The Challenge

The vast majority of Brazil’s Amazon Forest is public land, and illegal deforestation and wildfires occur more on public lands than private. Why? State and Federal conservation areas are mere paper parks, having been drawn up in air-conditioned boardrooms in foreign lands decades ago with no infrastructure to protect them. Fact be known, it appears they cared more about what was below the ground than what was above it. The destructive outcome of such irresponsible policy governing both people and forest has been criminal. As such, the future of the Amazon lies in the hands of the people who live there. Without their involvement, not only will private lands be devastated but so will the majority of the Amazon now under the responsibility of the Brazilian government, protected areas forced on them by international interests.

The Brigada Aliança empowers these people to do the right thing, allowing them to shoulder the burden of caring for the land and its native peoples. That is the challenge: to create the space for people to do the right thing in a landscape where existing circumstances usually result in people breaking the law. Brigada Aliança is leading the charge by uniting one-time antagonists, cowboys and Indians, in an allied front for the purpose of doing good.

Private Land as a catalyst



Private lands make up a quarter of the Amazon Basin, and surround the parks and indigenous reserves in a tapestry where one landmass is inherently tied to the other. Considering that the balance of land in the Amazon, 75%, is in government hands, the importance of transforming the folks who actually live in the region and care for it into part of the solution becomes clear. Simply put, the state and federal parks have no owner to care for them and rampant illegal logging, wildfires and land clearing are occurring on these areas. By empowering private property owners, the future health of these government conservation areas is much more likely to be protected

Private property can be a powerful implement of change. When deployed as a stewardship tool, the pride in its ownership becomes a massive machine that not only positively impacts that landowner’s property, but also the surrounding indigenous and public lands.

People making their living off the land have an innate love for it, and their efforts to survive and provide for their families inherently demands prudent land-management practices. On a frontier, educating private citizens is the key.

The results of mobilizing private citizens to do the right thing have been extraordinary — millions of acres of private forests preserved, soil conservation practices implemented, water quality improved, reforestation affected, massive wildfires reduced and native people supported.

Our Model

We operate in one of the most intensely deforested and burned regions in the Amazon Basin, northeastern Mato Grosso State. The geographic enormity of the region demands a special firefighting model to be effective. As such, Brigada Aliança created the elite leadership in its 8-member full-time cadre of wildland firefighting experts and, subsequently, they train volunteers across key fire-prone regions in the Amazon. From these volunteers two leaders per region are selected to become subject matter experts in their respective areas of operation, allowing them to lead firefighting efforts in their area using volunteers they trained, prearranged local county government assets, and landowner support they catalyzed. The outcome is an effective volunteer wildland firefighting capacity able to expand to any region to prevent and contain wildfires on private as well as public lands by integrating all land classes into one effective team.

Fires in the Amazon



Fires are started to clear the land for development, first for cattle ranching and then for farming.

In the Amazon, fire is akin to a bulldozer in its use as a tool for clearing land — yet it is uncontrolled and far more dangerous to the indigenous people and the environment.

As a forest falls, so does the relative humidity, which means that forests are drying out and becoming fire-prone. Today's Amazon fires burn bigger, are harder to control and quickly become far more destructive.

The fires burn uncontrolled and there is no one to put them out.

Indigenous Tribe Situation



Approximately 24% of Brazil’s Amazon Basin is dedicated to indigenous lands. Like the parks, these lands see limited federal support and are more and more becoming lands of destitution for once-magnificent cultures, with horrific health care, cultural breakdown and increased alcohol and drug use becoming the norm. Unfortunately, the Indians’ large expanses of tropical forest are burning down at record rates. These fires destroy the very existence of these people by consuming their food and medicinal resources at a rate faster than they are being replenished, a process which inevitably results in migration to the surrounding towns and bigger cities. In fact, it seems that this is more of a plan than circumstance.

Our Story

John & Kika's Story



Brigada Aliança is a specific effort that was born out of a larger organization focused on private land stewardship in the Amazon Basin. That organization, called Aliança da Terra, was seeded by John Carter in the late ’90s after finding his family's own land under threat of destruction.

John and his wife Kika lived and worked on a cattle ranch called Fazenda Esperança with no power grid, telephone or running water. It was a frontier landscape that was under development by loggers, ranchers, farmers and squatters. Not only was the forest under siege, but also the personal safety of his family was at stake.

