Around 85 per cent of land in Uruguay is used for agriculture, most of it for cattle ranching. Intensive grazing and deforestation have destroyed much of the palm savanna that once covered the south of Brazil, Uruguay and north-east Argentina. Today, only isolated fragments remain. Conserving native tree species such as the majestic yatay palm is a national priority, and is crucial in maintaining biological diversity and ecological integrity.
UPM Forestal Oriental owns around 200,000 hectares of former agricultural land in Uruguay. Around 60 per cent of this area is available for plantations. In December 2009, UPM Forestal Oriental commissioned a study with a local expert to prepare management recommendations for the yatay palms. Incorporating the findings of the study, UPM developed the palm conservation programme that will help this native tree species and valuable habitat to regenerate. By protecting young and mature trees and connecting isolated patches of palms, it will help to preserve and restore the integrity of the palm savanna ecosystem. A hotspot for relocation is a 200-hectare palm grove about 60km north of Paysandu, close to the banks of the Uruguay River.