Hobson's Choice--SEMA in the Eighties
The first half of the 1980s was kinder to the Secretariat of the Environment's (SEMA) conservation program than to the IBDF's. In a sense, SEMA's program was preadapted to the hard times of the 1980s by the agency's modest circumstances in the previous decade and by Nogueira-Neto's inherently pessimistic view of conservation's political potential. SEMA's greater initial caution in selecting protected areas meant less conflict with Indians, settlers, and caboclos, and it left SEMA in a better position when the power of these interests became greater than that of conservation. Most of SEMA's ecological stations in Amazonia were smaller than the IBDF's parks and reserves. They were more compact and relied more on natural, easy- to-defend boundaries. Maracá de Roraima was a fluvial island. The Maracá-Jipioca station consisted of two islands off the Atlantic coast of Amapá. SEMA's two stations in western Amazonia were at the confluence of major rivers and had water along much of their perimeters. 1
SEMA's administrative structure now conferred advantages that conservationists in the IBDF envied. Whereas the IBDF's juxtaposed production and conservation mandates had worked to conservation's advantage in the 1970s, when the latter had top-level support, the juxtaposition insured that the parks and reserves were only a minor concern to the forest agency in the 1980s, once that support was withdrawn. The ecological stations, on the other hand, remained a central concern to SEMA: the Ecological Division, responsible for overseeing the stations, was the largest and most important of SEMA's major divisions. 2 Administrators in the division had direct access to Nogueira-Neto. He charged it with a special sense of purpose and its administrators with confidence in his ability to make things come out right. 3 When a problem arose, a frequent response
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Publication information: Book title: Amazon Conservation in the Age of Development:The Limits of Providence. Contributors: Ronald A. Foresta - Author. Publisher: University Press of Florida. Place of publication: Gainesville, FL. Publication year: 1991. Page number: 224.
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