Amazon land settlement said to increase deforestation

The Brazilian government is looking into accusations that sketchy sustainable-development deals may have led to increased logging in the Amazon rainforest. After an eight-month investigation, Greenpeace has reported that Brazil’s national land-reform agency housed thousands of poor families in rainforest areas valuable to the timber industry, then looked the other way when settlers sold logging rights to major companies. Under the settlement scheme, families are permitted to log 80 percent of their land under a strict forest-management plan — but the plans are now dictated by Big Timber, which doesn’t tend to be keen on following sustainability guidelines or paying market value. The news comes on the heels of Brazil’s announcement last week that as of July 2006, the overall Amazon deforestation rate had fallen to its lowest point in at least seven years. We’re smiling on one side of our mouth and frowning on the other.