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President Prunes Forest Reforms

from Nature News

Brazil's vast forests lost some legal protections last week, but less than environmentalists had feared. On 28 May, President Dilma Rousseff vetoed a dozen sections of the revamped forest code passed a month earlier by the lower house of Brazil's National Congress.

Although Rousseff denied environmentalists' push for a full veto, she removed many of the bill's contentious provisions, including one that would have effectively granted an amnesty for any illegal deforestation conducted before July 2008. She also issued an executive order to fill in the gaps created by her veto. Rousseff and her ministers defended their decision as a realistic compromise that promotes agriculture but also protects the environment. Many expect further legislative wrangling as Congress reviews the new language in the coming months.

The revised code still requires that landowners maintain a proportion of their land as forest, ranging from 20% for those in coastal regions to 80% in the Amazon. Rousseff restored obligations for landowners to recover forests that were cut down illegally, although she created exemptions that could relieve numerous small properties of this obligation.

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