New forest law in Brazil helps save the Amazon
Signed by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on 2 March, the new law is also expected to help end illegal land occupation in the Brazilian Amazon through new measures that will provide for the demarcation of public forests.
Social and environmental organizations, including WWF, have for years been struggling to press for a way to halt the process of illegal occupation and deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon by ranchers and agribusiness, protect the rights of local residents, and conserve irreplaceable biodiversity found within the Brazilian Amazon.
“The new law provides the Brazilian government with the unique opportunity of fostering development, creating jobs, and generating income while keeping the Amazon forest standing,” said Leonardo Lacerda, WWF International's Protected Areas Manager.
Other new legislative measures include the creation of an independent Brazilian Forest Service and mechanisms for modernizing the country’s forestry sector, including a system of forestry concessions that promotes responsible forestry as opposed to fostering conversion of forests into other land uses.
"This law will provide incentives to state and municipal governments in Brazil to adopt policies consistent with forest conservation since agriculture ceases to be the only alternative for regional development in the Brazilian Amazon," says Mauro Armelin, WWF-Brazil's public policy director.
In the next 10 years, 11 million hectares of forests will be the object of concessions by the Brazilian government to private loggers for sustainable management — this represents 3 per cent of the Brazilian Amazon forest.
Under the new law, the government will open up some forest areas under 40-year contracts. These contracts, to be tendered out, will allow the highest bidders to log trees under a sustainable development plan. Nature reserves and indigenous lands are barred from logging. The new Brazilian Forest Service, to be financed mainly by revenues from the logging contracts, will establish criteria and manage the forest concessions. The success of the new law will depend on several factors including the standard of forestry management of the areas to be opened for concessions.
“Ultimately, the forest will only be conserved if forestry operations achieve international credible forest certification, such as from the Forest Stewardship Council,” added Lacerda.
“To a large extent, the success of the new law hinges on the speed with which the government will be able to set aside and demarcate national and state forests en masse, as well as ascertain its ownership over areas that currently have no clear public land titles and that were being rapidly and illegally occupied, cleared and privatized.”
To date, roughly 30 per cent of the Brazilian Amazon is protected. Indigenous lands, for example, already cover over 20 per cent of the area. In addition, current efforts like the Amazon Region Protected Areas Programme (ARPA) are ensuring that at least 12 per cent of the Brazilian Amazon is conserved as extractive reserves, national parks and other protected areas.
Up to July 2004, deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon have been alarmingly high, caused mainly by agricultural expansion. Almost 20 per cent of the area has already been cleared. The new law offers the opportunity to keep most of the remainder of the land that has not yet been privatised to remain under forest cover.
WWF will support the Brazilian government in the implementation of this new forest law, and calls on others, particularly funding agencies, to join in.
• The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent, not-for-profit, non-government organization based in Bonn, Germany, providing standard setting, trademark assurance, and accreditation services for companies and organizations interested in responsible forestry. It was created in 1993 by environmental organizations such as WWF, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace, indigenous forest dwellers, professional foresters, big retailers such as Sweden’s IKEA and the UK’s B&Q, and large and small forest companies. The certification system requires consultation with all other forest users and interested parties and ensures an independent assessment of a company’s forest management practices.
For further information:
Regina Vasquez, Communications Officer
Tel: +55 61 3364 7483