Enforcement Efforts to Slow Amazon Deforestation Plummet Under New Brazilian President

Since taking office in January, the nationalist Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has gutted key agencies responsible for monitoring and stopping deforestation in the Amazon, leading to a steep drop in enforcement actions in the world’s largest tropical forest, according to an investigation by the non-profit news site, Mongabay.

Mongabay reported that Bolsonaro, sometimes referred to as the “tropical Trump” for his authoritarian and anti-environmental views, has so undermined Brazil’s environmental agency, IBAMA, that deforestation in the Amazon is now proceeding largely unchecked. In the first four months of this year, government seizures of illegally harvested timber totaled just 1,410 cubic feet, the equivalent of 10 large trees. During the same time last year, IBAMA and other agencies confiscated 883,000 cubic feet of illegally harvested timber, Mongabay reported. The Bolsanaro administration now requires IBAMA agents to announce in advance the time and location of all its planned raids on illegal loggers.

Mongabay also reported that fines imposed for illegal deforestation from January 1 to May 15 fell 34 percent from the same period in 2018. This year’s fines, totaling 850, were the smallest number imposed in recent years in Brazil.

The news site reported that a key reason for the steep drop in the crackdown on illegal deforestation is that Bolsonaro has fired or not replaced scores of top environmental officials. Currently, 21 of 27 positions for state superintendent — the office responsible for enforcing deforestation actions — are vacant. And 47 of Brazil’s conservation units now lack directors, leaving an area larger than England without conservation and enforcement leadership.