BOCA DO ACRE, Brazil, May 31 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
E nvironmentalists are urging Brazilian President Michel Temer to
veto a plan to remove land the size of Puerto Rico from the
country's protected areas in the Amazon rainforest, fearing the
move would hurt local land rights and exacerbate climate change.
The proposal to remove nearly 600,000 hectares of forest
from three protected areas in the Amazon and Atlantic rainforest
has been approved by Brazil's Senate. The plan is awaiting
ratification from the president.
Supporters of the proposal say recession-hit Brazil needs to
open up more land in the Amazon for farming, cattle ranching and
mining to create jobs, alleviate poverty and spurn growth.
But critics say the move will make it harder for Brazil to
meet its international climate change commitments and could
worsen conditions for indigenous groups and other traditional
communities living in Brazil's protected areas.
"If this legislation passes it will be extremely damaging
for the country," said Roberto Vamos, coordinator of the Climate
Reality Project in Brazil, an environmental group in Rio de
Vamos told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that he was
concerned that eliminating protected area status would make it
easier for economic interests to exploit the territory.
"People will invade, clear and start farming the land and
then start faking property titles to it," he said.
The plan would reduce the size of the Jamanxim National
Forest in the Amazonian state of Para in central Brazil by
486,000 hectares, and the neighbouring Jamanxim National Park by
The measures also include cutting 10,000 hectares from the
Sao Joaquim National Park in southeastern Brazil in the Atlantic
forest, a ecosystem which has been particularly hurt by logging.
Lawmakers who back the move say South America's largest
country has plenty of protected areas and the country needs to
open up land for development.
Brazil's government has pledged to reduce net deforestation
to zero in the Amazon by 2030.
But environmentalists say cutting protected areas will make
that goal difficult as the world's largest rainforest is viewed
as one of the best natural defenses against global warming.
Amazon deforestation is rebounding from a record low in 2012.
(Reporting by Chris Arsenault, Editing by Paola Totaro; Please
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