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Rainforest Foundation US
Writer and Editor
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Yes to Yasuní:

Democracy Survives Latest Threat in Ecuador

By Cullen Heater

On August 20, the people of Ecuador made history by voting to protect Yasuní National Park from further oil drilling. Less than two weeks after the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, Ecuador demonstrated the power of direct democracy.


Despite the increased risk of political violence, 75% of the electorate turned out to vote. About six in 10 said yes to the Yasuní referendum, voting to leave nearly 726 million barrels of crude oil in the ground.


Through direct democracy, the people of Ecuador have taken on the power of big oil, and secured an astonishing victory for the future of the Amazon.

Read the full blogpost at

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RFUS Quarterly Newsletter

By Cullen Heater

As summer heats up, we are experiencing the undeniable effects of the climate crisis. The southern US is trapped in a record-breaking heatwave, and our offices in Brooklyn were shrouded for weeks in smoke from the Canadian wildfires. Many of us in North America felt these effects acutely, because they directly impacted us. But this is only a small taste of what our partners in South America have to live with—every year.

Read the full newsletter at

Innovative Strategy Yields 18 Land Titles for Indigenous Communities in Peru

By Cullen Heater


"The process of securing land titles ranges from slow and bureaucratic to extremely dangerous. According to de Vasquez, “There are Indigenous leaders who have demanded legal recognition of their territories, and the only response has been murder—more than 30 Indigenous leaders murdered just for seeking the titling of their territories and the recognition of their ancestral lands.


Land titles have proven to be the most effective way to protect Indigenous land from deforestation, with titled land experiencing a 66% decrease in deforestation. Legal land ownership allows Indigenous communities to hold illegal loggers and land-grabbers accountable. Additionally, these titled lands act as a buffer zone, protecting adjacent Indigenous territories from invasion."

Read the full blogpost at

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Constitutional Trial Threatens

Indigenous Peoples' Land Rights in Brazil

By Cullen Heater

"Restoring the territorial integrity of Indigenous communities is not only an ethical imperative, but also the most effective solution to the climate and biodiversity crises. Indigenous peoples are our best hope for the conservation of the Amazon rainforest.


Our shared future depends on the health of the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical forest and one of the major contributors to the climate’s maintenance. As the primary and best guardians of the Amazon rainforest, Indigenous peoples and their lands play a crucial role in mitigating climate change..."

Read the full blogpost at

Spring 2022 Aruza Fundraising Campaign _

Native Future
Communications Manager


Panama's Indigenous Groups Wage High-Tech Fight for Their Lands

By Jim O'Donnell and Cullen Heater


With help from U.S. organizations, Panama’s Indigenous people are using satellite images and other technologies to identify illegal logging and incursions by ranchers on their territory. But spotting the violations is the easy part — getting the government to act is far harder.

Read the full article at Yale Environment 360.

Wounaan Conservation Featured at COP 15 on Biodiversity

By Cullen Heater

Indigenous identity, in particular that of the Wounaan people of Panama, is inextricably linked with the biodiversity of their land, which is reflected in their traditional art, dance, medicine, and worldview.


Wounaan Cacique Aulina Ismare shares the following message with the delegates of 196 countries that gathered at the COP 15 on Biodiversity in Montreal this year to discuss the biodiversity crisis:

Read the full blogpost at


Wounaan Bird Count 2022:

Updates from the Field

By Cullen Heater

This has been an important year for Wounaan birdwatching. The community of Puerto Lara hosted the 5th annual Christmas Bird Count on January 5th, 2022. The CBC represents an opportunity for Wounaan communities like Puerto Lara to promote sustainable ecotourism and to document the health of their bird populations. This year, 713 individual birds were spotted, representing 117 different species.

Read the full blogpost at

The Urgency of Aruza: Stop the Invasion of Wounaan Lands

By Cullen Heater

In a stunning and abrupt reversal, Panama’s National Land Administration Authority (ANATI) has annulled the community of Aruza’s 2012 petition for collective land rights. This decision effectively hands over control of almost 8,000 hectares of traditional Wounaan lands to 72 settler-colonists, cattle ranchers, and loggers. What we are witnessing is the displacement of Indigenous families from their territory. Make no mistake, the people of Aruza are in urgent need of a solution.

Read the full blogpost at


Multiculturalism and the Canal:

Searching for Identity in Panama's Craft Beer Industry

Cervecería Feroz is located on a former U.S. military base in the Panama Canal Zone. Fort Clayton was later renamed Ciudad del Saber, or the City of Knowledge, and is now home to nonprofits, NGOs, and—ironically—the Peace Corps. 


Feroz wasn’t around when I first moved to Panama City as a Peace Corps volunteer in 2017. Years later, my search for answers—and my thirst for beer—has led me right back to where I started: the City of Knowledge.

Read the full article at Good Beer Hunting.

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A Walk Through Time:

The Rich History of Casco Viejo

By Cullen Heater


Strolling the streets and alleyways of Casco Viejo, Panama is like walking through the pages of history. It is one of the few locations in the world where you can witness such a striking overlap of French and Spanish colonial architecture.


During your stay at Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo, you can experience it all: the gastronomic and cultural modernity of the area, superimposed on top of its rich and important history.

Read the full article at Sofitel Legend Panama

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