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WWF website, 27 Aug 05
Drop in agricultural investments likely cause of lower Amazon deforestation

PlanetArk 29 Aug 05

Brazil says Amazon Deforestation Slows Down

BBC Online
26 Aug 05

Deforestation of Amazon 'halved'
By Tom Gibb

Sao Paulo: Brazil's government has announced estimates suggesting that deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has fallen by 50% this year.

The government says it believes this is the result of new protection policies. But environmental groups warn it is too soon to be sure there has been a long-term reversal in the destruction of the world's largest rainforest.

Environment Minister Marina da Silva said some 9,000 sq km (3,475 sq miles) of forest was felled in the last year. This compares with more than 18,000 sq km (6,950 sq miles) in 2003 to 2004.

Ms Silva said she believed this fall was the result of not only greater government control but also because of more emphasis on sustainable development projects. Illegal logging crackdown

However, environmental groups, while welcoming the fall, are still treating the announcement with caution. The figures, they say, are still estimates from satellite images which, because of cloud cover, have a 20% margin of error.

They say a fall in soy prices may also have had an impact, with farmers no longer clearing land.

Finally, they point out that most of the fall in deforestation occurred over a two-month period in June and July this year, when the army and police mounted unusually large operations against illegal logging.

Greenpeace said it was too soon to talk about a long-term slowing of the destruction of the forest, warning that illegal loggers may just be biding their time.

The only firm conclusion, the group said, was that when the government decides to mount major operations against illegal loggers, this does have a positive short-term effect.

PlanetArk, 29 Aug 05
Brazil says Amazon Deforestation Slows Down

BRASILIA - Brazil said on Friday the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest was slowing, but environmental groups suggested much of the reduction was due to a slump in farming instead of government action.

Using data obtained by satellite, the government estimated that 3,515 square miles (9,106 square km) were razed in the world's largest tropical forest between August 2004 and July 2005, down sharply from 7,229 square miles (18,724 square km) in the same period a year earlier.

Officials attributed the drop to a government action plan launched last year aimed at curbing illegal logging in the Amazon, home to an estimated 30 percent of the world's animal and plant species. "We have absolute certainty that the good indicators will continue to depend on the implementation of the action plan," said Dilma Roussef, a senior Cabinet member coordinating the government's environmental task force.

The announcement came less than three months after the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who came to power in 2003 with the backing of environmentalists, released official data showing that the Amazon rainforest was destroyed at a near-record pace in 2003-2004.

In that period, 10,088 square miles (26,130 sq km) -- an area larger than the US state of New Jersey -- were destroyed, compared with 9,496 square miles (24,597 square km) a year earlier. The worst year on record was 1994-1995, when 11,216 square miles (29,050 square km) were cleared.

Although environmental groups praised the government's efforts to save the rain forest, some warned the pace of deforestation could easily rise again if commodity prices recover, giving farmers an incentive to clear more land.

"With the drop in profitability faced by the (agricultural) sector, the reduction in deforestation is, unfortunately, less the result of government action than the current economic situation," the Brazilian chapter of the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement.

WWF website 27 Aug 05
Drop in agricultural investments likely cause of lower Amazon deforestation

Brasilia, Brazil / Gland, Switzerland – The decrease in deforestation in the Amazon in 2005, announced today by the Brazilian government, is good news but the reasons behind it must be further analyzed.

According to WWF, while the government must be given credit for creating conservation areas and improving controls in the Amazon, significantly declining profits and investments in the agricultural sector are probably the main cause of the reduced deforestation.

Conversion of forest to agriculture is the main cause of deforestation in Brazil. Between August 2004 and July 2005, slightly more than 9,000 square kilometres of Amazon forest disappeared — compared to 18,700 sq km from August 2003 to July 2004 — a 50 per cent decrease.

However, these numbers were generated under a system known as DETER, which gives estimates instead of a precise rate. The lower figure announced today is less a result of government actions than a consequence of the current bad economic situation of the country.

"In the past, there have been several examples of decreasing deforestation rates immediately followed by increases in the years after," said Denise Hamú, CEO of WWF-Brazil.

"We must now ensure that responsible forest management practices become the rule, as we know they can contribute to less deforestation on a more permanent basis."

The Brazilian press had already announced a drop in the production of grains and beans, such as soy. The Brazilian Minister of Agriculture, Roberto Rodrigues, had also declared that areas planted with grains and beans were expected to shrink between 2 and 3 per cent. The international price of soy beans, which dropped by 36 per cent between March 2004 and August 2005, and the devaluation of the US dollar against the Brazilian currency have also reduced profits. Soy grains are the most important agricultural commodity in Brazil.

According to WWF, government measures to control and prevent deforestation in the Amazon, including the arrest of officials involved in illegal logging, and the creation of conservation areas in Terra do Meio and in the south of the Amazon State played an important, albeit limited role, in the reduction of the deforestation rate.

WWF believes the government should put more effort in implementing better forest management and land-use planning to prevent the conversion of areas of high conservation value into soy plantations.

"While the government is prepared to renegotiate farmers' debts at a cost of roughly US$700 million, it is appalling that forest companies have difficulty getting access to government credit for the implementation of sustainable forest management," said Mauro Armelin, Forest Policy Officer at WWF-Brazil.

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