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Letter from some of the World's Leading Scientists Against New Oil Roads
in Yasuni Park and World Biosphere Reserve in the Ecuadorian Amazon


Ingeniero Lucio Gutiérrez, President of the Republic of Ecuador
Fabián Valdivieso, Minister of the Environment, Ecuador
Members of the Ecuadorian Congress
Jose Eduardo de Barros Dutra, President and CEO of Petrobras
Dr. Ray R. Irani, Chairman and CEO of Occidental Petroleum

February 14, 2005

We are gravely concerned about the irreversible ecological damage caused by new oil drilling roads in one of the world's most biologically important tropical rainforests, Yasuní National Park and Biosphere Reserve in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Yasuní may well be the single most biodiverse forest on earth. It is home to a large stretch of the world's most diverse tree community, with almost as many different species of trees in just 2.5 acres of rainforest than all the tree species in the US and Canada combined. It contains more documented insect species than any other forest in the world, and is among the most diverse forests in the world for different species of birds, bats, amphibians, epiphytes, and lianas. Yasuní is critical habitat to 23 globally threatened mammal species, including the Giant otter, the Amazonian manatee, Pink river dolphin, Giant anteater, and Amazonian tapir. An astounding 10 primate species live in the Yasuní, including the threatened White-bellied spider monkey.

This extraordinary diversity is now being threatened by new oil roads. Scientific studies reveal that roads are often the greatest threats to primary rainforests. Ten years ago, the first oil road, the Maxus Road , was built into Yasuní. This road has become a magnet for colonization and has opened up the park to over-hunting and deforestation that threaten the Park's rare species. Scientists fear that woolly monkeys are being wiped out of the region due to the unprecedented hunting access provided by the road.

The Brazilian national oil company Petrobras is about to build a new road into the heart of Yasuní National Park . This road would be a completely new artery through primary rainforest into a virtually undisturbed part of the park. Moreover, this road would transect the territory of an indigenous Quichua community and will enter the ancestral territory of the Huaorani, the great hunter-gatherers of the rainforest. This road will likely repeat the destructive pattern of the Maxus Road and initiate a wave of colonization, over hunting, and deforestation, and the decline and perhaps elimination of the native cultures.

The American oil company Occidental (Oxy) has built a major access road through primary rainforest in the northern buffer zone of the Park. In its 2003 Health, Safety, and Environment report, Oxy states that in the primary rainforests of their Eden-Yuturi project, “access control to prevent the invasion of indigenous lands by outside settlers and biodiversity protection were identified as the most significant management goals.” The report then states…“the development of the oil field would not include construction of a road.” Oxy should understand that satellites take pictures of every meter of the planet every 16 days and that the new road it has been building over the past 5 years show up quite clearly.

The world is undergoing a catastrophic loss of natural biodiversity and native ecosystems caused directly and indirectly by humans. These changes, if unchecked, will lead to the extinction of 50% or more of the world's wild species by the end of this century. Over 80% of the world's forests have been degraded or destroyed, and every year sees millions of additional forest hectares lost to destructive human activity.

Every nation on earth has a prime responsibility, on behalf of its own citizens, including native peoples, the world community, and all life forms, to arrange for comprehensive protection of natural ecosystems and native biodiversity within its borders against human induced extinctions. Additionally, governments around the world, including Ecuador, are discovering the enormous economic benefits of protecting large natural forest areas, which contribute nature's services such as clean water, climate stability, sustainable forest products, national pride, and increasingly, large tourist income to their nation's economy.

We call on the Ecuadorian government to protect the country's extraordinary biodiversity by prohibiting the construction of new roads through primary rainforests in designated natural areas, starting with the Petrobras road in Yasuní National Park . We are deeply disturbed by the activities of Occidental and call on all international oil companies to immediately implement a roadless mandate for all future activities in primary rainforest.


Carl Ross, Director
Matthew Finer, Ph.D.

Save America's Forests
Washington, D.C.

Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE
Director of Science and Research
The Jane Goodall Institute
Silver Spring, MD

Stuart Pimm, Ph.D.
Doris Duke Chair of Conservation Ecology
Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
Edward O. Wilson, Ph. D.
University Research Professor Emeritus
 and Honorary Curator in Entomolgy

Harvard University
Cambridge, MA

Dr. Thomas Lovejoy
The Heinz Center
Washington , D.C.

Dr. Peter Raven
Home Secretary,
National Academy of Sciences
Director, Missouri Botanical Gardens

Dr. Paul Ehrlich
Bing Professor of Population Studies
Department of Biological Sciences
Stanford University
Stanford , California

Dr. Gary Meffe
Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Editor of “Conservation Biology”
Professor, University of Florida Gainesville , Florida


Read the letter from the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation
Read the letter from Scientists of the Smithsonian Institution
Read the letter from the Scientists Concerned for Yasuni National Park

Read the letter from Leading Scientists, including E.O. Wilson and Dr. Jane Goodall
E.O. Wilson Lecture and Slide Show in the U.S. Senate
Dr. Jane Goodall's Press Conference and Lecture in the U.S. Senate
Dr. Peter Raven's letter to the Senate endorsing the Act to Save America's Forests


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