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Central Africa houses one of the most abundant sources of biodiversity in the world and the forests of the Congo Basin represent approximately one quarter of the world's rainforests. Over thirty million species inhabit these Central African forests which also play a key role in the livelihoods of local populations and are a vital supply of local, regional and global ecological services. Due to deforestation, urban expansion, and agricultural demands, flora and fauna are under increased pressure for survival.
The Central African region contains over eighty percent of the total rain forests on the African continent. The forests are located in a region of central Africa commonly referred to as the Congo Basin. This Basin spans numerous countries that include Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi. These forests contain one of the largest blocks of closed canopy habitat in the world, second only to Brazil.
Ensuring that the forests of the Congo Basin are managed in a more sustainable manner, along with the protection of the biodiversity contained within them, is a growing preoccupation of governments, international donor organizations and the conservation/scientific community. The complex ecosystems found in these forests are of local, national and global importance. Considerable efforts are underway to improve management of these forest ecosystems to ensure biodiversity survival and ecosystem health. Protected areas cover about 10% of the region's forests while logging concessions are far more extensive. Therefore, effective conservation and land use planning at a scale larger then the boundaries of national parks is imperative to sustain the supply of forest resources on which local populations depend for their livelihoods, reduce habitat fragmentation, ensure ecosystem integrity and improve overall management of the natural resources of the region
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African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE)
The US Forest Service is a partner in the US Agency for International Development (USAID) funded CARPE program. CARPE is a long-term USAID initiative addressing issues of deforestation and biodiversity loss in the Congo Basin forest zone. CARPE works to reduce the rate of forest degradation and loss of biodiversity by supporting increased local, national, and regional natural resource management capacity. The CARPE program is working to improve our knowledge of an otherwise relatively poorly understood region, to improve the management of forested lands in the basin, and to strengthen the capacities of governments and people of the region to manage these resources. CARPE emphasizes good science, information sharing, and a regional perspective in their partner activities. The US Forest Service is providing technical assistance to develop the capacity of host country government natural resource management agencies, and CARPE partner NGOs to create and implement effective land use plans for large landscapes – and the protected areas, community forests and extraction zones within these landscapes – to promote ecologic, social and economic sustainability and benefits for the countries of the region.
The US Forest Service is one of many partners representing the CARPE program: 3 government agencies and multiple conservation and not-for profit organizations. The US Forest Service efforts within CARPE work to complement other partners’ activities. We provide focused technical assistance to projects and programs by our understanding and experiences with multiple use forest management and our ability to draw upon our agency’s history and lessons learned, and individual experiences of land management planners.
Below are the most recent US Forest Service activities within CARPE:
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Land Use Planning Across Large Landscapes
The USAID CARPE program concentrates its activities on 12 large landscapes across the region. These landscapes were chosen for their biodiversity and conservation importance and established as foundations of regional conservation and sustainable natural resource use. These areas contain a mix of national parks and other protected areas, current or future timber and mining concessions, villages and settlements, and the neighboring forested areas on which they depend for their day-to-day resource needs. Effectively managing these forested landscapes in a sustainable manner is a complex and challenging task. These mosaics of land uses contain differing levels of human population pressures and threats to biodiversity and forest health. Adding to the complexity of the situation is the remoteness and inaccessibility of most of these landscapes which makes monitoring and law enforcement extremely difficult, which is further compounded by the limited capacity of governments in the region to adequately enforce existing laws. In light of this need for multiple-use management expertise of large landscapes, CARPE leadership has requested that the USFS take on the strategic approach of concentrating our efforts towards the land management planning processes of these CARPE landscapes in order to capitalize on the strength of USFS land management expertise. The USFS is working with USAID and other CARPE partners, as well as host country natural resource management agencies to develop planning processes and management planning guides for comprehensive landscape level planning and for the landscapes as a whole and the three different use zones within those landscapes: protected areas, community use zone, and extractive use zone, by providing planning tools and standards to support the promotion of sustainable natural resource management in the landscapes.
The US Forest Service is well positioned to provide this type of assistance based on our legislative mandate for the management of National Forests and Grasslands in the United States requiring that these public lands be managed for multiple uses to ensure their sustainability and to guarantee that future generations will continue to benefit from their full range of values. Sustainability includes ecological, social, and economic components and has evolved to be the guiding management principle for the agency, influencing planning processes over time. Thus, multiple use planning integrates conservation strategies to achieve ecological sustainability as well as resource use opportunities to contribute to economic and social sustainability.
