Aerial view of the National Forest (Flona) of Jamanxin, in the southwest of the state of Pará, Brazil. Nacho Doce / Reuters

By Fabiano Maisonnave; translation by Thomas Muello
22 December 2016

MANAUS (Folha de S. Paulo) – In an action criticized by environmentalists and commemorated by squatters, the President of Brazil, Michel Temer, ratified a provisional measure that paves the way to legalize dozens of rural proprieties inside the National Forest (Flona) of Jamanxin, in the southwest of the state of Pará.

The provisional measure MP 756 passed on Wednesday, 21 December 2016, removed 305,000 hectares (twice the size of the city of São Paulo) from the Flona - the area is now part of the newly-formed Jamanxin Area of Environmental Protection (APA).

That leads to a reduction in the level of legal protection, allowing squatters to stay.

The change goes against the 2009 report by The Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), which says an area of only 35,000 hectares should be removed from the Flona.

"There are only squatters, basically holding sales documents, with land ownership pretensions almost exclusively for large properties, with high concentration of land - this reflects an intention of using the land for extensive husbandry," says the report, which defended the "removal of the invaders" as it addressed most of the illegal residents.

The creation of the Area of Environmental Protection, which includes other 230,000 hectares from areas not previously protected, is part of a package of changes carried out through two provisional measures in four conservation units around the BR-163 highway, used for the transportation of agricultural goods produced in the state of Mato Grosso.

The Jamanxin Flona conservation unit had the largest deforested area in the entire country. The area of influence of the BR -163 highway concentrates 70% of the new deforestations in Amazônia Legal.

The unit has registered episodes of violence related to wood exploitation as well as mining.

In June, a police officer was shot and died while participating in an operation of Ibama, the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, against wood industry agents.

The creation of the Area of Environmental Protection opposes recommendations of the Public Prosecutor's Office, which began public civil proceedings against any changes in the Flona.

Federal courts have not come to a decision on the case yet.

Elis Araújo, of the Imazon NGO, says that the message conveyed by the Brazilian government is that "occupying public lands inside conservation units pays off."

Benefited by the measure, Mônica dos Santos, the president of the Association of Rural Producers of the Embaúba and Gorotire Glebes, says that "it was a big advance after struggling so much for the past eight years."

Santos says that 80% of the squatters stayed inside the Area of Environmental Protection.

President Temer Reduces Preservation in Pará Forest and Legalizes Squatters

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