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  WWF 26 Oct 06
More efforts needed to further reduce Amazon deforestation

Yahoo News 27 Oct 06
Amazon deforestation lowest since 1991
By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press Writer

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Deforestation in the Amazon rain forest has declined to its lowest level since 1991 due to strict enforcement of environmental regulations, the Brazilian government said Thursday.

Preliminary figures released by the environmental ministry showed 5,057 square miles of the rain forest were destroyed this year — the lowest level since 4,258 square miles were lost in 1991.

"We aggressively increased enforcement of environmental laws in the past years and it has worked," said Joao Paulo Capobianco, the ministry's secretary of biodiversity and forests.

The numbers released Thursday are estimates based on satellites images. The final results are expected before the end of the year. Last year, the rain forest lost 7,250 square miles.

"It's the second year in a row there's a decline, so it's good news and we must applaud the government," said Paulo Adario, director of Greenpeace's Amazon campaign.

"But our preoccupation is that the average of annual destruction remains high, more needs to be done."

The highest rate of destruction in the Amazon was in 1995, when 11,200 square miles of forest were lost. Last month the government announced the forest lost 6,450 square miles this year, but the result was revised after additional data was analyzed.

Nearly 400 people — mostly ranchers, loggers and soybean farmers illegally working in the Amazon — have been arrested in the past four years in operations to reduce the destruction of the rain forest, the environmental ministry said.

The operations also led to the seizure of more than 28 million cubic feet of wood, nearly 500 tractors, 170 trucks and 650 chain saws, as well as fines totaling $1.3 billion, the ministry said.

The creation of new protected areas in the forest have also helped with decline in deforestation, the government said. More than 173 million acres of the forest will be either off-limits to development or reserved only for sustainable use by the year's end, the government has said.

Only about 74 million acres were declared protected before 2003, when President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office pledging to decrease deforestation.

"We are trying to repair, in a short period of time, the carelessness that existed for so long," Silva said in a news conference on Thursday. "For a long time we believed the Amazon was endless ... but if we don't take care of what we have, it's going to end."

Brazil has also spent about $93 million fighting deforestation, including hiring agents for Brazil's environmental protection agency.

The Amazon rain forest is the world's largest remaining tropical wilderness, covering 60 percent of Brazil, an area larger than Western Europe. Scientists estimate about 20 percent of the forest has been destroyed by development, logging and farming.

About a fifth of the forest is set aside for indigenous reservations.

WWF 26 Oct 06
More efforts needed to further reduce Amazon deforestation

Brasilia, Brazil – The Brazilian government announced today revised figures on the rate of deforestation in the Amazon, indicating less forest destruction than in previous years.

According to the government, 13,000km2 of rainforest were destroyed in the 12-month period between August 2005 and 2006 — the second lowest rate since figures started being compiled in 1988.

The current number represents a 30 per cent less reduction when compared to the previous statistics of 2004 and 2005.

“The rates are a positive result of the government’s efforts to address deforestation,” said WWF-Brazil’s CEO, Denise Hamu. “Nonetheless, it is important to guarantee conditions for the consolidation and sustainability of these reduction levels.”

WWF-Brazil believes that this will only happen when clear, public forest policies are implemented and financial resources are made available to tackle ongoing deforestation, stimulate sustainable forestry activities, and encourage state governments in the Amazon region to better cooperate when addressing such important environmental issues.

According to WWF-Brazil, a number of factors may explain the current decrease, including a reduction in the price of soy, Brazil’s most important agricultural commodity, which may have reduced the incentive to cut down the Amazon to make way for new plantations.

“We can’t continue to be held hostage by such isolated actions to conserve the Amazon,” Hamu added. “We need to strengthen the national plan to combat deforestation.” Combating deforestation will also help in the fight against climate change.

Around 75 per cent of all Brazilian greenhouse gas emissions are a result of forest fires, which are set to clear large tracts of rainforest for agricultural activities. As a result, Brazil ranks forth in the list of countries who contribute negatively to global warming.

According to experts, around 17 per cent of the natural vegetation in the Brazilian Amazon has already been devastated by development, logging and farming.

Aware of the seriousness of the situation in the Amazon, a Brazilian proposal to create a global fund to help contain rainforest destruction and slash carbon emissions will be introduced next month at an upcoming international climate change meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.

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