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Land reform agency sanctions logging in Amazon rainforest park

Land reform agency sanctions logging in Amazon rainforest park

Land reform agency sanctions logging in Amazon rainforest park
August 21, 2007

Under the guise of a sustainable development scheme, a Brazilian land agency has granted large tracts of Amazon rainforest to colonists who quickly resold the forest to loggers, alleges a new report from Greenpeace. Some of the concessions were in the Amazon National Park, a national park.

Inequality of land distribution has long been a problem in Brazil, with a small number of wealthy landowners controlling a large share of the country’s most productive land. The National Institute of Colonization and Land Reform (INCRA) is the agency charged with helping poor communities find land to settle and develop.

An eight-month investigation by Greenpeace found that INCRA may be working with logging firms to profit from land reform initiatives.

The land reform agency allegedly collaborated with logging companies to identify areas of interest for timber extraction then set up large settlements in these tracts of rainforest instead of placing them in already deforested areas. Timber firms then purchased the land on the cheap for logging. Greenpeace says the scheme gave loggers access to attractive timber, while helping INCRA meet President Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva’s land reform targets just prior to his re-election campaign. Settlers won land and payments for selling holdings to loggers.

The Amazon is increasingly fragmented in colonized areas. Image courtesy of Google Earth

In 2006 INCRA created 97 “sustainable development settlements” (PDS) covering 2.2 million hectares near Santarém in Pará, the Amazonian state where American nun Dorothy Stang was gunned down in 2005.

“All these settlements were created in the last three months of last year,” an INCRA employee told The Independent. “It was the end of Lula’s first term so he had to accomplish the targets. It is politicians who will benefit from the PDS system.”

The Independent reported concern that the system will be used to expand logging in other parts of the Amazon.

“We believe that what is going on here is a lab test, and the model will be replicated all over the Amazon later on,” an INCRA informant told the British newspaper, which goes on to note that due to Stang’s murder, “the PDS scheme has wrongly become synonymous with good environmental practice.”

Stang died defending two PDS settlements.

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