The Amazon pays the bill for forest destruction

by Jess Miller

December 21, 2012

Amazon River in Brazil

Lack of governance and amnesty allow large-scale Amazon deforestation to continue.

Seven years ago, Leonardo Andrade Gomes was considered to be the single biggest forest destroyer in the Amazon. In addition to other infractions, he was found responsible for the deforestation of 12,500 hectares of Amazon forest and fined more than 18 million reais (US$8.6 million).

Why is this relevant now? Because since then, the Brazilian government hasnt been able to track him down or collect the fine. But one thing is for sure: the fines against him will be forgiven by the new Forest Code. Now, it will take very little to make this multi-million dollar debt disappear forever.

When Gomes name topped the Brazilian governments ‘forest destroyers list’, a lawyer claimed in his defence that he had not yet purchased the farm, Cachoeira Alta, and that it still belonged to Elizabeth Guimaraes when the rampant deforestation linked to the infractions and fines took place.When approached by the federal government, Guimaraes defended herself by also claiming she didnt own the farm at the time and presented a certificate showing she had sold it to Gomes just before the destruction.

After years of back and forth, the government decided the fine remained with Gomes, but the debt remained unpaid.

However, further investigations show in 2011, Elizabeth applied for and received a license for Rural Activity from the Secretary of Environment of Par State in the name of the same farm Cachoeira Alta. In the end, the government never resolved who owns the farm and the fines went uncollected.

Gomes then disappeared. According to the government, his CPF (government ID number) was canceled and IBAMA was unable to track him down to collect the fines issued.

This is just one example of the lack of governance and impunity that has contributed to the destruction of the Amazon. For years, those responsible for deforestation have managed to evade fines and avoid responsibility.

Now, with Brazils new Forest Code, amnesty will be granted for unauthorised deforestation fines prior to 2008. In Gomes case, the R18 million fine would disappear and the obligation to engage in forest land recovery efforts would be absolved.

This lack of governance and the new Forest Code has made the case for a new Zero Deforestation Law in Brazil.

In March, a petition for a zero deforestation law in Brazil was launched. Just a few months later, over 600,000 people have signed onto the citizens initiative.

According to Brazils laws, if 1.4 million people support the Zero Deforestation initiative, it could be presented to the Brazilian Congress and become law. Learn more about the Zero Deforestation Law and support Brazils call to end Amazon destruction!

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