The inherent lack of governance of the Amazon region — characterized by rampant illegal deforestation — motivated John and his wife to create a movement that educated and unified the very people who held the most power, the landowners themselves.

Respect for the land and the people inhabiting it was a key focus in making change happen.

Our Leadership Cadre

The personal stories of our wildland firefighter leaders are things of legend. These men were born on a wild frontier characteristic of vast distances, no electricity, no medical support, no infrastructure, no police, just raw land also inhabited by native Indian populations. Their stories are quintessential sagas of a brutal and hard existence carved out of a rough land where skill and wit are key to survival. Perhaps that is why they can out-fight, outwork, and out-produce their counterparts in NGO-led, theoretical fire-control projects. Today, these Sons of the Pioneers work side by side with their native brothers and sisters in protecting the lands they both depend upon. Nature to them is not esoteric, something learned in a college conservation biology class — it is inherent to who they are as a people and something they dearly care for and want to protect. This is no project to them; this is a life's mission.

  • Edimar de Santos

    Edimar de Santos

    Edimar’s parents were among the original pioneers to settle Mato Grosso State in the 1960s. Yet he was raised in the same conditions as the American pioneers of the 1860s — living in a thatched hut with no electricity and a determination to survive in…

    Edimar’s parents were among the original pioneers to settle Mato Grosso State in the 1960s. Yet he was raised in the same conditions as the American pioneers of the 1860s — living in a thatched hut with no electricity and a determination to survive in a land that could only bring new opportunity. Now raising his own children with the eye for opportunity and the passion for this land, Edimar is the "Comandante" of the Alianca Brigade, hand-chosen by John. Filling this role transformed Edimar into the first “Texas Ranger” of the Brazilian frontier. Through the work of the Brigade, he pursues his dream of creating a stable future for his family, beliefs, and the region he’s made a home.

  • Osmano Santos

    Osmano Santos

    With his roots going back to the Northeast of Brazil, Santos’ parents are some of the original pioneers of the State of Mato Grosso back in the 1960s. In 1938, Santos’ grandparents along with their family left the town of Jirbues in Piauí State looking…

    With his roots going back to the Northeast of Brazil, Santos' parents are some of the original pioneers of the State of Mato Grosso back in the 1960s. In 1938, Santos' grandparents along with their family left the town of Jirbues in Piauí State looking for a better life. Their belongings were transported on the backs of donkeys and mules all the way to the Jalapão region of Porto Nacional-Goiás State (present-day Tocantins State), then passing through Miracema and São Miguel do Araguaia, Goiás, until they arrived at the Ilha do Bananal. In 1963 they swam the famous Araguaia River with their herd of cattle, remuda of horses and personal belongings, finally arriving at their new home, the immense State of Mato Grosso. There they carved out a rustic existence, living in thatched roof huts with no electricity — determined to survive on land that could only bring new opportunity.

    Now, with the objective of supporting his family in a land that brings hope and a passion that only land can produce, Santos has become Operations Chief of Brigada Aliança, promoted by John to this position because of his passionate dedication to duty. By filling those boots, Santos has transformed into the role harking back to the Frontier Battalions of the Texas Frontier.

    Through this work, Santos has pursued his dream of creating a stable future for his family, his beliefs, and the region that he helped build.

  • Gedeon Alves de Souza

    Gedeon Alves de Souza

    “Geda” was born in Novo Santo Antônio (New Saint Anthony), Mato Grosso State, where he still resides, Geda’s parents moved here to this small riverside village with very few residents. It was wilderness, no deforestation, and the few houses that existed were built of adobe…

    "Geda" was born in Novo Santo Antônio (New Saint Anthony), Mato Grosso State, where he still resides, Geda's parents moved here to this small riverside village with very few residents. It was wilderness, no deforestation, and the few houses that existed were built of adobe and thatched roofs. There was no electricity, there were no roads; the only means of transportation was by boat on the Rio das Mortes (River of the Dead). This small colony of pioneers survived on their small food plots that they planted and wild game and fish. Today Geda still lives in this quaint village that has undergone continual evolution, including his work in the Quelônios River Turtle Project that protects the over-harvested tartaruga and tracajá turtle species. Geda feels very grateful to be a part of this mission and watching it grow year by year gives him great satisfaction.

