Deforestation spikes in Brazil over last year
The biggest losses since last August were in the northern state of Para and in the central-western state of Matto Grosso, where soy production is important. The increased losses coincided with adoption of the new Brazil Forest Code, a piece of national legislation originally passed in 1965 that established that proportion of rural land that should be maintained permanently as forest and also prohibited the clearing of vegetation in sensitive areas – such as on steep slopes and along the margins of rivers and streams. In 2012, despite fierce opposition by civil society groups including WWF, the law was reformed, opening vast new areas of forest to agriculture and cattle ranching and extending amnesties to illegal deforestation conducted prior to 2008.
While the new law limits the use of land for farming and mandates that up to 80% of privately-owned land in the Amazon rainforest remain intact, it also allows landowners to cultivate riverbanks and hillsides that were previously exempt, and eases restrictions for small landowners who face difficulties in recovering illegally cleared land.
According to the latest official data, Brazil last year recorded its lowest level of Amazon deforestation, at 4,751 km2, down 27%.