Miraculously – because there’s no other word for it – one private estate of 250,000 hectares (617,700 acres), called “La Fidelidad”, has survived up to our times, and its forest is the largest example of a continuous Chaco ecosystem that is left in a good state of conservation.
Our experts in the National Park Service, at Universities and among civil society entities discovered this reserve of biodiversity many years ago, but they never appeared on the front page of any newspaper. Despite summoning as much importance as the Perito Moreno glacier and the Iguazú Waterfalls, La Fidelidad has passed unnoticed by many – although, unfortunately, not by those who assassinated its only property owner in January 2011, seeking to sell its lands and destroy its forest.
We at Banco de Bosques are dedicated to making the entire country aware of this case, and to mobilize so that this last great forest is saved under the highest protection category possible for nature in Argentina: National Park.
We began this campaign three years ago, and we have now achieved the creation of “El Impenetrable” National Park on the La Fidelidad estate, is Congress’ Lower House approval. It’s a place that can generate as much employment and richness locally as Los Glaciares National Park in the south, or Iguazú National Park in Misiones. We cannot lose this unique and incomparable place. Among its forest laden with white and red Quebracho hardwood, carob and Palo Santo trees, live the last surviving Giant Armadillos and population of jaguars, in their most critical state in Argentina.
The El Impenetrable National Park is such a spectacular place that it can easily become a new spot for sustainable tourism to be discovered by thousands of visitors, both from Argentina and the whole world, all while protecting a unique ecosystem within a socially inclusive and sustainable framework.
Caá Porá is located in the district of Colonia General Manuel Belgrano, in the town of Andrés Guacurarí in the province of Misiones, within the Urugua-i Provincial Park, which is a park of substantial importance as it is the largest protected area in the province, with an extension of 84,000 hectares (207,000 acres).
Caá Porá contains a jungle in recovery; within it, there is an abundance of native plant life and wildlife. One of such plant species is the Rosewood tree, a species highly coveted in the past for its wood and which has been declared a Provincial National Monument. Today, it is strictly forbidden to remove them, unless removing fallen trees.
Although its extension is quite small compared to that of the mentioned Provincial Park, Caá Porá is located in an area that is highly strategic to the survival of the jaguar and fauna of the Urugua-i Park in general. This is a fact that deserves more explanation:
Before the creation of the Urugua-i Park, the majority of those 84,000 hectares were owned by the national government. Nevertheless, a small section of that land was allotted to private individuals just before those national lands passed on to the Provincial Park category, where they would be protected. The few hectares that were sold to private owners added up to 160, which were then fractioned off into 4 estates of about 40 hectares each. Caá Porá is one of them, and there are three other sections of a similar size. One of them belongs to an owner who lives in Brazil while the other two are in the hands of a settler named Albino, who has retired from the estate and now lives in the town of Andresito, about 20km from the areas of Caá Porá and the other three sections.
These four sections are not located in the middle of the park, but they are inside of it – from here arises the situation that Banco de Bosques seeks to address: Since the sections are private property, there must be a road to give access to the owners. This road must always be open, and on it one gains privileged access to the Urugua-i Park. Unfortunately, this access road is used mainly by illegal poachers. To make things more complicated, cows, sheep and pigs have been introduced in the estates of Mackoviak and his neighbor who resides in Brazil, all of which is very alluring bait for the jaguar.
The evidence is fatal: the area of these four sections is where the highest number of jaguars were killed in recent years (see following image, courtesy of Misiones jaguar expert, biologist Agustín Paviolo and his team).
The area circled in blue in this map of the north of Misiones province corresponds to the area in which the four properties that Banco de Bosques seeks to purchase, beginning with Caá Porá, are located. The seven red squares indicate jaguars killed in the last 15 years. Notice that it is the second-highest number of animals killed, followed by the one in Puerto Península Provincial Park.
Bearing in mind that the Selva Misionera (or southern Atlantic Forest) is a critical area that has lost 92% of its original surface, Banco de Bosques chose Caá Porá to create its first project. With a revolutionary GPS-based donation system – you can know the exact coordinates of the parts of the forest that are being saved month to month – it was also a realistic and viable commitment for Banco de Bosques’ beginnings. Donations could be made in parcels of 10 m2, 20 m2, 40 m2, 50 m2, 100 m2, 1,000 m2, and even larger, up to a total of 42 hectares.
With the help of more than 1,400 people, today we’ve accomplished that small but fundamental first step! Our first forest has been saved forever, and now we’re aiming for much, much more!