Amazon Destruction Sinks to Lowest Level

But lawmakers are looking to ease tough restrictions
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 6, 2011 12:02 PM CST
In this Sept. 15, 2009 file photo, a deforested area is seen near Novo Progresso. The Brazilian Amazon is arguably the world's biggest natural defense against global warming.   (AP Photo/Andre Penner, file)
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(Newser) – Brazil's Amazon rainforest lost an area about the size of Delaware in the year ended in July, but there's a silver lining to that stat: It's the lowest level of destruction since tracking began in 1988, reports the AP. The deforestation peaked in 1995, with the staggering loss of 11,220 square miles of rainforest—compared with last year's 2,410 square miles—and Brazil is crediting its crackdown efforts for the steep drop. "We'll continue with determination to reduce the illegal deforestation in the Amazon," Brazil's environment minister says.

But trouble looms in the form of legislation headed this week for Brazil's Senate, which could ease Brazil's tough deforestation restrictions, particularly those on small farmers. The measure would let smaller landowners work land nearer to rivers and grant exemptions to those who felled trees illegally before July 2008. It has cleared Brazil's lower house, and is expected to pass the Senate; President Dilma Rousseff is also expected to sign.

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