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A) Park Management Planning, Loango and Lope National Parks, Gabon
In 2002, the President of Gabon, Omar Bongo, created 13 new national parks, virtually overnight, in a country that previously had none. With the objective of helping Gabon realize its goal of creating a successful National Park System to manage and operate these new parks, the US Forest Service has been working with the Gabonese government to assist them in the creation of national park management plans and to develop a cadre of skilled professionals who will manage the country's 13 new parks. In June 2003 an Inter-Agency team, composed of US Forest Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service technical experts visited Loango National Park in order to provide technical assistance to the Gabonese government with developing a model park management plan to be used as a template for developing management plans for the country's 12 other National Parks. The team also identified capacity-building needs for the new National Park Service staff and provided these recommendations to the Gabonese government.
The efforts of US Forest Service were continued in April and May 2004 when a US Forest Service team revisited Loango to follow up with the development of a management plan for the park and also to train all 13 National Park Directors in park management planning. This team also provided input on the development of a management plan for Lope National Park. In 2005 and 2006, the Forest Service remained engaged in park management planning in Gabon by providing assistance in finalizing the management plan of Loango and Lope National Parks through a participatory workshop involving government representative, NGOs, tourism concession operators, and local community members. These US Forest Service teams also provided a training session for Gabonese park wardens on the development of work plans for park management activities.
As the Gabonese park management agency continues to grow and evolve, the USFS is maintaining its relationship with this agency and will continue to provide technical input towards the development and implementation of effective management plans for the rest of the protected area system.
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B) Protected Area Planning at Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo
In partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), in 2006 the US Forest Service sent a team to provide technical assistance on the process of creating a management plan for the Salonga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The second largest tropical forest park in the world, Salonga is the only protected area in the DRC containing the endemic bonobo and their habitat. This park is also contains forest elephants, the rare Congo peacock and bongo. A mix of swamp, riverine and upland forests, along with some savannah the wildlife of this national park is under threat from commercial scale bushmeat hunting despite its remote location and inaccessibility.
Working with WWF and their partners, particularly the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN), the USFS provided guidance on the structure and the process for the creation of an effective management plan for the national park. This USFS team assisted WWF in carrying out a workshop with park stakeholders which led to the establishment of a strategy for the creation of the park’s management plan through a participatory process.
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C) Community Use Zone Management Planning, Lac Tumba, Democratic Republic of Congo:
In working towards the goal of sustainable forest management, the role of community level management is now well recognized, the challenge in developing models for community based forest management lies primarily in balancing the need to create livelihood options and economic development for local communities with the demands of sustainable resource management. In August of 2004, the US Forest Service sent two technical experts to perform an assessment of community engagement in sustainable forest management in the Lac Tumba region of Democratic Republic of Congo. In collaboration with Innovative Resource Management (IRM) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), CARPE implementing partners, the mission observed ongoing activities in community forest planning under IRM’s Community Options and Investment Tools (COAIT) planning process; assessing COAIT's usefulness in sustainable community use zone management and determining the feasibility of community forest management. In 2005, US Forest Service technical experts returned to the region to work with IRM and WWF on identifying the components and processes involved with the creation of a community use management plan for the region.
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D) Landscape Level Planning in the Democratic Republic of Congo
In 2006 the US Forest Service sent teams of experienced land use planners to the Maringa-Lopori-Wamba and Ituri landscapes of the Democratic Republic of Congo to work with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), respectively, on landscape scale land use planning.
The Maringa-Lopori-Wamba landscape is a vast 7 million hectare piece of land of high biodiversity importance, including such species as bonobo, Congo peacock, forest elephant, golden cat, and giant pangolin. This area has been threatened by increased bushmeat hunting, habitat fragmentation, and political instability, which have potentially long lasting effects on the biodiversity throughout the landscape and the livelihoods of the local population. The USFS technical assistance provided input to AWF on their methodologies and approaches to landscape planning and assisted with the early stages of the long process of developing management plans for the entire landscape.
