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Amazon deforestation rates significantly down; WWF urges tighter forest policies

Press release from World Wildlife Fund | September 04, 2007

Brasilia, Brazil - While welcoming the announcement that the deforestation rate in the Brazilian Amazon dropped this year, WWF continues its efforts to ensure that policies are in place to balance development with conservation.

Deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon have dropped by 25%.

According to Brazil’s environment ministry, an estimated 14,039km2 of forests were cleared in the year ended 31 July 2006, compared to 18,793km2 the previous year.

Preliminary data for 2007 shows that deforestation in the Amazon has declined by 9,600km2.

“The decline in the deforestation rate is positive, but we still don’t have a policy for the Amazon to address conservation and development,” said Denise Hamú, CEO of WWF-Brazil.

“Brazil needs clear reduction goals. It remains to be seen whether the government really wants to keep this trend and reach levels of deforestation near zero.”

A zero per cent deforestation could prove challenging considering Brazil’s Growth Acceleration Programme, an initiative by the Brazilian government to accelerate economic activity through increased public sector investment, particularly in infrastructure projects such as roads and dams.

Forest law
One important instrument to guarantee the sustainable development and the steady decline of the deforestation rate is the implementation of the recently approved Public Forest Management Law, says WWF.

Signed by President da Silva on 2 March 2006, the law establishes the legal framework for concessions in national forests and forests located on public land. Under the law, the government will open up some forest areas through 40-year contracts. These contracts, to be tendered, will allow the highest bidders to log trees under a sustainable development plan.

Social and environmental organizations, including WWF, have for years been pushing for a way to halt the process of illegal occupation and deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon by ranchers and agribusiness, protect the rights of local residents, and conserve irreplaceable biodiversity found within the Brazilian Amazon.

“This law represents a big step towards the modernization of Brazil’s forestry system,” Hamú said.

“Carried out in the right way, sustainable forestry activities can generate income, ensure a plentiful supply of timber in the long term, and ensure that forests continue to be ecologically functional,”

That is why many of WWF’s activities are designed to improve forestry practices, in addition to seeking more protection.

WWF-Brazil is part of the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) programme — a partnership between the Brazilian government, the World Bank, Global Environment Facility, German Development Bank and the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund — which has helped create some 20 million hectares of protected areas in the Amazon.

Article has been adapted from a news release issued by World Wildlife Fund.

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