Brazil’s Congress yesterday concluded voting on a decree to revamp the country’s forest code, handing President Dilma Rousseff a second defeat on her plan to limit deforestation.
The president’s decree signed May 25 required that cleared areas bordering rivers wider than 10 meters be replanted out to 20 meters on each bank. Lawmakers reduced that distance to 15 meters. On larger tracts, the protection was lowered from 30 meters to 20 meters. Lawmakers have also authorized the use of fruit trees for replanting.
“The president has repeatedly showed that the government is only committed to the original version of the decree,” Senator Eduardo Braga, leader of the government coalition in the Senate, said. “The possibility of another veto is real,” he told reporters in Brasilia.
Mikael Bauer – Associated Press/USA Today, 06/07/2012
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – The list of Amazon bird species facing danger of extinction has risen sharply because their rainforest habitat is being slashed to make room for cattle ranching and agriculture, a conservationist group said Thursday.
BirdLife International said that globally, 1,331 types of birds, or 13 percent of the world’s 10,064 total bird species, were listed as at risk on this year’s Red List of Threatened Species issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. That’s up from the 1,253 species classified as threatened on last year’s list.
The biggest jump came in the Amazon, where 100 Amazon avian species are now on the Red List, three of them in the highest-risk, “critically endangered” category. Only 10 were listed last year. The sudden jump is due to new models of future deforestation, which predicted accelerating destruction over the coming decade.
President Dilma Rousseff is facing one of the defining moments of her presidency as pressure builds on her to veto a bill that would open vast protected areas of forests to ranching and farming, potentially reversing Brazil’s major gains in slowing Amazon deforestation.
The Forest Code, which Congress approved in April at the urging of powerful agricultural groups, is an effort to overhaul Brazil’s 47-year-old legislation providing forest protection. The bill has emerged as a very delicate issue for Ms. Rousseff ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, scheduled to be held here next month.
The bill would effectively give amnesty to landowners who illegally deforested areas before 2008, drawing the ire of environmentalists. If the legislation goes into effect, it could allow landowners in the Amazon to reduce obligatory forest cover to 50 percent from 80 percent, and could lead to the loss of as much as 190 million acres of forest, according to the government’s Institute for Applied Economic Research.
The sound of chainsaws in the Amazon rainforest has faded in recent years as deforestation has slowed, last year dropping to less than one-third of its long-term average. But last week, the lower house of Brazil’s National Congress passed a bill that observers say could drastically reduce forest protection.
An organized coalition of rural agricultural interests prevailed in vote after vote during debates, approving amendments that would, for example, scale back forest protections along rivers and hills, give state and local governments more authority over forests, and relieve landholders of the responsibility of reforesting illegally cleared land. The bill would also eliminate a requirement that landowners seeking agricultural loans from the government register their land, document any illegal clearance and submit a plan to come into compliance if they have cleared forests illegally.
Environmentalists hope that pressure from conservation groups and media attention on next month’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro will influence Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff to veto the most radical elements of the legislation.
Maria Carolina Marcello, Peter Murphy – Reuters, 04/26/2012
Brazil’s Congress passed a bill easing rules mandating the amount of forest that farmers must preserve, delivering a long-sought victory to the country’s powerful agriculture lobby and a political defeat for President Dilma Rousseff.
Though the bill will require millions of hectares of already cleared land to be replanted, environmentalists expect it will make it too easy for farmers, responsible for much of the deforestation of the Amazon and other swaths of environmentally sensitive land in recent decades, to comply with regulations that stipulate how much forest they must preserve or put back.
Rousseff still has the option of vetoing the bill, one of the most controversial to pass Brazil’s Congress in recent years. Several government sources told Reuters they expect her to do so because the approved text ditched a hard-bargained compromise deal the government took months to reach.