Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos announced this week that the country will add 31,000 square miles of land to its protected areas and will also give indigenous communities the autonomy to govern their own territories, according to Mongabay and Thomson Reuters.
The decision comes nearly a year after the end of Colombia’s 52-year civil war, which opened up vast tracts of biologically rich, undeveloped land in the Colombian Amazon that had previously been in war zones. Scientists and conservationists have been working to obtain protections for the land since the end of the conflict last June.
“Once and for all, we [will] know where we can farm, produce – and from what boundary we will protect all the forests and the entire Amazon,” Santos said.
Santos said the government will spend the next two weeks outlining the boundaries of the new protected land, as well as distributing land titles to indigenous groups. Norway has committed $250 million toward the new initiative, paid in $50 million annual installments through 2025, as part of the country’s efforts to fight climate change by reducing deforestation.
“This is the most important thing that has happened to the indigenous Amazonians in 30 years,” said Martin von Hildebrand, founder of the NGO Gaia Amazonas, said in a statement.
For more on efforts to save Colombia’s biodiversity since the end of the war, click here.