The Bolivian National Protected Area System (SNAP) was established in 1992 through the Environmental Law Nº1333 as the collective of interlinked protected areas of different categories, which through their protection and management contribute to achieving national conservation objectives. It comprises of 123 protected areas (22 national, 23 departmental and 78 municipal protected areas), covering approximately 20% of the country`s area.
The core of the System are the national protected areas, which cover 170,048 km2 (15.5% of the national territory). It contains representative samples of 11 of the 13 major ecoregions in Bolivia: the sub-andean Amazonian forests are best represented in the System, followed by the Serrania Chiquitana, the Pantanal floodplain, the Yungas, the Chaco and high Andean vegetation. Approximately 70% of the total number of plants and vertebrates are represented in the SNAP. These areas are in very good conservation conditions, and maintain populations of endangered wildlife species of great ecological importance, like the Andean condor, the vicuña, the Andean bear and the jaguar.
Indigenous and native communities are found within most of the national protected areas, and 44 indigenous territories are related to its management. Protected area management stems from the recognition of the rights of indigenous and native peoples to preserve their cultural identity, value systems, knowledge and traditions, institutions and territory, and aims to strengthen their leading role in shared management of protected areas and the generation of development models that are compatible with conservation.
Wildlife Conservation Society programs in Bolivia focus on landscapes comprised by the national protected areas of Madidi, Pilon Lajas, Apolobamba and Kaa Iya. Activities are conducted in coordination with the National Protected Areas Service (SERNAP), an entity dependant on the Ministry of Environment, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Forest Development and Management, and with the directions of the individual protected areas. In addition, WCS is working with local governments, supporting the management of the conservation units that have been established within their jurisdiction, such as the Ixiamas Municipal Protected Area (Department of La Paz) and the Municipal Proteted Area Pampas del Yacuma (Department of Beni).
Identifying gaps for the conservation of species with large spatial requirements
WCS contributed in 2004 to a study “Priorities for the Conservation of Biodiversity in Bolivia” (Araujo et al
., 2010), identifying species with large spatial requirements to define their habitat needs and identify priority conservation areas. This analysis produced distribution models to estimate the population density of 13 species of mammals: guanaco (Lama guanicoe
), vicuña (Vicugna vicugna
), North Andean huemul (Hippocamelus antisensis
), pampas cat (Leopardus colocolo
), Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita
), mountain lion (Puma concolor
), jaguar (Panthera onca
), giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus
), Chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagnerii
), white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari
), maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyiurus
), bush dog (Speothos venaticus
) and Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus
). The results showed that most of these species require protection measures through the broadening of the SNAP or activities beyond individual park boundaries.
Specific studies on the management of protected areas
The case study of environmental conflicts in northern La Paz Department (2003-2004), conducted by WCS in coordination with SERNAP, allowed further analysis of the relations between local actors, from a historical perspective and in relation to the application of State policies (local actors participation, biodiversity conservation, land sanitation and the recognition of indigenous peoples' rights).In the database 58 environmental conflicts were registered in 18 protected areas between 1995 and 2004. Most of these conflicts were caused by problems related to access and use of natural resources (particularly the illegal extraction of wood), land sanitation and titling, infrastructure projects and development projects and the creation and management of protected areas. Environmental conflicts have been an integral part of the management of protected areas involving a diversity of local and regional actors, as well as State institutions. These conflicts were linked to high levels of poverty, weak democratic capacity in the region, and development visions concentrated on colonization and the exploitation of natural resources. Using this information base, an environmental conflict strategy was designed and is now being executed by SERNAP with funding from DANIDA.
In the same way, economic and environmental impact studies were conducted in coordination with Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF), to provide information to contribute to the local debate. These studies include an evaluation of the benefits to the regional economy provided by Madidi protected area, more than the 2.5 million dollars annually. Additionally, there were two studies on social and environmental impacts of roads and their effect on the conservation of biodiversity. The results were presented in several local forums organized by the Fundación Amigos del Madidi, involving 291 people from urban areas of Ixiamas, Tumupasa, San Buenaventura and Guanay.
Social participation in the management of protected areas has been recognized in the Bolivian Political Constitution (2009), where Article 385, Section II, states that "Where there is overlap of protected areas with indigenous territories, shared management is carried out subject to the rules and procedures of the nations and indigenous peoples, and respecting the purpose of creation of the protected areas.” WCS helped analyze shared management concepts and models, both in terms of specific protected areas and the SNAP as a whole. WCS supported the development of the CIDOB strategy for the shared management of SNAP, aimed at strengthening its role in the design and implementation of policies and management strategies of the protected areas, developing capacities of indigenous organizations, generating models of shared management and strengthening indigenous land management. The strategy document is part of the framework agreement of cooperation and coordination signed on October 26 of 2007, between the Ministry of Environment, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Forest Development and Management, SERNAP and CIDOB, and was presented at the National Parks and Protected Areas Congress in Bariloche, Argentina.
Regarding the proposed CPILAP co-management of Madidi, the WCS supported document analyzes the legal and policy framework, and the relationships between the relevant social and institutional actors and their relationship with the protected area. It also raises the conceptual basis and proposed co-management instruments between SERNAP and the indigenous organizations with territorial rights over the area.
WCS is supporting the participative development of a model of Land Management with Shared Responsibility (GTRC) for the overlapping area between the TCO Lecos of Apolo and the Madidi national protected area, which includes a conceptual and normative base, a strategic framework, identifying instruments for their implementation and definition of requirements for capacity building in both CIPLA and Madidi. A preparatory activity was the integration of the zoning for Madidi and the TCO Lecos of Apolo, identifying 7 priority areas for protection: Quendeque, Huajra Orco, Huarutumo, Cauly, Sarayoj, Torewa and the headwaters of Amantala, defining the basis of a strategy for joint protection as part of an agreement signed in November 2009.