The Brazilian government is to formulate an action plan to protect the country's endangered national tree, the pau-brasil. The environment ministry has announced that a National Programme for Pau-brasil Conservation will be established, based on the findings of a working group comprising government agencies, conservation bodies and research institutes.

In an official statement, the ministry outlined the goals of the programme: 'Reassess the conservation status of the species, identify conservation schemes and remnants of Atlantic Forest that harbour populations of the species, and promote sustainable use and commercial tree plantations with the participation of government and private enterprise.'

Pau-brasil has been on Brazil's list of threatened species since 1992, and harvesting from natural forests for commercial purposes was prohibited in 2001. Since pernambuco was added to the CITES Appendix II in 2007, bow makers outside Brazil have had no legal source of new wood.

The indication that the Brazilian government is now considering commercial use for some of the trees now being planted is therefore potentially highly significant for bow makers. 'This is a big thing. It's what we've all been working for,' said Yung Chin, a New York-based bow maker and a director of the US branch of the International Pernambuco Conservation Inititative, which since 2004 has funded one of the most successful pau-brasil conservation programmes.

The new working group has been given 180 days to come up with an action plan, which will then be evaluated by Brazil's National Forestry Commission.