November 30, 2011
The decision comes after a day of protests by environmentalists and indigenous rights' groups, which fear that the new Forest Code would effectively grant amnesty for ranches and farmers that illegally deforested land in the Amazon rainforest. The revisions would also reduce set-backs along waterways and allow forest clearing on steep slopes and mountaintops. Meanwhile a recently added amendment would legalize conversion of mangrove forests for shrimp farms.
Supporters of the revisions say they would make the Forest Code clearer and easier to enforce while allowing Brazil to expand export-driven agriculture deeper into the Amazon. The new Forest Code would give more power to the states to determine what proportion of private land must be kept forested.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has dropped sharply since last peaking in 2004. The Brazilian government attributes the decline to increased enforcement efforts, conservation initiatives, and sustainable development projects, but analysts note that macroeconomic trends that have made it less profitable for Brazilian farmers and ranchers to expand production have been an important contributing factor. Brazil aims to further reduce the annual deforestation rate by 2018.