The Ituri landscape holds the Okapi Faunal Reserve, a World Heritage Site at its center. This landscape is home to a significant number of endemic and threatened species. This landscape is also home to the Mbuti and Efe pigmy groups whose way of life is being threatened by increasing levels of immigration to the region. This area is also extremely rich in minerals such as gold, diamonds and coltan, an essential component in mobile phones and other portable electronic devices. USFS employees traveled to the Ituri landscape to assist WCS in land use planning activities to attempt to manage the rapid development and land use changes in the landscape, providing input to WCS on activities, approaches, and tools for identifying land use zones and creating a management plan for the landscape, outlining key issues, stakeholders and steps for completing the process.
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E) Land Use Planning Guides
Through the collaborations described above, and other similar activities in the region, the USFS International Programs is adapting the expertise gained by the agency in managing large forested, multiple-use landscapes in the United States, which include, for example, wilderness areas (complete protection zones), extractive use areas, and recreation areas, and tailoring this guidance to the specific context of Central Africa and the needs of implementing partners and government agencies in the region. This adaptation of lessons learned and processes utilized in the United States to a Central African context is being performed through partnerships and direct technical assistance provided in the region by the USFS International Programs office to CARPE implementing partners and host country government agencies charged with the management of these resources. In order to assist CARPE partners with their ongoing planning processes, the USFS is producing a series of land use planning guides that take these partners through the process of creating integrated landscape management plans. The guides are described below:
- Protected Area Management Gide: currently available in English and French on the CARPE website
- Landscape-Level Planning Guide: currently available in English and French on the CARPE website
- Community-Based Natural Resources Management Land Use Planning Guide: Guide is nearly complete in its first version, pending comments, guide will be finalized and posted to CARPE website
- Extractive Resources Guide: Currently under development
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Migratory Species/Habitat Management
The need to integrate biodiversity and ecosystem health in sustainable forest management practices is becoming more apparent in the forests of the Congo Basin due to negative impacts on flora and fauna. The US Forest Service International Programs has devoted time and funding to support improved forest management in the region. We are part of discussions and assistance to develop policies and standards that will help other countries establish their own more effective habitat management systems and sustain biodiversity while using the land. Our emphasis also complements the concerns raised by the international community as demonstrated in the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the US Great Ape Conservation Act as passed by the US Congress. Both have emphasized the increasing rate of wildlife depletion in Africa due to the commercial trade in bushmeat. Logging roads have increased access to once isolated areas, opening up areas to population expansion and infrastructure. Commercial hunting has increased tremendously with such development. We are working together with partners providing technical expertise in habitat management and forest planning to address the bushmeat crisis.
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A) Workshop in Lope, Gabon: Wildlife
Management in/around Logging Concessions
A workshop in November 2000 in Lopé, Gabon brought field-based representatives of logging companies, non-governmental organizations and government ministries together to discuss practical options to reduce the impact of timber exploitation on wildlife in the Central African forests. Many of the region's protected areas are surrounded by logging concessions and contain substantial populations of animals including threatened and endangered species such as gorillas, elephants, mandrills, black colobus and chimpanzees. These impacts are increased hunting, fragmentation of populations, and depletion of habitat structure.
Discussions during the workshop reflect the field experience of the participants whom are actively involved with logging and wildlife conservation in the region. Priority strategies for logging companies, conservation groups, government policymakers and the donor community were encouraged to support future action to ensure ecosystem health and biodiversity conservation in natural resource extraction.
US Forest Service, Center for International Forestry Research, French Global Environment Facility Funds, Conservation International, and World Wildlife Fund - CARPE all co-funded and participated in this conference in an effort to promote more concerted collaboration in developing options for action. The workshop was organized by representatives from the Center for International Forestry Research and Familles Thematiques Biodiversité under the logistical support of the Association pour le Developpement de l'Information Environmentale.
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Park Management and Elephant Monitoring
A US Forest Service representative from the USDA Geospatial Service and Technology Center provided expertise and assistance to Wildlife Conservation Society who manages Nouabale Ndoki National Park in northern Congo-Brazzaville. The National Park covers approximately 1.5 million acres in one of the few remaining relatively intact blocks of closed canopy tropical forests in the world. Wildlife Conservation Society is conducting elephant research and monitoring in the Park. To further aid them in forest monitoring, the US Forest Service provided assistance in developing methods of vegetation classification and change detection imagery.
