Bioregional Plan to Protect the Lungs of the Planet

FROM THE EDITORS: A large alliance representing 30 indigenous nationalities, inhabitants and protectors of 35 million hectares of the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Amazon, published the “Bioregional Plan: Sacred Headwaters 2030” to present a strategic plan for the protection and conservation of forests led by indigenous peoples. The plan includes concrete transition actions towards indigenous self-determination and sovereignty, as well as investment proposals in “forest economies,” clean energy, and smart urban spaces. Under the premise of leaving fossil fuels underground and preventing future extractivisms in the region, the Sacred Headwaters transition plan places the Amazonian peoples as political actors at the international level in the fight against the climate crisis, thus making it a proposal for planetary survival.

Founded in 2017 as the Sacred Headwaters for Life Initiative, the interregional alliance seeks to fulfill the triple goal of protecting the ecological and cultural integrity of ancestral territories, strengthening ties between peoples’ struggles, and developing a just transition from anthropocene extractivisms imposed in the region towards an ecocentric vision of water and food sovereignty. “We are making a global call for the recognition of the Amazon as a vital organ of the Biosphere,” they write in their report, “We demand that this cultural and ecological jewel, these sacred territories and living forests, be out of the reach of the threats mentioned and permanently protected.”

On September 10, 56% of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) voted in favor of motion 129 to “Avoid the point of no return in the Amazon by protecting 80% by 2025,” proposed by the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), the Amazon 80 x 2025 coalition and 17 IUCN member organizations. This was a very important step in the roadmap towards discussions to be held at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, COP26.

Below we present a translation of the Bioregional Plan presentation at the IUCN.


Indigenous Leaders submit a proposal for the ecological transition and protection of the Amazon at the World Conservation Congress 

Cuencas Sagradas makes a plea for the Amazon Bio-region at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, Marseille, 2021 

Marseille, France, September 9, 2021, At the World Conservation Congress being held until September 11 in Marseille, France, indigenous leaders called for the protection of 80% of the Amazon (the largest tropical rainforest in the world) by 2025, providing a straightforward model to encourage such action. 

At an official event, the Cuencas Sagradas project, which brings together more than 30 indigenous ethnic groups inhabiting a surface of 35 million hectares (135,000 square miles) of tropical forest between Ecuador and Peru, unveiled its ecological transition proposal for the Amazon. The 2030 Bioregional Plan, built from the bottom up and with the support of renowned academics and researchers, proposes nine pathways of socio-ecological transition for the territory within a context in which the dangers and the needs of communities are becoming increasingly evident.  On this matter, Domingo Peas, Achuar leader and spokesman for Cuencas Sagradas, affirmed that the world faces a climate and biodiversity crisis and that indigenous territories in the nine countries that make up the Amazon are currently under threat by an increase in mining concessions and oil extraction, which disregards the destruction of this region also dubbed the lungs of the planet.

The unveiling of the Bioregional Plan at the World Conservation Congress (IUCN) marked a relevant milestone in the plan’s dissemination process by disclosing it to the international community, following a series of actions undertaken in Ecuador, highlighted by its submission to the Minister of the Environment, Gustavo Manrique, and the President of the National Assembly Guadalupe Llori. In fact, during the event, Tom Goldtooth, an indigenous leader from North Dakota and director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, expressed his support for the Cuencas Sagradas initiative and called for closer cooperation in the struggles undertaken by indigenous nations from the North and the South. 

Throughout the event, indigenous leaders reiterated the importance of understanding human beings’ interrelation and codependence with nature and the sacred aspect of life.  

Moreover, they pointed out that implementing the Bioregional Plan will serve as an example of transition and of a paradigm shift toward a new way of connecting with the natural world. 


We, the indigenous nations, have knowledge and experience. With this Plan, we’ll help the world see that it is possible to encourage new governance systems and management of territories. That it is possible to live in harmony with the natural world.  Domingo Peas, Coordinator of Amazonian Affairs for the project in Ecuador. 

Related to the above, Gregorio Mirabal, Coordinator General for COICA, announced a motion to be taken into consideration by the members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN,) which looks to ensure the preservation of 80% of the Amazon.  “We are nearing the point of no return. The ecosystems of this region are collapsing due to deforestation and forest fires,” declared the indigenous leader. In addition, he urged attendees to lend their support to this endeavor, in which the initiative of the Cuencas Sagradas project is particularly relevant.  

The presentation of the Cuencas Sagradas initiative and its Bioregional Plan in Marseille sought to promote a worldwide alliance of solidarity, action, and commitment toward the Amazon, with the full awareness of what happens there also corresponds to global development dynamics. In this sense, it drew attention to every actor’s role in protecting and safeguarding what is essentially the planet’s heart.  

You can watch the live broadcast of the press conference on our social media by clicking here.  

Learn more about the Cuencas Sagradas Bioregional Plan here.