Month: February 2020

Savanna fires, a boon to grazers, cast rhinos into a ‘food desert’

first_img Article published by Shreya Dasgupta Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Animals, Biodiversity, Conservation, Endangered Species, Environment, Green, Mammals, Protected Areas, Research, Wildlife center_img Fire is a common tool used in conservation areas across Africa to help regenerate grass for grazers, reduce encroachment of bushes, and control ticks and diseases. But how fire affects rhinos and their food has remained unclear.Researchers have found that black rhinos in Serengeti National Park prefer to graze in spots that burn just once in 10 years, and actively avoid areas that are burned frequently. The park’s managers carry out controlled burns at least once a year.The study found that fires reduce the availability of the plants that the black rhinos prefer to eat.The researchers have called for an adaptable fire strategy that allows burning in some areas to benefit grazers such as wildebeest and zebra, and avoids fires in rhinos’ preferred habitats. When it comes to protecting the critically endangered black rhinoceros, the focus tends to be on preventing the animals from being poached. But insidious threats like fire could be affecting their long-term survival too, a new study warns.In African savannas, natural resource managers frequently use fire as a tool to manage wildlife habitats; fire can help regenerate grass for grazers, reduce encroachment of bushes, and control ticks and diseases. But how fire affects rhinos and their food has remained unclear until recently.T. Michael Anderson, an associate professor of biology at Wake Forest University, North Carolina, who has been working in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park for decades, was especially concerned when six critically endangered eastern black rhinos (Diceros bicornis michaeli) were reintroduced to the park as part of the Serengeti Rhino Repatriation Project in 2010. The project aimed to bolster the dangerously low population of black rhinos in the park by moving in 32 rhinos over time.“I had been doing research in Serengeti for nearly ten years at that point, so I was aware of the high frequency of fire in the national park,” Anderson told Mongabay. “It seemed that no one was talking about the potential costs or benefits of a high fire regime on the reintroduction effort of black rhinos.”Anderson saw the reintroduction as an opportunity to seek some answers. Unfortunately, poachers killed four of the six introduced rhinos in 2011, and the Serengeti Rhino Repatriation Project stalled. This meant that the remaining rhinos would no longer be moved to the Serengeti.So Anderson turned his attention to the only other black rhino population in the Serengeti, in the Moru region, south of the repatriation area. This population of about 40 rhinos has been relatively well-protected since the 1980s, Anderson said, and the area has a high fire frequency, making it an ideal place to study how fires affect rhinos. Moreover, the Tanzanian National Parks’ anti-poaching rangers follow the rhinos on a regular basis, taking detailed records of individual rhinos and activity patterns. These records represented a valuable source of data.In analyzing these data from 2014 to 2016, Anderson’s team found that the black rhinos preferred to graze in spots that burn infrequently, or once in 10 years. The animals avoided areas that were burned frequently, the researchers report in their study published in Oryx. Park managers carry out controlled burns at least once a year.“As a savanna ecologist, I was raised under the school of thought that fire improves forage quality for herbivores; in fact, several of my past scientific publications have demonstrated improved forage quality for grazers after fire,” Anderson said. “However, the spatial patterns of habitat use by the rhinos were clear: over several years they actively avoided areas of high fire frequency.”A black rhino in the Serengeti’s Moru range. Image by Ramadhani Likomwile.The team dug deeper and found that fires reduced the availability of the plant species that rhinos prefer to eat. Of the hundreds of plant species that grow in the Serengeti, the rhinos eat only nine, most of which are nitrogen-fixing woody plants or forbs, a group of flowering plants. Fires destroy the above-ground portions of these plants.The researchers suspect that for rhinos, which don’t typically forage on anything higher than 2 meters (6 feet), frequent fires can create “a ‘food desert’ in what on the surface looks like a savanna with abundant vegetation.”