Revised Brazilian Forest Code Puts Amazon Forests at Risk, Critics Warn

Although Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff vetoed several controversial changes to the nation’s Forest Code last week, environmental advocates say the final legislation unveiled Monday remains heavily influenced by the powerful agribusiness lobby and will result in widespread deforestation in the Amazon. If ratified by Congress, revisions to Brazil’s land-use laws approved by Rousseff would reduce the amount of forest that property owners must preserve and cut future penalties for those who violate environmental laws. The revised legislation preserves the requirement that landowners protect 80 percent of forest in rural regions of the Amazon, but eases restrictions and sanctions on landowners who break the law. Forest loss in Brazil has declined in the last decade because of stricter government laws, but those policies have met with increased resistance as the country has enjoyed growing wealth from some if its key commodities, including soybeans and beef. And while Rousseff enjoys popularity with the Brazilian public, analysts say, her ability to challenge the powerful agricultural interests were limited since her party holds just 15 percent of the seats in a divided Congress.