Go Back

Brazzil - Environment - September 2003

Brazil: Trying to Save the Forests

The conservation and recuperation of the remnants of araucária
forests in the South of Brazil is a long-standing demand of
environmentalists defending the Atlantic Rain Forest. The new
campaign occurs when lumber and landowning interests are
working to prevent the adoption of measures to protect the forests.



The Atlantic Rain Forest NGO Network (RMA), which assembles 257 entities representing civil society, launched a national campaign to demand urgent measures to protect what remains of Brazil's araucária (Brazilian pine) forests, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the country. The campaign is linked to the site www.rma.org.br, where people can transmit messages to the President of the Republic, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and other federal government authorities.

The inauguration of the SOS Araucárias Campaign occurs at a moment when lumber and landowning interests are working to prevent the adoption of measures to protect the remaining Araucária forests. These measures, which have been under study by the Ministry of Environment (MMA) since the beginning of 2002, resulted in the interdiction of 200 thousand hectares in the states of Paraná and Santa Catarina, an area considered crucial for the creation of conservation units for what remains of these forests.

The proclamation of this interdiction, through two executive orders issued by the MMA last December, produced a strong mobilization on the part of lumber interests, rural landowners, mayors, and politicians from the two states. Since the beginning of the year, they have been putting pressure on the federal government to cancel the two orders. At the same time, disgruntled lumber and landowning interests decided to step up the deforestation of remaining sections of forest in the areas under interdiction. These actions are intended to eliminate the typical features of these areas and make it impossible to protect them through the establishment of conservation units.

Araucária forest, which has the scientific name of Mixed Ombrophyle Forest, used to cover around 170 thousand square kilometers within Brazilian territory. In little more than a century of exploitation, this coverage has been reduced to 7 percent of the original area, according to data from the Ministry of Environment. These forests represent one of Brazil's most original forest formations, in which the Brazilian pine (araucária angustifolia) stands out, a tree of large stature which, despite the fact that it has been on the official Ibama list of endangered species since 1992, continues to be utilized for commercial purposes.

The conservation and recuperation of the remnants of araucária forest in the South of Brazil, including the decreeing of conservation units in priority areas, is a long-standing demand of environmentalists and organizations that defend the Atlantic Rain Forest. A mobilization on this behalf resulted in a civil suit in December, 2000, brought by the Socioenvironmental Institute (ISA), in partnership with the Atlantic Rain Forest ONG Network (RMA). In 2001, the National Environmental Council (Conama) approved Resolution 278, temporarily suspending authorizations to cut these species.

Pro-Forest Companies

At the end of July, the Aracruz Cellulose, Veracel, Petrobras, and DuPont of Brazil companies, together with the non-governmental organization Conservation International, inaugurated the BioAtlantica Institute (Ibio), whose mission is to preserve the remaining 7.2 percent of a total of 1.3 million square kilometers that form the Atlantic Rain Forest.

This was the first time that historically opposed sectors united to draw up a common agenda for the large-scale preservation and recuperation of Brazilian biodiversity, affirmed the executive-director of the Ibio, André Guimarães. At the present time, only 1 percent of the remaining Atlantic Rain Forest area is protected.

The Institute will receive investments of US$ 1 million over five years and is open to new members who share the same goals and commitments as the founders. Guimarães informed that, in its initial phase, the new Brazilian conservation organization will concentrate its activities in Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, and São Paulo. These are priority regions for the development of one of the most effective strategies for nature conservation, the Ecological Corridors, he said.

Guimarães explained that an ecological corridor is formed by a network of parks, reserves, and other areas of less intensive use, managed in an integrated way, to guarantee the survival of the largest possible number of species in a region. To this end, productive activities are made compatible with the conservation of ecosystems, and equilibrium is sought between human activities and environmental preservation.

According to Ibio data, the deforestation that has occurred in Brazil since the Discovery era in the Atlantic Rain Forest—the second most endangered forest on the planet—corresponds to 29 times the area of Rio de Janeiro. The pace of deforestation is equivalent to one soccer field every four minutes.

Family Farms

The Bank of Brazil announced earlier this month a new credit line for rural producers enrolled in the National Program to Strengthen Family Farming (Pronaf). The name of the program is Pronaf-Florestal, which offers up to R$ 6,000 (US$ 2,000) to preserve the environment and stimulate the cultivation and management of native forest species.

The program is intended to encourage techniques that permit the recovery of environmental preservation areas and reforestation for commercial purposes. The financial burden amounts to 4 percent annual interest rates, which can be reduced by 25 percent for installments paid by the due date, in which case the annual interest rate falls to 3 percent.

The government wants to stimulate managed agricultural activities in the Amazon in order to halt migration to urban centers and, on the other hand, the deforestation of the rainforest. The secretary of Biodiversity and Forests at the Ministry of Environment, João Paulo Ribeiro Capobiano, says the idea is to implement policies which will result in increased productivity in the Amazon without destroying natural resources.

According to Capobiano, a report which is being drawn up by the Commission to Combat Deforestation in the Amazon, will be used by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to make a final decision on the matter.

Capobiano reports that recent surveys by the Statistical Bureau (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística) (IBGE), show that some 80 percent of deforestation activity is concentrated in 60 municipalities in the states of Rondônia, Mato Grosso and Pará.


The material for this article was supplied by Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lucas@radiobras.gov.br




Send your comments to Brazzil

To Top / Go Back