hunting will also be strictly prohibited, and no burning or agricultural activities will be allowed within the area.
The long road to conservation…
For centuries, the small village of San Jose de Uchupiamonas sat isolated in the vast rainforest that now comprises the Madidi National Park. Then, in the late 1990s, the Bolivian government created a 60-mile road through the lush rainforest habitat of Serrania Sadiri to the village.
The road travels through the Madidi National Park management area, which also makes up the Indigenous Community Territory of San Jose de Uchupiamonas. Because of this legal designation, the land here is managed by the people of San Jose, and the decision to protect, ignore or destroy the rainforest rests with the villagers.
Early on in its existence, the road through the rainforest and foothill forest of Serrania Sadiri put enormous pressure on the delicate forest ecosystem and spurred a rise the unsustainable logging of the area’s large Mahogany trees–the most valuable tree at the time. An increase in indiscriminate hunting was also seen. The rainforest was under grave threat of destruction, unless an alternative could be found.
In an effort to avert this crisis, the Bolivian organization Pueblo Nuevo, with assistance from Rainforest Trust, began investigating options with the community. Ecotourism was seen as a feasible long-term strategy for conservation because of the proximity of the forest to the popular tropical tourism destination of Rurrenabaque. The area’s spectacular natural beauty and biodiversity were also factors. The forest protects over four hundred species of birds including Military Macaws. Groups of White-lipped Peccaries are frequently seen in the area as are Jaguars and Pumas.
In 2008, Pueblo Nuevo began the tourism development project, thanks to support in memoriam of Thomas Henry Wilson Sr. and Thomas Henry Wilson Jr. The project is specifically designed to be developed with the San Jose de Uchupiamonas community and is democratic and transparent in nature; the entire community is meant to benefit from this project. The culmination of that effort is the ongoing project to improve transportation methods to the town and to build an ecolodge on top of Serrania Sadiri for the international and local tourism market. Tourism is seen as a viable, long-term sustainable alternative to save this rainforest, forever.
The project will create four cabins with private bathrooms within the Serrania Sadiri rainforest with a dinning complex looking out over the forested valley. The project is designed by the San Jose de Uchupiamonas residents, using traditional construction materials and techniques to give the tourist a comfortable, clean, easy access to an amazing forest. The facilities are scheduled to be ready by June 2011.