Public forests in Brazil cover today 211 million hectares (521 million acres) or 25% of the Brazilian national territory. The figure was disclosed on Friday, June 20, by the Brazilian Forestry System, an organization linked to the Ministry of Environment, and represents growth of 11.26% in comparison with last year, when 194 million hectares were catalogued.
Out of the total area belonging to the National Register of Public Forests, 185 million hectares consist of protected forest within Federal Conservation Units and indigenous lands. Another 25 million hectares are comprised of forests located in lands without destination, i.e., which had no legally established public or private use. The aim of the government is for all public forest areas to be within the coverage of conservation plans.
The majority of public forests, approximately 94%, are located in the Northern Region. This is so because, despite the passing of the Forest Management Law in 2006, which made it mandatory for states to register the lands, so far only the northern states of Amapá, Amazonas, Pará and Acre have catalogued their public forests.
According to the director general at the Brazilian Forestry System, Tasso Azevedo, the main advantage for the states is the fact that registered forests located in public areas will be permanent. Therefore, deforestation will not be allowed, and exploration will only be permitted if forestry management schedules are observed.
"It is in the interest of the states to register their public forests, as this is the only means for them to ensure that their forests truly belong to them. Furthermore, they will only be allowed to make use of those areas if they are duly registered," explained Azevedo.
According to him, all public forest areas in the country, which are estimated to total 300 million hectares, should be registered by 2010. Azevedo claims that the main problem is to unearth the documentation for the areas.
"We need to find the documentation for public areas on the federal and state levels, because we are going to compile information about the forests based on the documents," he said.
Most of the areas that remain unprotected within Conservation Units are located in the state of Amazonas, totaling 13.6 million hectares, followed by Pará (5.9 million hectares) and by Roraima (4.7 million hectares).