Deforestation at center of Brazil debate

May 18, 2011 at 9:17 PM

BRASILIA, Brazil, May 18 (UPI) -- Critics of a proposed new Forest Code in Brazil say it could threaten efforts to curb Amazon deforestation, which was reduced 70 percent between 2004 and 2010.

The proposal to amend the current code, presented in the country's Chamber of Deputies by Communist Party of Brazil member Aldo Rebelo, has sparked intense debate, Inter Press Service reported Monday.

"The proposal opens up a lot of gaps," Tasso Azevedo, a forestry engineer and Ministry of Environment consultant on forests and climate, said.

In addition to reducing the so-called permanent preservation areas that must be reforested if cleared, Azevedo said, it would establish amnesty for landholders who have illegally cleared forests on their properties.

Under the current forest code, they are subject to fines.

"This makes it seem as if the law wasn't made to be obeyed," Azevedo said.

Under the proposal, reforestation would no longer be required on up to 37 million acres of land, the Ministry of Environment said.

"The new Forest Code is an umbrella full of holes," Azevedo said.

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