Brazil approves land tenure law that grants 260,000 sq mi of rainforest to settlers, speculators

June 29, 2009

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva last week signed a controversial law granting 67.4 million hectares (166 million acres) of Amazon rainforest land to more than 1 million illegal settlers, reports Reuters.

The law has been hotly contested for months. Supporters say it will for the first create a system of land tenure in the Brazilian Amazon, making it easier to enforce environmental laws and control future deforestation. Opponents, including some environmental groups, say the law legitimizes land-grabbing and will worsen forest clearing and violence in the region. Lula did veto a clause that favored industrial operators over small land holders, but retained other controversial parts, including a provision that allows the government to grant title to lands of less than 400 hectares (1000 acres) without verifying that the landowners actually occupies the land, offering a loophole for absentee land barons to retain holdings in small blocks.

According to the Associated Press, the new law grants deeds to holdings of less than 100 hectares (250 acres) at now cost. Plots between 100 and 400 acres (250-1000 acres) will be sold at a "symbolic cost" while blocks of 400-1500 hectares (1000-3750 acres) will be sold at market prices. Holdings from 1,500-2,500 hectares (3,750-6,250 acres) will be auctioned and larger lots will be sold after congressional approval.

Lula decision came just days after Environment Minister Carlos Minc said that forest loss from August 2008 through July 2009 will be the lowest since annual recording keeping began in 1988. The slowing in deforestation has been attributed to the global economic downturn, which reduced demand for commodities produced in the Amazon, coupled with government efforts to crack down on illegal forest clearing.

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mongabay.com (June 29, 2009).

Brazil approves land tenure law that grants 260,000 sq mi of rainforest to settlers, speculators.