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C) Hunting and Bushmeat Utilization
in West and Central Africa
As part of their analysis of hunting and bushmeat use in West Africa, Conservation International brought together a number of organizations to a West Africa Bushmeat Workshop held in Ghana of December 1999. International Programs of the US Forest Service provided partial funding and participation to the workshop. Participants included over 35 people from West and Central Africa, international conservation organizations, and representatives from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Forest Service. The objectives of the conference were to: strategize practicable solutions for the short and long term habitat, poaching, and policy issues; increase collaboration between local, regional, and national levels of government; and raise international awareness to the bushmeat problem.
In West and Central Africa the demand is growing for the meat of forest animals, popularly known as "bushmeat." In Africa, the forest and shrub land is often referred to as "the bush", thus, wildlife and meat derived from that wildlife is locally called bushmeat. This term applies to all wildlife species including: elephant, gorilla, chimpanzee and other primates, forest antelope (duiker), porcupine, bush pig, cane rate, pangolin, monitor lizard, guinea fowl, etc. The commercial bushmeat market threatens the survival of many species, including several unique to the dense forested regions of Africa. While deforestation is an obvious menace to wildlife dependent on these habitiats, hunting and more specifically the commercial hunting trade, constitutes a comparable threat to the ecosystem itself.
This information was taken from materials prepared by the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force. For more detailed information, refer to the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force website.
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Sustainable Forestry Practices
A) Reduced Impact Logging
Logging activities are increasing in many countries of the Congo Basin; more companies are investing in the forest sector, more concessions are being allocated, many governments are diversifying their economies, which often implicate the forest sector, and many countries have implemented or are implementing new forestry laws which integrate new concession management guidelines. As more pressure is placed on the forest sector, the need for improved management of the resource is intensified.
US Forest Service efforts within CARPE are include activities to improve forest practices in the region. Improving forest management implicates many different levels: governments want to ensure their resources' viability, taking the necessary steps to safeguard its longevity, health and productive capacity; the private sector is interested in the resource as an investment, either in the short term or in the long term; civil society utilizes the forest and forest products for many different functions which are of high importance to their livelihood and to keeping their resource intact; and conservation groups work towards conserving ecosystem health and biodiversity for future generations.
Many CARPE partners are working on conservation initiatives at all different levels: civil society, government agencies, and the private sector. The US Forest Service is working to complement other partner activities by concentrating on the technical application of forest practices in the region. In 2004, The USFS, in partnership with the Tropical Forest Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and FORM International, began developing training modules appropriate for Congo Basin logging practices, using the SBL logging concession, a timber company based in Gabon, as the project site location. FORM and WCS, are combining their expertise to develop an appropriate reduced-impact logging training methodology. The project also looks for opportunities to share new knowledge with logging companies interested in promoting sustainability.
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The USFS has provided technical assistance to INDEFOR, Equatorial Guinea 's parastatal agency charged with both forest and protected area management. In collaboration with Conservation International (CI), a CARPE implementing partner, a USFS specialist was sent to Equatorial Guinea to perform an initial evaluation of the agency's capacity building needs and current logging activities. Additionally, recommendations were made for how INDEFOR could improve monitoring of logging to ensure compliance with forest utilization contracts. The US Forest Service engagement assists in strengthening the agency's capacity to manage the country's timber resources effectively and sustainably.
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Remote Sensing and GIS Support
In collaboration with the World Resources Institute, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, and working with the Republic of Congo's National Center for Forest and Fauna Inventory and Management (CNIAF), the US Forest Service is providing assistance in setting-up a local Remote Sensing and GIS lab and training local technicians to properly collect and analyze data related to the utilization of the forest resources of the Republic of Congo with the goal of supporting forest law enforcement by enabling officials to identify any illegal logging activities outside the legally attributed forest titles or within the protected areas. The US Forest Service sent a database management and internet expert to Congo in October 2004 to assist in designing and setting-up an efficient and easy to-use interface for the databases created under the project with the aim of publishing the data online. In 2005, this assistance continued with US Forest Service experts assisting CNIAF with the development of protected area landcover datasets to assist the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) program to standardize national systems of law enforcement data collection and management decision making in protected areas. More recently in 2008, the USFS sent two database management experts with the overall goal of helping WCS and CNIAF establish database capacity and management processes for the collection and use of data in managing wildlife resources.
Please see USFS trip reports on FRAME: http://www.frameweb.org/ev_en.php?ID=7709_201&ID2=DO_TOPIC
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