The Michelin Ecological Reserve (REM or Reserva Ecológica Michelin in Portuguese) is a 3096 ha protected area owned by the Plantações Michelin da Bahia (PMB) member of Michelin Corporate Group whose headquarters are in Clermont-Ferrand, France. The reserve encompasses a mosaic of lowland evergreen Atlantic rain forest and rubber groves in the municipalities of Igrapiúna and Ituberá, 140 km south of the capital Salvador. The reserve is legally classified under several conservation categories including Legal Reserve (Reserva Legal), Conservation Easements (Servidão Florestal), and Private Natural Heritage Reserve (Reserva Particular de Patrimônio Natural). The reserve is part of a larger Michelin project called Projeto Ouro Verde Bahia that includes economic, social, and agronomic research programs aimed at stimulating the regional economy and improving the standard of living of smallholder agriculturalists by planting improved varieties of rubber trees.
Why did Michelin create the reserve?
The Michelin Ecological Reserve was created in 2005 (port. # 13294, decree # 1.922/96) in order to preserve a significant remnant of the southern Bahian Atlantic Rain Forest, known for its rich biodiversity and endemic species, in a region that has suffered widespread deforestation and forest degradation. While protecting the forest from illegal hunting and wood cutting was the fundamental purpose for creating the reserve, Michelin seized the opportunity to invest in reforestation, ecological research, and environmental education programs after realizing that the lack of such programs is impeding the adequate management and protection of the Atlantic Forest of Bahia. Thus the reserve is organized around these four programs: protection, restoration, research, and environmental education. The creation of the reserve is part of the Michelin corporate philosophy of the sustainable use of natural resources and environmentally responsible business practices.
Organization of the reserve
The reserve is administered by the Center for Biodiversity Studies (CEB or Centro de Estudos da Biodiversidade in Portuguese) with a staff of six: the reserve manager (Dr. Kevin M. Flesher), administrator (André Sousa dos Santos), four forest guards, and two attendants at the Pancada Grande Waterfall. In addition to the Michelin staff, there is a contracted staff of 12 to help with the restoration plantings and the maintenance of the reserve infrastructure.
Who has access to the reserve?
The reserve is a multiple-use area with a zoning scheme to determine the use of each area. Tourism is limited to the Pancada Grande Waterfall and the 172 ha Pancada Grande Forest above the waterfall on the north side of the Cachoeira Grande River. Ornithologists with scheduled visits are allowed access to the wetlands in the plantation in the company of the forest guards and can visit the areas open to tourism without the need to schedule visits or the company of forest guards. Scientists with approved projects and scheduled visits are allowed access to the entire reserve.