The Brazilian Forest Code: Evaluating the Vanguard of Forest Conservation

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Amity Doolittle
Essay Abstract: 
A country of extraordinary biological diversity and natural wealth, Brazil is plagued by a recurring dilemma: striking a balance between economic development and environmental conservation. This conflict is no better encapsulated than in the Atlantic Forest. Spanning 17 Brazilian states, the Atlantic Forest harbors immense biodiversity and endemism. Its bounty of natural resources, however, has attracted extensive agricultural and ranching interests that have continuously decimated the landscape. Today, the remaining fragments of forest are dominated by private rural properties that pose a threat the natural integrity of the ecosystem. As the Brazilian Forest Code, first enacted in 1934, is the only legislation governing forest conservation on private rural landholdings, it is imperative for safeguarding the Atlantic Forest. This law, however, has undergone a series of debilitating changes that have raised speculation about its ability to conserve Brazil’s forests. In order to assess the efficacy of the Brazilian Forest Code and its potential to protect the Atlantic Forest, it is therefore critical to ask: how have successive changes to the Brazilian Forest Code impacted forest conservation in the Atlantic Forest? Answering this question could provide insight on how to improve the Brazilian Forest Code and bolster forest conservation in the Atlantic Forest and throughout the country, both of which are necessary to protect Brazil’s natural patrimony.