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SCB Asks the President of Brazil to Veto Forest Code Amendments

February 29, 2012. The Presidents of the Society for Conservation Biology and its Latin America and the Caribbean Section delivered a letter and a formal resolution to Brazil President Dilma Rousseff asking her to veto amendments to the Brazilian Forest Code that would weaken measures in place since 1965 that protect against deforestation in the Amazon.

Updated June 1, 2012. On May 25, President Rousseff used her line-item veto on strike down 12 amendments to the Brazilian Forest Code, and modified 32 other sections of the legislation that would alter the Forest Code, which the government stated would prevent increased deforestation.  While the vetos struck down those sections that would have exacerbated the worst forest clearing practices, President Rouseff permitted alterations to the Forest Code that will require less reforestation efforts from smaller farm operations than under the existing code.

Until recent years the Forest Code was not well enforced. However, when enforcement of the Forest Code increased under former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, powerful agricultural interests in Brazil began work to loosen restrictions in the code.  Supporters of the bill, overwhelmingly from the small but powerful agricultural sector, say it reduces regulatory burdens on small farmers, simplifies an overly complicated and confusing forest code that has been amended numerous times since 1965, and will ultimately lead to less deforestation by legalizing properties lacking land titles, thus making it easier to track illegal clearing.  The legislation approved by Brazil's legislature would have changed restrictions on clearing trees from riverbanks and hillsides as buffer zones, which would be calculated according to dry-season river flows, dramatically reducing the size of the buffer zones in many cases. Loopholes in the bill could also allow landholders in some states to reduce in other ways the amount of forest cover required by current law.

A poll conducted last May showed that 85% of Brazilians believe that the Amazon forests and rivers should take priority over agricultural production. This popular support for conservation of the Amazon has translated into undeniable progress in Brazil in recent years to protect the world’s largest rain forest. A government report released in December showed that deforestation in the Amazon is at its lowest level since satellite tracking began.  SCB will continue to track this issue as more developments occur.

Read SCB's letter to the President of Brazil HERE.

Read SCB's Resolution requesting the President of Brazil veto the amendments to the Brazilian Forest Code HERE.