From: Michael Astor, Associated Press
Published April 11, 2006 12:00 AM

Authorities Close Major Logging Operation in Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Environmental authorities shut down an illegal logging operation in the Amazon on Monday, confiscating dozens of felled tropical hardwood trees in an area that only recently was pristine rain forest.


The Norte Wood logging company was operating without a license in the Amazonas state town of Novo Aripuana, some 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles) northwest of Rio de Janeiro, according to Wallace Alencar, an agent with the state's environmental authority Ipaam.


The agency seized 500 cubic meters (17,655 cubic feet) of wood and arrested one man in the raid. It was the largest seizure of illegal hardwood this year in Amazonas, the country's largest state.


Alencar said an overflight revealed extensive logging in the region, which only recently was largely untouched rain forest where scientists had discovered several new monkey species.


Over the past three years, loggers from the neighboring state of Para have been moving to Novo Aripuana after having largely deforested the southern edge of their home state.


"It's one of the biggest problems, people from Para coming and cutting down everything. They are buying up land from the locals who live along the river and cutting down the most valuable trees," Alencar said by phone from the Amazonas state capital Manaus.


Brazil's environmental regulations require landowners to maintain 80 percent of Amazon's forested areas. Logging is permitted in the forest reserve, but companies must file management plans to show their logging is carried out in a sustainable manner, with minimal damage to the forest.


Alencar said the company had submitted a management plan, but it had not been approved by the state.


Rubens Pereira, manager of the federal environmental authority in Amazonas state, said many of the companies that have cut down the forest in southern Para were now coming to his state in hopes of avoiding stiff enforcement of environmental regulations.


"Three years ago there was only one sawmill in Nova Aripuna. Now you have around a dozen," said Pereira.


Scientists say the deforestation reduces the area's rich biodiversity and contributes to global warming. Burning in the Brazilian Amazon releases about 370 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year, about 5.4 percent of the world total.


Brazil's rain forest is the size of Western Europe and covers 60 percent of the country's territory. Experts say as much as 20 percent of its 4.1 square kilometers (1.6 million square miles) has already been destroyed by development, logging and farming.


The rain forest lost 18,900 square kilometers (7,300 square miles) -- an area more than half the size of Belgium -- between July 2004 and August 2005, down from 27,200 square kilometers (10,500 square miles) the year before, according to Environment Minister Marina Silva.


Source: Associated Press


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