Four Amazon nations, four approaches to reducing deforestation

Special Reporting Initiative Fellow Julian Smith reports on deforestation in the Amazon.  Below is a summary of the piece that will be published by Mongabay in late June or early July by Mongabay.

The Amazon rainforest spreads across nine of South America’s twelve countries. Those with the largest portions – Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru – each approach tropical conservation in a different way. But with an average of nearly 1.5 million hectares (5792 square miles) of forest cut down every year between 2001 and 2012 ­– an area larger than the state of Connecticut every 12 months – it’s useful to compare these nations’ distinct strategies and federal policies to find which ones are working, which ones aren’t, and why.

Brazil, with nearly two-thirds of the Amazon within its borders, is the “gorilla in the room,” and will receive the most attention in the article. The rate of deforestation, driven primarily by cattle ranching and large-scale commercial agriculture, had dropped steadily since 2004. However, forest clearing jumped by nearly two-thirds from 2013 to 2014, possibly due to significant detrimental changes in the federal forest code.

Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia have been hampered in their efforts to stop deforestation by a variety of factors ranging from rapid political turnover (especially in Ecuador); lack of governance, newly passed anti-environmental regulations; failed enforcement; increased corporate influence and corruption.

Some of the major deforestation success stories have arisen out of joint projects conducted between nations, and/or successful projects in one country being transferred to another. The idea of joint initiatives goes back to 1983 and the creation of Red Parques, which brings together the heads of each country’s national park service in a continent-wide network. In 2010, countries with Amazonian territories signed a promising agreement to work to develop national systems that were regionally complimentary that would protect Amazonia’s interconnected ecosystems.