“This may be limiting their capacity to increase their population size,” Anderson said.Black rhino prefers woody plants and forbs. Image by Ramadhani Likomwile.How long the rhinos’ preferred plants take to regenerate after a fire still needs more research.“Not all savanna plants tolerate fire equally,” Anderson said. “The Acacias (now Vachellia) all re-sprout after fire, but for some of the other N-fixing legumes that were highly preferred by rhinos — we just don’t know. One plant that I am very curious about and needs further research is Achyranthes aspera [one of the rhinos’ favorites]. Some sources, mostly websites about invasive plants, claim that it spreads with fire, but I often see it growing in habitats that resist burning or would not carry a fire because they are highly disturbed.”What is clear, though, is that protected-area managers may need to rethink their fire management plans — employing a strategy that improves food availability and quality for both grazers like zebra and wildebeest, and browsers like rhinos. The researchers and Serengeti park authorities are now looking through data that the park rangers have collected over the past 20 years. These data can tell them how rhino habitats have changed over the long term in relation to fire.Anderson and the park authorities have also been discussing ways to adopt a different fire management plan for different parts of the park, possibly suppressing fire in some regions and actively burning in the others.“Implementing a diverse and adaptable management policy on the ground is incredibly challenging and takes time,” Anderson said. “Our collaboration is continuing, and the park authorities are very supportive of future research and data collection that will inform management about how to best increase black rhino habitat throughout the park.”Black rhinos usually forage at a height below 2 meters, or 6 feet. Image by Ramadhani Likomwile.Citation:Anderson, T. M., Ngoti, P. M., Nzunda, M. L., Griffith, D. M., Speed, J. D., Fossøy, F., … & Graae, B. J. The burning question: does fire affect habitat selection and forage preference of the black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis in East African savannahs?. Oryx, 1-10.last_img read more

Latam Eco Review: Whale attacks, palm oil woes, and hope for vaquitas

first_imgAgriculture, Biodiversity, Critically Endangered Species, Extinction, Illegal Logging, Illegal Mining, Illegal Trade, Palm Oil, Pollinators, Rainforests, Vaquita, Whales, Wildlife Trade, Wildlife Trafficking Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Article published by Erik Hoffnercenter_img Peruvian palm oil, orca attacks on humpback whales, and mining in an Amazon national park are among the recent top stories from Mongabay Latam, our Spanish-language service.Orcas attack young humpbacks migrating north  For 30 years, Juan Capella and five other researchers analyzed thousands of photos of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and Antarctica. They looked for things like rake marks on the whales’ tails — signs that they had been attacked by orcas (Orcinus orca). Since young humpback whales are less skilled at swimming in the deep, they are easy orca prey; but human activity is still the main cause of humpback whale deaths.The scarred tail of a humpback whale. Image by Juan Capella.Peruvian palm oil company said to have illegally cleared forestFarmers and a local NGO in Peru’s Amazon say a palm oil company illegally cut 27 percent of a rainforest tract before the project was approved. Palmas del Huallaga recently acquired almost 1,900 hectares (4,700 acres) in San Martín province. Without integrated conservation planning in the Amazon, plantations are creating islands of ecosystems no longer capable of providing environmental services.Deforestation on Palmas del Huallaga’s land. Image by Karen de la Torre.Palm plantations in Colombia killing native plants and pollinatorsThe boom in oil palm cultivation in western Colombia has introduced diseases and infestations to the area that are harming native plants. Researchers found that chemicals deemed necessary for the cultivation of oil palms are also affecting pollinators of banana palms and other species in this region of high biodiversity. In some areas, local farmers are turning back to traditional cultivation out of necessity.Oil palm fruit ready for harvest. Image by Palmasur‘Hope dies last’: The last 20 vaquitas can rebound“I’m not saying it will be easy, or that we can do it, but as they say, hope dies last,” says Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, a researcher of vaquita porpoises. With high genetic diversity and reproduction rates, vaquita (Phocoena sinus) populations can recover from the current 20 that remain, Rojas-Bracho says. He warns that the illegal fishing of totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) could sound their death knell. Demand for totoaba bladder, highly valued in Asia, has is believed to be responsible for the death of vaquitas as bycatch.Nets for catching totoaba fish are the biggest threat to vaquitas. Image by Omar Vidal.Costa Rica’s palm oil farmers face five-year crisisDisease and declining palm oil prices have precipitated a five-year crisis for Costa Rica’s palm farmers, who’ve sought government assistance to offset the losses. While fatal yellowing disease is first observed in the leaves, it originates in the roots in response to soil conditions. Local biofuel projects are trying to boost the domestic market without increasing cultivation acreage.Oil palms grow two leaves a month and need 40 leaves to produce fruit. Fatal yellowing disease, which affects the leaves, stops fruit production. Image by Alejandro Gamboa.Illegal mining pictured in Peru’s Tambopata National ReserveMongabay Latam flew over the Madre de Dios region of Peru with the Peruvian Air Force. The resulting high-resolution photos and videos revealed illegal activities inside the Tambopata National Reserve in the Amazon, including illegal mining, logging and coca cultivation.The Peruvian Air Force’s ADS80 cameras captured high-resolution images of the devastation in the Amazon in Madre de Dios. Image by National Amazon Vigilance Center/Peruvian Air Force.Read the original stories in their entirety in Spanish here at Mongabay Latam.Banner image of a humpback whale and calf by NOAA.last_img read more

Dismantling of Brazilian environmental protections gains pace

first_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Article published by Glenn Scherer Agriculture, Amazon Agriculture, Amazon Conservation, Amazon Destruction, Amazon Logging, Amazon Mining, Cattle Ranching, Controversial, Corruption, Deforestation, Drivers Of Deforestation, Environment, Environmental Crime, Environmental Politics, Featured, Forests, Green, Illegal Logging, Illegal Mining, Illegal Timber Trade, Industrial Agriculture, Land Conflict, Land Grabbing, Land Use Change, Mining, Rainforest Deforestation, Rainforest Destruction, Rainforest Logging, Rainforest Mining, Rainforests, Saving The Amazon, Threats To The Amazon, timber trade, Tropical Deforestation center_img In his first 100 days in office, Jair Bolsonaro has moved fast to change personnel and reduce the authority of IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, and ICMBio, which manages its conservation areas. His actions are seen as most benefiting ruralists — wealthy elite agribusiness and mining interests.Presidential Decree No. 9,760 creates “conciliation centers” to investigate environmental fines, and provides multiple new ways for appealing fines, while also preventing funds gathered via penalties from being distributed to NGOs for environmental projects.Some worry the government may use the new decree as a precedent for forgiving the hefty R$250 million (US$63.4 million) fine imposed by IBAMA on Brazil’s gigantic Vale mining company for environmental law infractions related to the Brumadinho tailings dam disaster, in which 235 people died.A large number of IBAMA staff have been fired, including 21 of its 27 regional superintendents, responsible for combating deforestation. Many of Bolsonaro’s replacements within the top ranks of the Environment Ministry, IBAMA and ICMBio are coming from the military. Deforestation perpetrated by illegal loggers in Jamanxim National Forest in Pará state, Brazil. Image courtesy of IBAMAThe speed with which environmental legislation and agencies are being dismantled has gained momentum as Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro moves beyond his first hundred days in office.The web of laws and regulations that curb mining, agribusiness and big infrastructure project excesses, minimizing harm to the country’s ecosystems is being undone so fast that journalist Bernardo Mello Franco, who writes for Brazil’s O Globo newspaper, has called environment minister Ricardo Salles an “anti-minister, who is doing all he can to destroy what he should be protecting” and who is turning “his ministry into a playground for the ruralists” — the country’s agribusiness and mining elites.In response, Salles said that the environmental sector needs radical restructuring because “it is not being properly managed.”Luiz Nabhan Garcia, the Agriculture Ministry’s new Special Secretary for Land Affairs. Photo credit: Senado Federal on VisualHunt / CC BYRelentless ruralist pressureA sense of the political storm brewing in Brasília can be gained from a feature story published by journalist Ciro Barros on the independent website, Agência Pública. On 10 