19 May 2011:
Brazil Deforestation Escalates
as Nation Debates Easing Forest Code
Satellite photographs reveal that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has intensified significantly
during the last two months, a trend environmental advocates say is linked to an ongoing national debate
over easing forest protection laws. According to Brazil’s National Space Research Agency, about 593 square kilometers of forest was cleared during March and April, compared to just 103 square kilometers in March and April 2010. Eighty-one percent of the recent clearing occurred in Mato Grosso, the nation’s southernmost state and a center of soybean production. The steep rise in forest loss stands in stark contrast to recent trends in Brazil, where annual deforestation had fallen almost 80 percent since 2004. Some say the recent deforestation is a direct consequence of the debate over changes to Brazil’s Forest Code, which requires property owners in the Amazon region to maintain 80 percent of their holdings as forest. Greenpeace’s Marcio Astrini told Reuters
that deforestation is surging in Mato Grosso because landowners, anticipating that a weakening of the code would grant amnesty for deforestation, are rapidly clearing forest for agriculture. “The only relevant factor is the Forest Code,” he said. “It is a gigantic rise.”
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