Monday, June 08, 2009


Marina Silva
Brazil to sanction illegal colonization in 230,000 sq mi of Amazon rainforest

NOTE: Last year, Marina Silva, a longtime heroine of the international environmental community, resigned from her post as Minister of Environment in protest of Brazil's development policies. Now, there is a fast-growing grassroots movement of citizens working on promoting Marina Silva's name as a candidate for the presidency. Here is the website (in Portuguese).

Mongabay reports on Brazil's program to turn lawlessness into law.

Go to original article.

(June 08, 2009) Brazil moved a step closer to passing a controversial law that would allow landowners who illegally deforested land in the Amazon to get legal title to these holdings. Environmentalists say HB 458 — which now only needs the signature of President Lula, an avid supporter — will legitimize years of illegal colonization and may promote new deforestation.

"This could be a big step backward for Amazonian conservation," said William F. Laurance, a researcher at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute who has spent nearly three decades staying the Brazilian Amazon. "The Amazonian environment is the clear loser here."

The proposed law will enable a claimant gain title for properties up to 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) provided the land was occupied before December 2004. Critics note the law favors industrial developers over small holders, allowing those controlling 400-1500 ha to sell their holdings after three years. Farmers or ranchers holding under 400 ha have to wait 10 years to sell.

Former Environment Minister Marina Silva said the Senate's passage of HB 458 was the third worst day of her life, following the death of year father and the assassination of her mentor Chico Mendes, a leader of a rubber tapper union based in the Brazilian state of Acre. She added the law would undermine Brazil's progress in formulating and implementing environmental protections, including the setting aside of 523,592 square kilometers of protected areas between 2003 and 2009, an amount accounting for three-quarters of global protected areas established during that period.

HB 458 would grant land title to 300,000 properties illegally established across some 600,000 square kilometers (230,000 square miles) of protected Amazon forest, more than offsetting the conservation gains of the past six years.

Development interests — including large-scale agroindustrial firms, cattle ranchers, loggers, and plantation forestry companies — have lobbied intensely to get HB 458 passed. Supporters of the legislation say that while it will legitimize land-grabs prior to December 2004, HB 458 move may improve governance in an otherwise lawless region where conflict over land and complete disregard of environmental regulations is widespread.

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