'We have local politicians telling people to invade the land' - What's the Solution to Brazil's Deforestation Beef Battle?

deforestation cattle photo

photo: Leonardo Freitas via flickr

Hopefully you've been following the saga of the growing role cattle ranching is playing in Amazon deforestation, and how a recent Greenpeace report on it is already having an effect in trying to rectify the situation. Well, a new piece in Yale Environment 360 shows just what proposed leather and certification schemes are up against: This is a Place for the Cavalry, Not NGOs

On paper, environmental laws in the Brazilian Amazon are among the world's most stringent. Landowners are required to keep 80 percent of their land forested, but lack of law enforcement has undermined this regulation, while economics and politics have conspired to thwart efforts to slow deforestation. For environmental groups, it is hostile territory.

"Two of my workers were gunned down last week," [Texas-turned-Brazilian rancher John Cain] Carter said. "This is not a place for NGOs to be working. It's a place for the cavalry."

But even the cavalry isn't necessarily on the right side of the law, according to Carter, who says some local officials are complicit in land-grabbing and illicit forest clearing.

"We have local politicians coming on the radio telling people to invade the land," Carter said while piloting his Cessna over a patch of his reserva legal — the government-mandated forest easement— that was cut and burned by squatters in October, 2007. Marãiwatsede, the Xavante indigenous reservation adjoining John Carter's ranch, has been invaded several times. At one point the tribe retained control of only a tiny fraction of its land — an army of invasores was busily cutting down trees.

Certification Schemes Have Opposition, Apathy to Contend With
The solution Carter proposes, and is working with Brazilian environmental groups and the Woods Hole Research Center in developing, is developing better (read: honest) land registries and a transparent certification system.

The trouble is that, though global shoe brands have said they'd back such a system, as well as some of Brazil's largest supermarkets (Wal Mart among them), author Rhett Butler (of Mongabay fame) says that at least currently Brazilian shoppers seem to show little preference for eco-labeled products, some proposed tracking solutions such as ear tags on cattle are easily circumvented, and many cattle ranchers don't often seem willing to participate.

Read more: Controlling the Ranching Boom That Threatens the Amazon
Amazon Deforestation
Global Shoe Brands May Be Unwittingly Causing Deforestation in the Amazon: New Greenpeace Report Says
Nike Says No To Deforestation Leather - Not That They Ever Used It...
Brazil Announces Plan to Slow Amazon Deforestation by 70%

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