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Brazil mulls land auction to beat logging

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Rio De Janeiro (UPI) Oct 14, 2010
Brazil is planning to auction 2.5 million acres of land in the Amazon forest as part of an effort to put illegal loggers out of business.

Officials said illegal logging was already down because of previous land auctions in the forest and the latest auctions would speed up the process of eliminating illegal logging.

About 80 percent of logging in Brazil is unregulated -- illegal -- and the actions of logging gangs have already led to a 20 percent depletion in the Amazonian forest, with dire consequences for climate change.

Officials said giving entrepreneurs more control over the Amazonian region would lead to more controlled and sustainable logging. Critics of the scheme remain skeptical, claiming some of the land auctioned so far had fallen into the hands of speculators.

The government has tried several counter measures including imposition of fines, confiscation of equipment and financial measures, including the withdrawal of credit and loans.

Illegal logging isn't the only threat facing Brazil's forests. Timber produced from regulated logging has been targeted by smuggling gangs and criminal cartels hoping to profit from illegal trade in mahogany have set sights on harvesting species with lucrative prices. Mahogany can sell up to $1,600 a cubic meter.

Illegal logging is widespread outside Brazil as well. The World Bank estimated that 80 percent of logging operations in Bolivia and Peru is illegal and only 60 percent of logging in Colombia is regulated.

In 2006 Brazil embarked on an ambitious program of Internet-based monitoring of all logging activities but the project never took off. The aim was to switch over from paper-based record keeping to ensure the logging trade was conducted legally.

Critics said the program failed because environmental inspectors in the Amazon region weren't equipped with computers and wireless Internet. Some lacked basic transportation facilities.

Greenpeace estimates that three-quarters of the rain forest logging is illegal, as ranchers routinely ignore regulations requiring land owners to leave 80 percent of forested areas untouched.

Officials insist deforestation in the Amazon is at its lowest for two decades, as a result of the government's policies, tougher controls and the switch to management of auctioned land management.

Officials said the government aimed to curb illegal logging in the Amazon region to prevent further adverse effects on climate change. Another reason for tougher action was the need to protect the market for the more expensive -- and legal -- timber exports, they said.

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