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Amazon rainforest

Brazilian government authorizes controlled logging in Amazon rain forest

Friday, January 19, 2007 by: Ben Kage
Tags: Amazon rainforest, deforestation, logging


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(NewsTarget) The Brazilian government is hoping that new monitoring efforts of logging means that its decision to auction off the rights to large-scale logging in the middle of the Amazon rain forest will not result in greater devastation.

More than 70 percent of the Amazon rain forest is public land officially, but areas that are not monitored are often used by miners, ranchers and loggers, who use up all the resources before moving along the eastern and southern outskirts of the land. Roughly 8,500 square miles of forest is clear-cut each year.

Winning bidders in the new plan will pay a royalty and have timber rights to large portions of the rain forest, but they will not hold the title to the land or have access to any resources beside timber. The companies will also be under close scrutiny, said government spokespersons. The leases are set to run for 30 years, but this has drawn criticism from Greenpeace, a spokesperson for which said that some plant species in the Amazon take 45 years or longer to regenerate. This means that loggers do not have any financial motivation to renew land, since any trees they plant will only generate revenue for the next leaseholder.

The plan will involve a newly established, 150-member forest service monitoring loggers in the Amazon's center, but environmental and civic groups say that the forest service employees -- who will be from state and municipal governments -- will be more vulnerable to corruption and bullying from powerful economic interests, and worry that loggers will essentially be given free reign. Another difficulty for the plan is the fact that it requires those who purchase timber to agree to buy solely from properly licensed dealers.

When President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was reelected in October, he stated that his primary goal was to bring about a 5 percent growth in the Brazilian economy annually, and added that obstacles with the environment and with Indians hindered Brazil's growth. Da Silva's opponent for the presidency, Geraldo Alckmin, said that the president's new plan was "irresponsible, and alleged that the president wanted to "privatize the Amazon." Former governor of the Amazon state of Acre, Jorge Viana, said that the plan was the opposite of privatization because it brought the forest under state control.

In an interview with the International Herald Tribune, Philip Fearnside of the National Institute for Amazon Research said that the plan might work for parts of the rain forest that had already been devastated, but implementing it in largely untouched areas amounted to endangering parts of the area that had previously been protected. Stephan Schwartzman, a Washington-based Amazon specialist for the advocacy group Environmental Defense, said the new plan was an improvement over the system currently in place, but would only work if the necessary financial support and manpower were in place.

Insufficient support was illustrated in a small Amazon settlement called Reality, where visitors did some out-of-season fishing, eliminated some protected species, and killed three manatees before leaving. When they complained, authorities told Reality's residents that they had to monitor themselves, but the small settlement has no working phone and one resident noted that taking a bus to a nearby town every time there was a problem was unrealistic.

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