Brazil’s Forest Code and Land Speculators To Amp Up Amazon Deforestation Rates

90% of Forest in Apuí Converted into Pasture But the Real Profit is in Land Sales

By Stephen Leahy*

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jul 28, 2011 (Tierramérica)

Many migrants from southern Brazil who clear forests in Brazil’s state of Amazonas are making their living as small-scale land speculators and not as farmers or as cattle ranchers, new research has found.

This on-the-ground reality and the proposed changes to Brazil’s Forest Code are likely to ramp up deforestation rates again, despite the country’s commitment to reduce deforestation 80 percent by 2020, experts say.

The Forest Code (Law 4771) was adopted in 1965 and has undergone numerous reforms, the most recent in 2001. This past May 24, an overwhelming majority in the Chamber of Deputies voted in favor of a bill to relax its requirements with regard to forest conservation. The bill is currently under study in the Senate. [Update Dec 28 2011]

A detailed study conducted in the municipality of Apuí along the Transamazon Highway in Amazonas found that many families in the region earned little income from cattle.

Instead, they were clearing the land in order to claim land titles to sell the land to large corporate ranchers, according to the study “Forest Clearing Dynamics and the Expansion of Landholdings in Apuí, a Deforestation Hotspot on Brazil’s Transamazon Highway”, published in the journal Ecology and Society in June.

From the early 1990s the population of Apuí has tripled, and the municipality has had some of the highest rates of deforestation in all of the state of Amazonas. Approximately 90 per cent of the area has been converted into pasture, the study found.

“These families are always moving into new forest areas to deforest so they can claim land title. And after a few years they sell it for a much higher price,” said study co-author Gabriel Carrero of the Institute for Conservation and Sustainable Development of Amazonas (IDESAM). Continue reading

Tropical Forests Fight for Survival

sumatra-burning-forest-courtesy-of-kim-worm-sorensen-sml

By Stephen Leahy*

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 28 (Tierramérica) – Current rates of deforestation suggest there will hardly be any tropical forests left in 20 years. Sixty percent of the rainforests, which survived for 50 million consecutive years, are already gone.

However, some experts say widespread planting of previously logged forests offers hope for preserving some of the region’s rich and unique biodiversity.

Recent satellite data have shown that about 350,000 square kilometres of the original forested areas are growing back, Greg Asner of the Washington-based Carnegie Institution said at the Smithsonian symposium Jan. 12 at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, also in the U.S. capital.

That is only 1.7 percent of the immense planetary belt of original forest that once covered 20 million square kilometres. Twelve million sq km have already been cleared while another five million have been selectively logged, Asner reported.

“There is going to be lots of tropical forest left in the future but it will be different forest,” says Joseph Wright of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama. Continue reading