Amazonas remains by far the best-preserved of Brazil’s nine Amazon states, with about 97% of its original forest cover intact. But environmentalists and government officials fear the state’s southern limits are becoming a new frontier for deforestation, with ranchers and loggers looking to push north into the untouched forests.
Ibama’s president, Curt Trennepohl, admitted last week, in an interview with the Observer, that “aliens” from other states had set their sights on the forests surrounding Boca do Acre and other towns in southern Amazonas. Ibama’s intelligence reports suggested that “people with a history of exploitation and involvement in illegal deforestation” were trying to move in, many of them from the lawless state of Pará.
Recent years have brought positive news for defenders of the Amazon region. Between 2004 and 2009, deforestation fell from around 27,000 to 7,600 square kilometres, but last December the country’s environment minister, Izabella Teixeira, announced the lowest levels of deforestation on record, with around 6,451 sq km of forest lost between August 2009 and July 2010. The celebrations proved short-lived. By April, satellite images indicated that, while deforestation had continued to fall in some logging regions, among them Pará, it was on the rise in better preserved regions such as Amazonas. The images indicated that deforestation there soared by around 87% between August 2010 and February this year, compared with the same period a year earlier