The Amazon Conservation Team is less a grass roots movement than an international non-profit. Their motto, "Protecting the Amazon through its indigenous people" is as straight forward as can be. The indigenous peoples of the remaining Amazon rain forest, the group recognized, are not only motivated to protect the rainforest, but they are also the most capable. They're current lives and livelihoods depend on the forest. They know the forests better than anyone else. And despite economic incentives that lead many young people away, many are determined to remain living there.
The Virginia based organization works in Columbia, Brazil, and Suriname to conserve pristine rain forests by building alliances between the indigenous people of the regions and the outside world. ACT, with generous donations, has purchased land on behalf of the San Miguel and Yurayaco indigenous reserves and the Alto Fragua Indi Wasi national park.
On first look, ACT's website is rather vague about why some of the programs need outside help. It was vague about why indigenous people in Suriname needed an American sponsored program to engage in traditional farming. Another problem faced by indigenous people of the Amazon is the loss of cultural traditions, as young people leave their homes to participate in the modernizing economy. ACT, in cooperation with local organizations, established a network to connect Shaman, knowledgeable of the forests' many plants and their medicinal properties, with local apprentices eager to learn the secrets of the jungle before they're forgotten forever. Apprentices are able to connect with Shaman from different regions and different ethnic groups far easier than before.
While some projects are simply a coordination of indigenous technology others really could not exist without outside help. The funding to purchase pristine rainforest lands is one example. The introduction of GPS and Google Earth to fight illegal logging and mining are another. Though the parks and reserves are legally protected illegal logging and gold mining is still a problem. Using Google Earth, local people working with park authorities can monitor far larger areas of land than they could on foot. Any new airstrip or road can be detected by satellite imagery. Even an out of season mudding of a river can indicate illegal mining hopeful prospectors could find themselves faced with park rangers and angry locals. ACT has been awarded the MANGOBAY.COM's "Innovation and Conservation Award", and the United Nation's Environment Award.