Bill to slash Amazon protection passes crucial vote

Brasilia, Brazil: Amendments to Brazil's Forest Code that could sanction dramatic increases in deforestation passed a crucial vote in the Congress's Special Committee on Forest Law Changes last night, an outcome lamented by scientists, environmental and social NGOs and indigenous groups.

Gradual strengthening of the Forest Code and more recent improvements in enforcement have been credited with playing a major role in Brazil's success in winding back horrifying levels of deforestation in the Amazon and other areas over recent years.

However, the new alternate bill threatens to open up an additional 85 million hectares for legal clearing in the Amazon, reduce the level of forest cover protecting river and stream banks and steep slopes, and pass much of the control of landclearing into the hands of regional and local authorities much more under the influence of large landowners and agribusiness interests...

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