Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon Rain Forest fell over 20 percent in June. The drop follows an intensified crackdown on illegal logging and cattle ranching.
Deforestation of Brazil's Amazon Rain Forest fell over twenty percent in June. Environment Minister Carlos Minc says government pressure has been driving deforestation down.
[Carlos Minc, Brazilian Environment Minister]:
"I think deforestation rates are still very high and I think it's unacceptable, that is, we are not celebrating here. But anyhow, it is less worrisome that the negative trend began to decline precisely in the months when we expected numbers to rise."
Environmentalists are concerned that rising grain prices may lead farmers to expand their planted areas, pushing the agricultural frontier deeper into the forest.
The Environment Ministry said cattle ranching occupies as much as 80 percent of deforested Amazon areas, where an estimated 25 million heads of cattle are raised. Last month about 10,000 head of cattle were seized for illegal grazing.
Eleazar Volpato a forest engineering professor at the University of Brasilia, said the government must promote more preventive measures.
[Eleazar Volpato, Professor, University of Brasilia]:
"We can't wait to act only after deforestation has already occurred and we also can't depend only on the Police. We must use instruments that promote (sustainable) activities in the rain forest."
The government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has increased police raids on illegal logging and expanded protected areas while also building roads and hydroelectric plants in the region.
Conservationists fear some of these measures could increase deforestation in the long term.