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Powell to Visit Wildlife Reserve in Gabon - 2002-09-04

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will get a first hand look at efforts to preserve the African rainforest Thursday when he tours a wildlife reserve in the central African nation of Gabon. Emerging from the just concluded Earth summit here is an agreement reached among 29 public and private groups to protect the Congo Basin, an area spanning several African countries.

The area's wildlife had been threatened by commercial logging. But the United States, in partnership with other countries and environmental groups, plans to spend up to $53 million to help preserve a tropical rainforest home to some of the highest densities of animal life on earth. With a commitment from the Gabonese government, the area will be turned into protected parkland. Logging companies would be moved elsewhere.

"The Congo forests are still largely intact and they represent, along with Amazonia and the island of New Guinea one of the last three great tropical forest wilderness areas left on Earth," explained Russell Mittermeir, the president of Conservation International.

Before arriving in Gabon, Secretary Powell will make a brief visit to Angola to review that country's efforts to recover from several decades of civil war.