Amazon rainforest conservation gets $215 million boost

In a major new effort to conserve nature for generations to come, the Brazilian government, the World Wildlife Fund and other partners announced Wednesday the creation of a $215 million fund that will go towards long-term protection of 150 million acres of the Amazon rainforest.

The funding will go to support the Amazon Region Protected Areas Program, or ARPA, which comprises 15 percent of the Brazilian Amazon. In 1998, the Brazilian government pledged to triple the areas of the Amazon under legal protection, leading to the 2003 partnership between nongovernmental organizations and governmental agencies.

In the span of a decade, the ARPA program has conserved 128 million acres of rich, biodiverse rainforests -- approximately one and a half times the size of California. However, the Brazilian government had reported that in 2012, deforestation in the Amazon had increased by nearly a third, reversing a decade of declining rates. Some environmentalists blamed it on the government's recent changes to conservation law, Reuters reported.

However, those involved hope this funding initiative will ensure more progress. The $215 million will be disbursed slowly over a period of 25 years, during which time the Brazilian government will be expected to increase internal funding and assume greater responsibility for supporting conservation efforts.

"The Brazilian rainforest is at the heart of our country," Maria Cecilia Wey de Brito, CEO of WWF in Brazil, said in a press release. "It is what defines us. The Brazilian government's leadership in helping to create and maintain this fund provides us with more confidence than ever that we can slow the arc of deforestation in our rainforest and create a model for large-scale conservation worldwide."

In addition to the WWF, partners supporting the program include the German government, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank and a number of private foundations.

"The explosion in demand for natural resources has made our parks and world heritage sites vulnerable," Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF, said in a press release. "So we convened leading financial thinkers and philanthropic partners to create a plan for a first-of-its-kind bridge fund to ensure ARPA's inspiring success story can be told forever."