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Cycle 8 (2019 Deadline)

Recommendations for decision makers with concerns on forest fire policies

PI: Dolors Armenteras (, Universidad Nacional de Colombia
U.S. Partner: Jennifer Balch, University of Colorado, Boulder
Project dates: December 2019 - June 2021

Project Overview:

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 Policy solutions to sustain Colombian forests. A fact sheet.
Deforestation in Colombia has been linked strongly to the use or misuse of fires for agriculture and pasture management or directly to occupy land. A six-fold increase in fires has been reported in protected areas across biodiversity hotspots in areas formerly occupied by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) guerrillas. Understanding how the transition from conflict to post-conflict is affecting forests is crucial to mitigating both carbon emissions and biodiversity loss in Colombia. This project seeks to impact policy related to fire at the national level and help reduce fire risk in the country. The PI Dr. Armenteras and her colleagues aim to integrate research into support processes for institutions, companies, and local communities that are willing to contribute to the prevention and management of forest fires to reduce risk. This plan would be a cross-cutting element to support the management of forest fire risk at local, regional and national levels. Thanks to a PEER Evidence to Action Supplement on her grant under PEER Cycle 5, Dr. Armenteras and her group worked together with the National Natural Parks of Colombia (PNN), achieving the implementation of a proposal of criteria and indicators to strengthen planning tools for the management of protected areas (PAs), so that the degradation of forests by forest fires can be prevented. This result serves as the foundation for the execution of this new PEER Cycle 8 project focused on the development of policies aimed at reducing the risk of fires in the face of climate change. This, in turn, will allow the strengthening of the PNN entity, which favors territorial development and the conservation of biodiversity, thus benefitting the populations surrounding the PAs.

The project will begin with a critical analysis of policies related to fire management, including laws, decrees, and national plans, followed by an expert workshop to build a SWOT matrix and identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats associated with current policies. Likewise, the documents collected will be analyzed in detail to identify specific information and policy gaps in protected areas that are required for the design of prevention strategies, fire control, and management of areas affected by fire, particularly national parks. One park will be selected for the implementation of a proposed set of indicators to be used as a management tool by park officials. A workshop will be held with the community in and around the park to learn more about their perception of the use of fire, forest fires, and the impacts generated by these events. At the national scale, the project also aims to contribute to the formulation and implementation of forest fire-related policy.   

Project Updates:

In the first quarter of 2020, 16 different types of events were held, such as meetings, informative workshops, interviews, and tours. During meetings, the team dealt with issues related to the articles of Bill 221 regarding comprehensive management of fires, seeking the necessary adjustments for its continuity in the public policy process within the Congress of the Republic.

The workshops focused on dissemination of the basic concepts of fire ecology, the main impacts of forest fires, and the importance of a comprehensive vision of fire management in the country,  focusing both on members of the UTL representatives involved in the process, and the community interested in receiving training on forest fires in the national territory for this quarter. Outreach activities were carried out in Guaviare and in the Municipality of Sutatausa in Cundinamarca.

The interviews allowed different factors to be taken for the construction and visualization of the perception of fire of the different actors in the territory. In the case of this quarter, a former FARC fighter and the National Representative of Young Peasants of the ANUC were interviewed ( National Association of Peasant Users of Colombia).

Finally, in March, the PEER team hosted NAS and USAID representatives taking them to the Iguaque Fauna and Flora Sanctuary field site. Later that week, Dr. Armenteras also gave a presentation on goals and impacts of her project to USAID at the US Embassy in Bogota.
Potential Development Impacts:

A review of national laws and regulations associated with forest fires was carried out based on recommendations. The first draft of the bill presented back in May, 2019, was drafted during the month of August 2019, and the bill was filed on September 3, 2019. During the month of March 2020, adjustments were made to the bill. Adjustments were made to the project based on the comments received from the Ministry of the Environment, the National Fire Department and the Alexander von Humboldt Research Institute. The construction of a new article of the bill was carried out in conjunction with the Speaker's Technical Legislative Units (Representative to the Chamber Edwin Ballesteros) and the congressman who established the Project (Representative to the Chamber Mauricio Toro).  

Salazar, N., Meza, M.C., Espelta, J.M., Armenteras, D. (2020). Post-fire responses of Quercus humboldtii mediated by some functional traits in the forests of the tropical Andes. Global Ecology and Conservation 22, e01021;  Media: “La quema del Amazonas importa a nivel planetario”.

 8-041 Armenteras artlicle
 Mongabay News features Dolors Armenteras as a pioneer and one of the most prominent experts on fires and landscape ecology in the Colombian Amazon.  


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´╗┐Lily Sweikert (USAID) and Kelly Robbins (NAS) visit Dolors' PEER project site in ´╗┐Iguaque, Colombia, March 2020 Photos credit: Dolors Armenteras

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