For the past decade, the southern part of Amazonas state has seen some of the highest rates of deforestation increase in Brazil, threatening the unique moist forest ecosystem found on the divide between the Purus and Madeira river basins.The municipalities of Apuí and Lábrea, on the Transamazon highway (BR-230) lead this destructive trend. But now a variety of land users, including legal and illegal loggers, cattle ranchers, entrepreneurs and land grabbers are moving north along the currently unpaved BR-319 highway, causing major deforestation.Environmentalists warn that this new wave of Amazon destruction will continue sweeping northward, and intensify, if the Brazilian government continues investing in the BR-319, improving the 890-kilometer (550 mile) road linking the city of Porto Velho in Rondônia state with Manaus in Amazonas state and with the rest of Brazil.The new Bolsonaro government is expected to prioritize infrastructure investments in the region, likely weakening regulations governing environmental impact assessments. That could mean the fast tracking of full paving for the BR-319 soon. Among listed Bolsonaro goals is the opening of the Amazon to “new partnerships.” In August, Mongabay contributor Gustavo Faleiros and filmmaker Marcio Isensee e Sá visited the unique biodiverse Amazon forests found on the divide between the Purus and Madeira river basins, where a decades-delayed plan to improve the BR-319 highway is gaining momentum, bringing environmental transformation. This story, is the second in the series. HUMAITÁ, Amazonas state, Brazil – Humaitá is a hot, humid city, with a population of around 54,000, on the banks of the Madeira River. Walking its calm streets, one could mistake this for a peaceful country town in the heart of the Amazon. But that perception would be wrong, Humaitá is a hotspot of environmental conflict in Brazil today. The municipality is an important outpost of economic growth in Amazonas state, sitting at the intersection of two important roads: the Transamazon highway (BR-230), completed in 1972, and the Porto Velho-Manaus road (BR-319), still unpaved but promised with major improvements by the federal government. In anticipation of the paved highway, illegal gold mining, logging (not always legal), and cattle ranching (sometimes illicit, sometimes not), have become the engines driving the local economy – and also driving major deforestation. An indication of that conflict: our tranquil time in Humaitá last August was suddenly interrupted by the arrival of a long convoy of vehicles from IBAMA – Brazil’s chief environmental enforcement agency – speeding down the street. We called IBAMA headquarters in Brasilia; they confirmed an operation underway to curb deforestation in the area. We requested interviews, but the national coordinators were reticent. Luckily for us, we ended up staying in the same Humaitá hotel as the IBAMA agents. Next day, during breakfast we approached them and they spoke with us. The agents, wearing bullet-proof jackets and carrying guns, told us that illegal deforestation was out of control along the Transamazon highway, with huge swathes of forest cut down and burned. They also complained of lacking sufficient operatives to stop the advance of destruction. None of the agents agreed to be identified, which wasn’t surprising. In December 2017, angry Humaitá residents – many likely employed in the gold mining industry – marched on the local IBAMA office and burned it down. The trigger for the mob action had been a joint operation between IBAMA and the army, arresting illegal gold miners and destroying their equipment. No officers were injured, but both IBAMA and ICMbio (Brazil’s national park service) had to abandon Humaitá as a base, at least for the time being. Now, the officers only go there during special interventions like the one we witnessed.