From: Rhett Butler, MONGABAY.COM, More from this Affiliate
Published May 9, 2011 03:03 PM

Brazil's forest code debate may determine fate of the Amazon rainforest

Brazil's forest code may be about to get an overhaul.

The federal code, which presently requires landowners in the Amazon to keep 80 percent of their land forest (20-35% in the cerrado), is widely flouted, but has been used in recent years as a lever by the government to go after deforesters. For example, the forest code served as the basis for the "blacklists" which restricted funds for municipalities where deforestation has been particularly high. To get off the blacklist, and thereby regain access to finance and markets, a municipality must demonstrate its landowners are in compliance with environmental laws.

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The blacklist approach proved highly effective in attacking the largest driver of deforestation in the Amazon: cattle ranching, which is now facing much stronger regulation than in the past. Several major meat processors now have huge fines hanging over their heads.

But some interests in the agricultural sector are now fighting back. They aim to change the forest code that underpins the blacklists, making it legal to clear larger areas of forest. But the proposed changes include some compromises including a regularization process that would require landowners to register their properties so laws could be more effectively enforced. So while the legal forest reserve requirement may fall, it would be more difficult for ranchers and farmers to disregard the law.

The debate over the forest code is still very much in flux so mongabay.com turned to Daniel Nepstad, a renowned Amazon scientist who runs the North American branch of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), for an update and analysis on the latest developments and what it means for Earth's largest rainforest.

Article continues: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0505-nepstad_forest_code.html

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