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Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon won’t increase significantly for 2008

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon won’t increase significantly for 2008

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon won’t increase significantly for 2008
August 15, 2008

Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc said Thursday that Amazon deforestation for the 2007-2008 year will likely be comparable to the prior year. The announcement marks an abrupt turn-around for the Brazilian government which in April said that forest destruction was expected to increase for the first time since 2004.

“I’m more optimistic now,” Minc was quoted by Bloomberg as saying. “I believe deforestation will be the same as last year.”

Earlier Minc had estimated that up to 15,000 square kilometers of forest would be lost, an increase from the 11,224 sq km lost in 2007. He now says that the figure will likely be around 12,000 sq km for 2008.

Minc’s comments come after harsh criticism from some of the country’s largest agroindustrial firms which said that government satellite data was overestimating deforestation. Cattle ranching is the largest driver of rainforest destruction in the Brazilian Amazon, although expansion of giant soy farms is increasingly an incentive to clear forest for new pasture.

Brazil accounted for nearly half of global tropical forest loss between 2000 and 2005.

The lowered estimates for deforestation come after a sustained crackdown by the Brazilian government on illegal forest clearing in the Amazon. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has signed several decrees over the past year to strengthen environmental law enforcement in the region, including increasing fines for illegal deforestation and giving authorities the power to seize property and goods from people involved in illicit logging. The number of federal police operating in the Amazon has been increased and several new protected areas have been established. Brazil has also proposed a $21 billion fund for conserving the Amazon, while the beef, soy, and logging industries have developed their own initiatives to improve the environmental performance of their products.

The Brazilian Amazon consists of about 4.1 million square kilometers, of which about 3.4 million are forested. Overall about 20 percent of the Brazilian Amazon has been cleared since the late 1970s. Still the Amazon remains the largest rainforest on Earth. More than 60 percent of the forest lies in Brazil.

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