Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Brazil has acknowledged a 28 percent rise in deforestation of the ecologically sensitive Amazon forest, between August 2012 and July 2013.
The rise has been blamed on changes made to Brazil's forest protection law. The country uses to sattelite imagery to track the decline of the country's forest cover and is particularly shocking considering it recorded its lowest deforestation levels last year.
Initial statistics point to 2,255 sq miles of forest lost as compared to 1,765 sq miles lost in the previous 12 months. This rise ends a streak of declining deforestation which began in 2009 but does not come close to the loss in 2004 -- nearly 10,500 sq. miles of forest were lost.
Environmentalists say the controversial reform of the forest protection law in 2012 is to blame for the trend in Brazil. The changes reduced protected areas in farms and declared an amnesty for areas destroyed before 2008.
Environment Minister Izabella Teixeir called the destruction of the Amazon "unacceptable" and a "crime," but denied allegations that President Dilma Rousseff's administration was to blame.
"This swing is not related to any federal government fund cuts for law enforcement," she said.
A majority of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions has been linked to the rapid deforestation of the Amazon. These figures undermine the pledge made by Brazil in 2009 to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80% by the year 2020.