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Brazil Trusts Private Sector Can Keep Forests Alive

"This public forests management bill is not a cure-all for our country’s problems of forest destruction," remarked Brazil’s Minister of Environment, Marina Silva, at the ceremony to ratify Bill 4776.

Silva believes that the law regulating sustainable use of lands belonging to the nation "is one of the instruments that will empower efforts to keep our forests alive."

Application of the public forests management law will undergo a pilot test in the first Sustainable Forest District, which was created last month by presidential decree. The district is located in western Pará, in Brazil’s Amazonian region.

When asked whether the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) will be capable of monitoring the forest management plans (which represent a form of extracting products from the forest without destroying it), Silva replied that the government expanded the agency’s oversight capacity substantially, by about 60%.

"We held new admissions exams for the IBAMA, and the ministries are now working in an integrated manner," she observed.

The federal government estimates that, with the public forests management law that was sanctioned March 2, approximately 3% of the area covered by public forests in the Amazon will be entrusted to private companies for sustainable exploitation in the next ten years. This area represents 13 million hectares.

The public forests management legislation will permit areas to be conceded through public bidding. To be eligible for concession, an area must be listed in the National Public Forests Registry.

About 60% of Brazil’s forests are public nowadays. In the Amazon, the figure is 75%. However, not all these areas will be subject to bidding, since many of them, such as conservation units and indigenous territories, are classified as protected areas.

Forest Management

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signed into law a bill that regulates the sustainable exploitation of public forests by permitting concessionaires to use them while the government retains ownership.

Speaking at the ceremony celebrating the signing, Lula said the bill "allies development with sustainability." He added that the new law would certainly be of enormous benefit to the Amazon region.

Under the law, 20% of all revenue from land use under the new law must go to the Brazilian Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Institute (Ibama).

Banks to Comply

Brazil’s state-run banks have long had a policy of approving loans only after the necessary environmental impact studies have been made. Now the government says it wants private sector banks to also require that the enterprises they finance are environmentally friendly.

Minister of Environment, Marina Silva, says: "This is fundamental if we are going to ensure the environmental quality of projects in any sector…. By making this the law, we link financing dynamics with legislative compliance and guarantee sustainability."

Speaking at a meeting of the Ethos Institute’s International Council, Silva declared that there has been significant progress in the number of Brazilian corporations that comply with both labor regulations and environmental legislation.

Agência Brasil

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