Defending the Natural Areas in the Eighties
The IBDF's parks and reserves in Amazonia were the core of its conservation turf. Most of its conservation energy had been spent on their establishment; other conservation goals had been sacrificed or put on hold for their benefit. Now the political weakness of conservation affected the natural areas profoundly. They had become relics of another, more optimistic era; they had been founded when conservation's importance in Brazil seemed to be increasing. They had been delineated before the political limits of Brazilian conservation had revealed themselves to be so narrow--indeed, before they had become so narrow. The relict system became increasingly outsized for conservation's political resources in the 1980s.
The most obvious consequence was a lack of material resources. The IBDF was not able--or willing--to give the natural areas ample budgets. Protected areas under the wing of special development projects faced the same problem: conservation was a poor competitor when matched against revenue-generating activities. Infrastructure and staffing were therefore always far less than envisioned when the areas had been established or their management plans drawn up.
Other problems compounded that of insufficient material resources. Conservation's marginal status within the IBDF placed field managers under superiors who lacked experience in conservation management and who were not led by circumstance to pay attention to conservation problems. This left field personnel without consistent guidelines, or even a clear idea of whom they should turn to for guidance. Without guidance, and often without training, they had to fall back on their own untutored instincts in protecting their parks and reserves.
The inability of conservationists to influence the direction of