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Walking amongst conservation giants

Robert Pasley-Tyler and John Hemming, trustees of the Amazon Charitable Trust, were amongst a selected group of people invited to attend a private presentation, on the 10th of May, by Brazilian senators Jorge Viana (PT/Acre) and Luis Henrique (PMDB/Santa Catarina) on the new Forestry Code recently sanctioned by president Dilma Rousseff.

Held at the Brazilian Embassy in London, the event brought together some of the most influential people in the field of conservation, with representatives from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Greenpeace, UK environment agencies, the Global Canopy Program and renowned scholars from highly regarded institutions, such as the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and King’s College London.

During the 2-hour session, the senators, responsible for balancing the interests of private agricultural sectors and environmentalists and putting the new legislation to paper, explained the much discussed changes made to the old Forestry Code, which dated to 1965.

The new legislation has maintained the main principles of the former Forestry Act, such as Permanent Preservation Areas (APP) and the Legal Reserve (RL). In addition, it sets forth clearer rules for land use in urban and rural areas; and roles of government, farmers and citizens in the preservation of the integrity of biodiversity, water, land and climate have been made more accurate. One of the new guidelines of the Code also establishes that land owners ought to be treated differentially according to the size of their estate.

According to the senators, the new Code grants no amnesty to any land owner and that reforestation of degraded areas remains mandatory, but there are specific provisions for small farmers and family small holdings, as well as reforestation financing.

In conclusion, it is important to highlight the following:

– The new Forestry Act maintains the established uses of land within preservation terms. The novelty it introduces is the creation of rules for recovery of illegally degraded areas and;

– Legal Reserve (RL) percentage varies according to biome. In the Amazon rainforest, the Legal Reserve must comprise 80% of the property. In the Cerrado (formation of savannahs, grasslands, wetlands and forests with rivers and waterfalls), the percentage is 35%. All other biomes require 20% of Legal Reserve. Deforested Legal Reserve areas must be fully reforested.