In Brazil, Mapping a New Park Amid Border Disputes

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"We're still in the early stages of making the new park a reality," Miranda says. "Because the opening of the park is facing conflicts, it could still be another 12 to 24 months before the public gets access into it."

The park would cover nearly 190,000 acres (about 76,890 hectares). Within its boundaries live over a hundred human residents, many of whom are farmers or cattle ranchers. Some commercial interests are reluctant to surrender so much land to conservation.

The Brazilian government has proposed to buy out everybody with property in the parklands.

Not everybody wants to be bought out. The debate is heated at town hall meetings in Bonito.

"It's difficult to stop working your land just because the government asks you to and offers you money. This is my job, and I make a living here—just like my parents did before me," says Joao, a cattle rancher who didn't want to give his surname. Cowboys in the Pantanal go back as far as five generations.

Many Locals in the Area Favor the New Park

Other landowners have accepted the buyout. Most of the people who live in the municipalities within the parks area—Bodoquena, Bonito, Jardim, and Porto Murtinho—eagerly await the park's opening.

"We're a tourist-oriented area," says Donizete Ferreira da Rocha, a Bonito resident and tour guide. "This whole area is going through an ecotourism boom. And the park will have everything: caving, hiking, wildlife watching, and freshwater snorkeling. A lot of people are going to benefit, even if the park's landowners don't."

"Thousands of locals in the area will benefit from the national park. Think of all the hotels, restaurants and shops that will have increased business—all from a rich wildlife area that is being totally preserved and protected," says Leana Paula Bernardi, a researcher studying tourism in the Pantanal area.

Apart from the land questions, research continues by IBAMA and other environmental organizations. In a freshwater assessment before the park was established, "Conservation International and the Field Museum (in Chicago) discovered five new species of fish," says Reinaldo Lourival, head of Conservation International Brazil's Pantanal operations.

"This park is really going to provide a haven for a variety of plants and animals in this region," Miranda says. "We've needed something like this for a long time."

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