Brazil mulls lifting Amazon protections

Aerial view of a burnt out sector of the Jamanxim National Forest at an illegal settlement November 29, 2009, in the Amazon state of Para, northern Brazil.</p>

Aerial view of a burnt out sector of the Jamanxim National Forest at an illegal settlement November 29, 2009, in the Amazon state of Para, northern Brazil.

After 12 hours of heated debate, the lower house of Brazil’s congress postponed a vote on lifting some legal protections for the Amazon rain forest. Brazil’s current forest code requires landholders in the Amazon to preserve as much as 80 percent of their holdings as forest. The debate has pitted environmentalists against powerful agricultural interests along and Brazilian officials pushing to open up the world’s largest rainforest to development and increased farming. The proposed changes to the forest code would exempt farms classified as “small” from preservation rules—a shift environmentalists say will accelerate deforestation. Some researches say the Amazon has already reached a tipping point, as increasingly frequent droughts kill swathes of trees and diminish the forest’s capacity to stem a rising tide of greenhouse gasses.  The BBC is reporting that lawmakers here will take up the issue again next week.