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Witch of November

reschedule from early December to later in the season, river levels had not yet shown tangible signs of being a re-run of last year’s prolonged sogginess.

For anglers looking at trips after the first of the year, the historical pattern has been low water conditions. Both River Plate Anglers and Captain Peacock still have good space availability after March 1.

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A swath of Amazon rain forest the size of England was placed under government protection this month in a region infamous for violent conflicts among loggers, ranchers and environmentalists.

The protected territory totals 57,915 square miles of the Guayana Shield region. The protected areas will link to existing reserves to form a vast preservation corridor in Brazil, eventually stretching into neighboring Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

The Amazon region covers 60% of Brazil, and 20% of its forest - 1.6 million square miles - already has been destroyed by development, logging and farming. Over the past four years, an area larger than South Carolina has been cut down.

The protections, announced Monday by the Para state government, are surprising coming out of a state twice the size of France long known for ruthlessly cutting down the rain forest. The creation of the new reserves places more than half of Para state either under some form of government protection or on an Indian reservation. Two of the new protected areas, covering 22,239 square miles, would place the land completely off limits to the general public and only be accessible to researchers.

Together these two areas are believed to contain half of all bird, animal and plant species found in the Amazon. They also are home to several endangered animal species, including the northern bearded saki monkey, jaguars, giant anteaters, the giant armadillo and the giant Amazon otter.

The remaining areas have been declared sustainable use protected areas, allowing local communities to manage the natural resources and permitting limited logging under strict guidelines.

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In another development, newly re-elected Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez set off on a tour promoting a South American alliance and a vast natural gas pipeline.

The proposed $20 billion pipeline would stretch some 5,600 miles and link Venezuela's gas reserves - the largest in South America - to much of the continent.

Environmentalists warn the pipeline would be an ecological disaster because it would cut through the Amazon, and oil analysts say the price could be much higher than initial estimates.

But Chavez has dismissed those arguments and is pushing the plan as a way to unite South America's energy needs without investment from multinational companies. He says the continent's two largest economies, Brazil and Argentina, need Venezuela's natural gas for power generation and as fuel for cars and cooking.

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Meanwhile, along the Brazilian border the whopping disparity in gasoline prices has generated a booming contraband trade in a remote and underpopulated corner of the Amazon. With gas at 17 cents a gallon in southeastern Venezuela compared with $5 a gallon in nearby Brazil, smugglers fill vehicles, with tanks, plastic drums and bottles hidden behind seats, above tires and under the hood.
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