Brazil to Auction Off Virginia-Sized Section of Amazon to Timber Companies


photo: Alexander Torrenegra/Creative Commons

It may seem shocking, but according to reports by Reuters, Brazil is preparing to auction off big chunks of the Amazon rainforest to timber companies. By year-end 2.47 millions of acres of forests will go under private management, with 27 million acres privately controlled within five years--that's an area the size of Virginia. Currently just 370,000 acres are allocated for private logging concessions. indigenous people have been allocated 47 million acres, with resettled peasants being granted 21 million.

The whole thing is being done in the name of combatting deforestation and climate change--according to the head of Brazil's National Forestry Service, "The future of the Amazon...is strengthening forest management. I don't see any other solution."

Though deforestation rates have been falling in the Brazilian Amazon, illegal logging and land-clearing for agriculture is very difficult to enforce, which is why the Forestry Service believes that private management of the forests may do a better job.

And the devil's decidedly in the details.
Firstly, monitoring and transparency of timber holdings is essential, as well as involving community stakeholders--both of which have been pledged, but only practice will see how well this actually works. Are the timber concessions going to be managed under a recognized and demonstrably successful certification program? Not all are created equal, viz Forest Stewardship Council forests compared to Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

Secondly, there's the issue of privatization of public resources, which (perhaps surprisingly to an audience steeped in US political divides) was brought up by conservative Brazilian politicians when bigger forestry concessions were pushed in 2003.

Understanding the genuine need for expediency in slowing and stopping deforestation--but keeping in mind that recent stepped up enforcement efforts have apparently been working--does not privatization of a common good just reinforce the small self-interested mindset that causes people to skirt the edge of the law, or blatantly violate it, in the first place? It reinforces the notion that forests are just commodities, whose worth is only defined economically and not intrinsically.

Keep in mind that though subsistence slash-and-burn agriculture historically was the main driver of deforestation, a href="http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/02/urbanization-export-led-agriculture-main-causes-deforestation.php">urbanization (with it's increasing resource demands) and export-led agriculture are now the main causes.

Neither of which means that some balance cannot be reached, with forest preservation prioritized, just that there are some pretty big practical and conceptual issues at play.

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More on Amazonia:
Half the Amazon Could be Lost by 2050, Says Study
Amazon Deforestation Drops 46% In One Year
Strange Geoglyphs Discovered Beneath Clearcut Amazon
Tropical Deforestation Brings Economic Boom, Followed by Human & Ecological Bust
Urbanization & Export-Led Agriculture Now Main Causes of Deforestation

Tags: Amazonia | Brazil | Deforestation | Forestry

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