00032000003 - - Código Florestal x - Enviros Force Brazilian Congress to Kill Destructive Rainforest Law - Organização Rainforest - Tradução por Lucas Matheron 21.05.2000

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Enviros Force Brazilian Congress to Kill Destructive Rainforest Law

BRASILIA, Brazil, May 18, 2000 (ENS) - Brazil's congressional leaders last night dropped proposed legislation to increase the area and rate of Amazon forest destruction. Faced with the threat of a presidential veto and widespread opposition from environmentalists, the draft law was killed before it could come to the House floor.

 Amazon rainforest

The decision gave the ranchers' and large landowners' congressional caucus a precedent setting defeat. It is the first time that the Brazilian environmental movement has prevailed over the ranchers' powerful special interest group.

The draft law would have changed the National Forest Code, reducing the reserve area of the Amazon rainforest from 80 to 50 percent of the total. The draft was approved by a special parliamentary commission last week.

After a flood of email and faxed protests, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso pledged to veto the measure.

Government officials at one point blocked the massive influx of protest emails to Senate offices but backed down when the move was criticized as censorship in the media. Press and TV coverage overwhelmingly opposed the measure, as did the Brazilian Environment Ministry.

President Fernando Henrique Cardoso

The President Cardoso declared his intention to preserve the current National Forest Code. The code, a group of laws that regulate occupation and use of forest areas, allows farmers to clear only 20 percent of native forest vegetation on their lands.

The controversial draft measure would have allowed them to clear as much as 50 percent of forest areas for crops and grazing.

In addition, a census to be carried out by the states could have authorized up to 80 percent clearing on any farm in Brazil.

Environmental organizations such as the Instituto Socioambiental, parliamentary leader Senator Marina Silva (Worker's Party - Acre) and Amazon union and grassroots groups won over public opinion by denouncing the changes to the Forest Code as irresponsible and contrary to the national interest.

Senator Marina Silva de Souza sided with environmentalists

The ranchers' proposed changes to the code rejected an alternative proposal negotiated in the National Environment Council (CONAMA) among many interest groups including some ranchers.

"The ranchers' caucus is the human face of the inequality, injustice, class privilege, and impunity that have plagued Brazil for 500 years," said Environmental Defense senior scientist Stephan Schwartzman from the conservation group's New York headquarters. "The fight over this legislation was really between the 19th century and the 21st, over the future of the Amazon. It's important that the 21st century won."

Underlining the urgency of protection for the Amazon rainforest, Greenpeace is today escorting a raft of 271 illegally cut logs from remote locations on the Jurua River in Brazil’s Amazonas state at the request of Brazil’s Environmental Agency, IBAMA.

Now bound for the Villages of Carauari, the logs were first discovered during a routine flight of Greenpeace’s Cessna aircraft on Monday, May 8. The following day Greenpeace activists found the raft of logs hidden in a small tributary of the Jurua River and turned it over to IBAMA.

"Because there are no approved Forest Management Plans in this area, and because the raft appeared to have been hidden the second day, we knew that there was a high probability of illegal activity, so we returned to investigate further," said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon campaigner.

Greenpeace tows 116 illegal logs confiscated by the Brazilian Environment Ministry IBAMA.

One hundred of the logs were Samauma, an enormous and increasingly rare tree called Queen of the Forest by many indigenous people and rubber tappers. Because of its size, the felling of one Samauma tree may damage as many as 30 surrounding trees. In Amazonas State, the Samauma tree is one of the most used species in the production of plywood.

"Not only were the trees cut illegally, but their removal left vast trails of destruction in the forest," said Adario. "Some of these logs measure more than 1.8 metres in diameter, and were very old trees. All of this destruction to produce a few sheets of plywood."

"This apprehension is a result of an integrated action with Greenpeace," said Hamilton Casara, head of IBAMA in the state of Amazonas. "In accordance with legislation, the timber will be donated to the community in Carauari. As Greenpeace currently has a ship in the region, we asked for their help to tow the raft to the community."

Before IBAMA seized them, the logs were the property of a local entrepreneur, Ercival Lobo, whose family has been fined three times for illegal transport of logs. The Lobos supply the multinational logging companies Carolina and Compensa, Adario says.

"Instead of discussing the Forest Code, Congress should work on public policies to push the logging sector to adopt sustainable harvesting practices," said Adario. "Without this political will, inexpensive wood from illegal operations will continue to compete with responsible logging from legitimate companies, and efforts to adopt sustainable and certified forest management practices will be futile."

Dilvulgado por Claudia Andrade email: candrade@x-stream.co.uk

Organização Rainforest - Tradução por Lucas Matheron

Flora Brasil  email: lucas.mh@wanadoo.fr  

"A melhor maneira de prever o futuro é criá-lo"     Peter Drucker

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