  • Rildo Alves de Sousa

    Rildo Alves de Sousa

    His parents moved to Mato Grosso in the 1960s with his father being toted along by his grandfather as a child, with the intent of settling the state’s rich lands that offered prosperity. Like everyone else at that time, they started with great difficulty, living…

    His parents moved to Mato Grosso in the 1960s with his father being toted along by his grandfather as a child, with the intent of settling the state's rich lands that offered prosperity. Like everyone else at that time, they started with great difficulty, living off what they could produce as the only form of transportation was horseback or boat. Rildo was born and raised in São Félix do Araguaia, a region he is passionate about that has grown and matured with him. Today, Rildo is among the cadre of the Brigada Aliança, the leader of the Indigenous Brigade located in the Alto Xingu of the Xingu National Park. He works with great pride, for he has seen the surprising results the Brigada has brought to the region.

  • Weldre Tavares Pereira

    Weldre Tavares Pereira

    Weldre’s parents came from different states to settle Mato Grosso State back in the 1970s. They lived in a homemade brick house with sapê grass thatching as a roof and kerosene lanterns as light. With great determination they survived on a small piece of land,…

    Weldre's parents came from different states to settle Mato Grosso State back in the 1970s. They lived in a homemade brick house with sapê grass thatching as a roof and kerosene lanterns as light. With great determination they survived on a small piece of land, hoping for better days. Today, Weldre has his own land which he tends with great passion. After participating in the Brigada Aliança training course, he became part of the team and is based in Bom Jesus do Araguaia, Mato Grosso.

  • Luiz Junior da Silva Martins

    Luiz Junior da Silva Martins

    Luiz’s parents were some of the original pioneers of Mato Grosso State back in the late 1940s. Nevertheless, he was raised in similar conditions, much like the pioneers of the American West of the 1800s: thatched roof hut, no electricity, possessing a determination to survive…

    Luiz's parents were some of the original pioneers of Mato Grosso State back in the late 1940s. Nevertheless, he was raised in similar conditions, much like the pioneers of the American West of the 1800s: thatched roof hut, no electricity, possessing a determination to survive in a land that could only bring new opportunity. Now he is raising his own kids with opportunity in sight and passion for the land.

    Luiz Junior is the leader of the Brigada Parque Serra Azul, chosen by his superiors at Brigada Aliança to serve in such capacity. By filling this role, he has been transformed into a key component of a modern-day equivalent of the "Texas Rangers," one custom-made for the Brazilian Frontier. Through his work with the Brigada, he has chased his dreams of creating a future for his family and the region he helped construct.

  • Isafas Balke

    Isafas Balke

    In 1973, Isafas’ parents came to live in Ribeirão Cascalheira (Rocky Creek), Mato Grosso. Conditions there were rustic and tough. Roads were almost nonexistent, and houses were built out of adobe and thatch. Though it was a difficult existence, his parents were seeking a new…

    In 1973, Isafas' parents came to live in Ribeirão Cascalheira (Rocky Creek), Mato Grosso. Conditions there were rustic and tough. Roads were almost nonexistent, and houses were built out of adobe and thatch. Though it was a difficult existence, his parents were seeking a new life to be carved out of the wilderness. Today, he and his wife have a beautiful daughter who, for sure, will grow up with a passion for the land. Isafas was chosen by John to lead, and he has risen to the occasion with great success. He is honored to be a part of something that adds value to the lives of those he loves — including the land.

  • Eusimar de Souza Araujo

    Eusimar de Souza Araujo

    Araujo’s amazing family history began when his grandparents left Goiás State on horseback with another 130 people who were migrating westward. Cattle, horses, chickens and pigs were driven across open land and rudimentary trails by these tough pioneers on the way to a new frontier,…

    Araujo's amazing family history began when his grandparents left Goiás State on horseback with another 130 people who were migrating westward. Cattle, horses, chickens and pigs were driven across open land and rudimentary trails by these tough pioneers on the way to a new frontier, eastern Mato Grosso State. They were the first settlers to arrive; according to family members, it was during the latter 1940s. This colony of families established a foothold in the frontier and began to raise families. Araujo, the youngest of seven kids, became skilled in living off the land and working cattle. Today, he is the team leader for the Araguaia State Park and neighboring counties. He has an intense passion for his work and is very proud to be a part of Brigada Aliança.

  • Arnaldo de Almeida

    Arnaldo de Almeida

    Arnaldo was born and raised in Novo Santo Antônio. His parents came to the region from Formoso do Araguaia GO in 1967 where they built a thatched roof house for their family to live. The tiny village was made up of only a few adobe…

    Arnaldo was born and raised in Novo Santo Antônio. His parents came to the region from Formoso do Araguaia GO in 1967 where they built a thatched roof house for their family to live. The tiny village was made up of only a few adobe dwellings. Everything was very difficult back then: transportation, health care, communications, etc. The only way to get around was by boat on the River of the Dead or on horseback. Arnaldo’s family survived off of the land and what food they could raise. Today, the town has seen big changes in health care, paved roads, etc. Arnaldo’s work protecting river turtles with Brigada Aliança gives him pleasure and much satisfaction.

Our Board

  • John Carter

    John Carter

    John is a surefire Texan with Tennessee roots. Born in San Antonio, Texas, he was raised among oilmen and ranchers with a .22 on his shoulder since he was six years old. At its essence, his foundation was built on a deep love for rural…

    John is a surefire Texan with Tennessee roots. Born in San Antonio, Texas, he was raised among oilmen and ranchers with a .22 on his shoulder since he was six years old. At its essence, his foundation was built on a deep love for rural America and its people. After graduating from the University of Texas, he volunteered for the U.S. Army and served in the Gulf War as part of the 101st Airborne Division's Long Range Surveillance Detachment — Senior Scout on a six-man reconnaissance team — before returning to complete the Ranch Management Program at Texas Christian University, where he met his fiery Brazilian wife, Kika, another graduate of the program. It was upon her father’s insistent request that the newlywed Carters moved to Brazil to settle a ranch in the Amazon wilds of northeastern Mato Grosso State back in 1996. As a witness to the relentless transformation of that frontier region for more than 25 years, John focused his concern to birth Aliança da Terra, an organization that would become a pillar of integrity in the lawless frontier, built on love of the land and to benefit its people.

  • Alex Davis

    Alex Davis

    After a successful career as a national judo champion both in Brazil and the United States, Davis has become a top manager for UFC and MMA fighters in Brazil and the USA. Like John, Davis is steeped in the smoldering reality of private land conservation…

    After a successful career as a national judo champion both in Brazil and the United States, Davis has become a top manager for UFC and MMA fighters in Brazil and the USA. Like John, Davis is steeped in the smoldering reality of private land conservation issues through his experiences of trying to manage an exquisite property of Atlantic rainforest in the State of Rio de Janeiro. He is dedicated to fighting with the Brigada Aliança to stop the destruction and instill integrity in a disjointed land. The passion to fight back encroaching enemies and develop the order of a wild frontier must run in the Davis family blood. Alex has the honor of being the great grandson and grandnephew of two Texas Rangers, and the son of DeWayne C. Davis, a U.S. Smokejumper known for celebrating the completion of his smokejumper training by wrestling a bear at an Idaho county fair (and winning).

  • Kelly Mahon

    Kelly Mahon

    Sergeant Major Kelly Mahon grew up in rural Greenwood County, Kansas. He joined the Army in 1989 and was assigned to the Long Range Surveillance Detachment of the 101st Airborne Division. Subsequently, Kelly volunteered for Special Forces and was assigned to the 5th Special Force…

    Sergeant Major Kelly Mahon grew up in rural Greenwood County, Kansas. He joined the Army in 1989 and was assigned to the Long Range Surveillance Detachment of the 101st Airborne Division. Subsequently, Kelly volunteered for Special Forces and was assigned to the 5th Special Force Group as a Weapons Sergeant in 1997, deploying to training and combat throughout the Middle East, to include assignments as ODA Team Sergeant, Company Sergeant Major, Training Sergeant Major, and Battalion Operations Sergeant Major. His deployments include Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn. SGM Mahon’s awards include: Silver Star, 4x Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, and 4x Meritorious Service Medal. SGM Mahon has a Bachelor's degree in Personnel Management.

    As a direct descendent of a sheriff from Menard County, Texas, who was murdered by the infamous Texas outlaw John Wesley Hardin, it is no surprise Mahon is ever-ready to create and defend justice. A man like Mahon does not retire so, when the time came to move on, he directed his focus to honing the skills of the Brigada Aliançato rescue the forests and its peoples. In Mahon’s words, “I have spent the last decade plus fighting the battles that my country chose for me to fight and would gladly do it again. However, now that I am retired from the U.S. Military, I am able to choose to join this fight for myself. This is a fight worth fighting.”

