Fernando Rubio received the first Parker/Gentry Award in 1996 to recognize his critical role in the management of the Santuario Nacional Pampas del Heath.
This sanctuary protects the pampas (seasonally-inundated savannas) west of the Río Heath - the only pampas in Peru- and today, this sanctuary is part of the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park.
This region was transformed from a neglected, troubled area at the border with Bolivia, into one of the best managed protected areas in Peru, and possibly the Americas. Through Rubio's efforts, local communities of indigenous people became involved with the Santuario; the park guards are some of the best instructed and dedicated people in that position; and sustainable use strategies are being investigated with the collection of the region's Brazil Nuts and turtle eggs.
Rubio has a gift for understanding the political, social and economic issues of the region and in the country. He has developed creative solutions and negotiated delicate compromises that allow the biological importance of the region to be central in decision-making and management.
Today Rubio serves as an advisor to Conservando Castañales, a program focusing on the conservation of the rain forest through the sustainable harvesting of castañas, or Brazil nuts. The intersection of Bolivia, Brazil and Peru is home to extraordinarily diverse rain forests, rich in Brazil nut trees. The goal of Conservando Castañales is to conserve the vast castaña-rich forests that link the protected areas of Manu, Madidi and Bahuaja-Sonene National Parks in Peru and Bolivia, in addition to the extractive reserves and indigenous areas of Brazil. The harvesting of Brazil nuts may be one way to protect these fragile forests from intense development pressures.
Conservando Castañales efforts concentrate on three main components: science (pollination, regeneration and use of Brazil nut trees), politics (legal and socioeconomic systems that can help sensitize politicians and decision-makers about sustainable use of rainforest products, with the ultimate goal of establishing new, more environmentally sensitive laws) and information (exchange of information generated by the three countries commercially harvesting Brazil nuts-Brazil, Bolivia and Peru).
According to Rubio, Brazil nuts have great potential as a sustainable rainforest product. Harvesting Brazil nuts is: environmentally responsible because only the fruit is collected, the tree itself is not sacrificed; economically viable as evidenced by its role as an export commodity for more than 70 years; and socially just in that a great number of families devote themselves to harvesting castañales.
For more information regarding the Conservando Castañales program, visit www.amazonconservation.org.