The Brazilian government announced Wednesday it would officially designate 62 million acres of Amazon rain forest as protected by 2000 as part of a joint initiative with the World Bank and the World Wildlife Fund.

The announcement follows growing concern about the region's rain forests due to large-scale logging and forest fires which have left 130 million acres deforested.It marks the first formal response by a national government to a call from the Alliance for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Use, a new partnership established by the World Bank and World Wildlife Fund, for developing countries to set aside 125 million acres in new protected forest areas by 2005.

Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso said the decision to set aside such a large area emphasized Brazil's belief in the global importance of forests.

World Bank president James Wolfensohn praised Cardoso's decision and said the bank stood ready to support and finance whatever is necessary to protect these forests.

Total costs for the first stage of the project are estimated at between $90 million and $150 million. It will be funded through Brazilian government money, donations from other national governments, private organizations and the Global Environment Facility, a special fund supported by the bank and the United Nations.

The World Bank's preliminary contribution is likely to be around $35 million. Officials said the Brazilian government and the bank had agreed in principle over a special loan to help fund the initiative in the longer term.

Claude Martin, director general of WWF International, also stressed that special monitoring procedures would be set up to ensure that the designated areas did not simply become "paper parks" - listed as protected on maps but in practice open to loggers and other incursions.

The entire project is expected to take five to 10 years to implement.