    SGM Mahon now lives in Glen Rose, Texas, with his wife and two children, where he is the owner operator of ArenaLights.com.

  • Nelson Byrd

    Nelson Byrd

    As a seventh-generation farmer, Nelson oversees the production of corn, soy, wheat and grain sorghum spanning 8,500 acres in Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee in addition to raising grass-fed beef. One of his farming goals is to apply principles of regenerative agriculture to the land in…

    As a seventh-generation farmer, Nelson oversees the production of corn, soy, wheat and grain sorghum spanning 8,500 acres in Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee in addition to raising grass-fed beef. One of his farming goals is to apply principles of regenerative agriculture to the land in his care. This 2003 graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South majored in forestry and geology and also worked at the Chicago Board of Trade for six years, where he traded grains and worked with biodiesel and ethanol plants to hedge market risk. Nelson is a founding member of Alluvium.AI, a Nashville, Tenn.-based company rooted in applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to agricultural pursuits.

  • Tito West

    Tito West

    In Hemingway fashion, Tito West’s photographic art was born out of a masculine world of hunting, fishing and ranching. His sensitivity and sensibility interpreted the rough landscape around him into a beautiful and textured image. He left his San Antonio home at a young age…

    In Hemingway fashion, Tito West’s photographic art was born out of a masculine world of hunting, fishing and ranching. His sensitivity and sensibility interpreted the rough landscape around him into a beautiful and textured image. He left his San Antonio home at a young age to search for and press into other wild places, aiming for his camera to write poetry and reveal truth.

    He began documenting hunting safaris in Africa and his passport quickly turned into a diary of stamps and visas. Countless nights were passed in places like Cameroon’s Congolian jungles or The Selous of Tanzania. Beyond the curtain of hunting, Tito found importance in the natural world and its relationship with rapidly growing populations. Natural resources are diminishing and cultures are evolving and, inside of documenting this important moment in human history, Tito has sculpted these images into true art. He remains actively involved in conservation across Africa and South America.

    The world moves quickly, yet Tito has chosen to view it at a slow canter by shooting solely on film. This process has allowed him to stay present in his work, with a result that is as apparent to him as it is to those who receive his images. There is an introspection and thoughtfulness that comes with viewing a film image as opposed to digital, and Tito strives to remain mindful of this interaction. He is concerned more with conveying emotion and subjectivity over fact. His gritty and raw style often are shot in black and white or otherwise in deep greens, browns and blacks. Tito has had the fortune of presenting these images in exhibitions as well as in award-winning documentaries.

  • Craig Cassarino

    Craig Cassarino

    Craig grew up in a small rural town in southern New Hampshire during the late 1940s and ’50s. He spent most of his summer days in the woods with his grandfather, who logged with a team of horses. He felt at home with the scents…

    Craig grew up in a small rural town in southern New Hampshire during the late 1940s and ’50s. He spent most of his summer days in the woods with his grandfather, who logged with a team of horses. He felt at home with the scents of sweating horses and freshly cut pine. They set in motion his purpose, passion and lifelong journey with nature.

    When he returned from military service in 1969, he enrolled at the Hillcroft School of Horseshoeing in Colorado. It was during this period he became aware that the family farm/ranch was quickly disappearing. He transitioned from the backbreaking work of a farrier to a fighter for farmers/ranchers and those who did and still do not have a voice in nature’s ecosystem.

    After selling his recycling operations company in the late ’90s, he moved to Brazil for nearly five years and, on his return, the state of New Hampshire appointed him as its Commercial Consul to Brazil.

    Craig’s entrepreneurial spirit has allowed him to be involved with agriculture, recycling, composting, renewable and innovative disruptive energy technologies. He has returned to his love of the land and has become involved with the Akaushi breed of cattle and owns a herd in southeast Ohio. Craig lives in Wilton, N.H. He has one son who is enrolled at Suffolk University. Craig has a Master’s of Science degree in Resource Management and Conservation.

When I die, I see the work that was started by Aliança da Terra serving as a tree that will resist the test of time. For that, I am very grateful.”


- Chief Damião, Chief of Xavante Warrior Tribe