Rome, Italy, 15-19 March 2005

23 October 2004

1. On 23 October 2004 the Government of Costa Rica hosted the Pan-American Conference on Wildland Fire in San Josť. The conference was sponsored by the FAO Latin America and Caribbean Forestry Commission (LACFC), the FAO North American Forest Commission (NAFC) and the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC). The objective of the conference was to strengthen international cooperation in wildland fire management. The participants adopted the following declaration:

2. The Conference participants:

Recognising the importance of forests as providers of environmental services and social, economic, and ecological benefits to humankind;

Expressing concern about the increasing frequency and destructive force of unwanted wildfires in the Americas -- including the excessive use of fire in the conversion of forests into other land uses in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean -- affecting human lives, health and wellbeing, economic assets, property, biodiversity, water resources, soil, atmosphere and climate;

Noting that fire is playing an important role in the natural dynamics and maintenance of many ecosystems in the Pan-American region;

Noting that the use of fire in agricultural expansion in some parts of the Americas is resulting in increased vulnerability of ecosystems; likewise urban encroachment in wildlands resulting in increased vulnerability of human populations to fire, notably at the rural-urban interface;

Recognizing the reasons for changing fire regimes is due to increase in population pressure in many countries and associated socio-economic and conflicts in some rural areas;

Noting an increase in vulnerability of humans and ecosystems to secondary disasters following fires, including floods, landslides and soil erosion;

Noting that the effects of climate variability and climate change caused by human activities are already producing periods of extreme drought resulting in an increase in the severity of fires in some boreal, temperate, sub-tropical and tropical ecosystems, in particular in wetlands;

Concluding from the analyses and reports of the Regional Wildland Fire Networks presented to this conference on the fire situation in participating countries, it is evident that the majority of countries in the regions are ready to establish and strengthen a regional dialogue on cooperation and exchange of information, research and wildland fire management, including through agreements;

Expressing the intention to overcome current gaps and shortages in:

Recalling the recommendations of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD 2002) and the International Wildland Fire Summit (Sydney 2003) with respect to the management of wildland fires and the strategy to strengthen international cooperation in wildland fire management;

Endorsing the efforts of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN-ISDR) and its Wildland Fire Advisory Group to assist and strengthen the efforts of United Nations bodies, other international organizations, and non-governmental organizations, to reduce the negative impacts of wildland fires;

Supporting the objectives of the ISDR Global Wildland Fire Network (GWFN) and the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) to systematically increase the intra- and inter- regional cooperation in wildland fire management for the world;

Supporting the preparations by FAO for the Ministerial Meeting on Forests where wildland fire management will be a major agenda item (Rome, 14 March 2005);

Appreciating the support and hospitality of the government of Costa Rica, host of the Pan-American Conference on Wildland Fire;

Recommend to governments, international organizations and non-government organizations the following action plan for cooperation on wildland fire management: