The sound of chainsaws in the Amazon rainforest has faded in recent years as deforestation has slowed, last year dropping to less than one-third of its long-term average. But last week, the lower house of Brazil’s National Congress passed a bill that observers say could drastically reduce forest protection.
An organized coalition of rural agricultural interests prevailed in vote after vote during debates, approving amendments that would, for example, scale back forest protections along rivers and hills, give state and local governments more authority over forests, and relieve landholders of the responsibility of reforesting illegally cleared land. The bill would also eliminate a requirement that landowners seeking agricultural loans from the government register their land, document any illegal clearance and submit a plan to come into compliance if they have cleared forests illegally.
Environmentalists hope that pressure from conservation groups and media ...