Does Brazil’s New Forest Code Threaten Brazilian Biodiversity?

On the 29th of August, 2012, Brazilian lawmakers passed a new Forest Code into law that may threaten Brazilian diversity. In an effort to give farmers and developers in the country more control over how they use and develop Brazilian land, the Forest Code’s creators sought to reduce forest protection near lakes and hills, thereby granting municipal government greater power over said forests. This new initiative relieves pressure on landholders, who formerly needed to re-plant all areas of terrain that they harvested, in order to reduce their environmental footprint.

Environmental Watchdog’s Are Not In Favor Of The New Forest Code

In the eyes of environmental watchdogs, the Forest Code presents a threat to the biodiversity of the Amazon River region, by offering landowners shortcuts that negatively impact the sanctity of nature in this unique and important area of the world. However, in the eyes of lawmakers, this new Forest Code heralds the creation of a necessary balance between the pace of Brazilian business and overarching Brazilian environmental concerns.

Due to controversy surrounding the new Forest Code, the Brazilian President was urged to use power of veto to add amendments to the bill’s various rules and stipulations.

Certain Eco-friendly Amendments Were Added To The Code

During the drafting of this new bill, environmental groups pressed government for amendments that would ensure that landowners were still subject to certain laws and protections designed to protect Brazilian biodiversity, including the mandatory preservation of 30-meter stretches of forests (known as riparian forests) near waterways. These proposed laws and protections were created to safeguard optimum biodiversity of rivers and nearby bodies of water within specified forest regions in Brazil.

Brazil’s president adopted elements of the eco-friendly amendment; however, “green” watchdogs would have preferred even tighter controls governing re-forestation by landowners and developers. The final draft of the bill reduced re-planting responsibilities to 15 to 20 meters, rather than the proposed 30 meters, while also permitting fruit trees to be used as substitutes for native forest trees.

While this bill is purported to ensure the maintenance of proper balance between corporate and environmental interests, its detractors, such as the Brazilian Environment minister, Izabella Teixeira and the environmental-watchdog organization, Greenpeace, are dissatisfied with the protections placed within the Forest Code’s many rules and stipulations.

Senate Approval Of The Forest Code Is Required

Senate approval is the final step in bringing the bill into formal Brazilian law, so last-ditch efforts to protect Brazilian biodiversity through bill amendments are still being pursued by lobby groups that strive to protect the integrity of Brazil’s bio-diverse forests and waterways. However, most pundits and environmental groups do anticipate that the new bill will be passed within the Senate and then become a part of Brazilian law for the long term.

The future ramifications of the new Forest Code and its impact on Brazilian biodiversity are yet to be determined. At this point, it’s difficult to say if the re-forestation clause included in the bill is sufficient to provide Brazilian wildlife and marine life with the ecosystem that they need to survive and thrive in years to come.