April, Barros attended a meeting in the capital city between leading members of the agriculture and environment ministries and ruralists from the Amazonian state of Pará, where the highest rates of rural violence are occurring against indigenous, traditional and landless movement communities.Agriculture Minister Teresa Cristina began by thanking the large landowners for their political support: “You can be confident that President Bolsonaro feels especially warm affection for rural producers who were the first to support him, the first to believe in him.” Then, in a series of impassioned speeches, the ruralists responded, calling for radical change. They repeatedly demanded abolition of the government’s two leading environmental bodies — IBAMA (the Brazilian Institute of the Environment) and ICMBio (The Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation), and also the dissolving of the national indigenous agency FUNAI.Nelci Rodrigues, president of the Association of Vale do Garça Rural Producers, also raged against the mosaic of Amazon conservation areas created in 2006 to conserve forests against the impacts of paving the BR-163 highway linking Cuiabá, the capital of Mato Grosso state to the south, with Santarém in Pará state on the Amazon River to the north. Noting that her father had moved to the Amazon in response to the military government’s appeal for southern farmers to occupy the region, Rodrigues fumed: “Now the extremists in control of IBAMA and the cancer of ICMBio are robbing a respectable woman with children of her home!” To loud applause, she demanded officials “dismantle the reserves that cursed Marina Silva, [the environment minister in 2006], created!”Luiz Antônio Nabhan Garcia, a key member of the agriculture ministry, who heads SEAF (the Special Secretariat for Land Affairs), and is well-known for his extreme right views, found himself in the position of calling on the ruralists to tone down their demands. He pointed out that it is impossible for the government to abolish FUNAI, as its existence is enshrined in the Constitution, but said that, instead, the government can get what it wants by acting cleverly, “tightening the leash.”He explained: “FUNAI is responsible for identifying, delimiting and demarcating indigenous land. We can’t abolish, FUNAI but we can take away from it all these tasks that do so much harm [to ruralist interests]. And the government did this on January 1, its first day in office.”Illegal logging on the Arara Indigenous Reserve, home to the Arara and Xipaia indigenous groups. It was invaded by illegal loggers on December 30, 2018. Brazil’s new environmental fine structure will give perpetrators multiple opportunities to appeal penalties for illegal deforestation, mining and other infractions. Image courtesy of IBAMA.Easing environmental finesBrazil’s ruralists have long held extreme views: showing unwillingness to adhere to the country’s environmental legislation; expressing hostility toward indigenous groups, riverine hamlets and quilombolas (communities of descendants of runaway slaves); and even organizing private militias to evict traditional people from land the ruralists want to occupy, as reported by Mongabay.What is new today, as the Brasilia meeting showed, is that the most radical ruralists now have a strong say in policy. This is demonstrated by the administration’s most recent actions.On April 11, the day after the Brasilia meeting and the president’s 101st day in office, Bolsonaro issued Presidential Decree No. 9,760, which creates “conciliation centers” to investigate environmental fines. The decree introduces two important changes that weaken penalty provisions: the centers will be able to cancel a fine, if they judge it isn’t merited; and, if the fine is upheld, the decree introduces new forms of discount, allowing penalties to be paid in installments or converted into payment in kind for services rendered for preserving, improving and restoring the environment.Fine discounting already existed, but the means of application is to change. In 2017, the Temer administration introduced “indirect conversion of fines,” by which a person or company found guilty of an environmental crime could get a discount of up to 60 percent, provided the remaining 40 percent was deposited with an environmental recuperation project selected by IBAMA. The logic behind this deal: IBAMA could gain an economy of scale by combining multiple fines to fund one big environmental project — many of which were administered by NGOs.However, Bolsonaro and other members of his government have long been critical of the outsized role played by NGOs, and one of the alterations introduced by the new decree is that the discounted funds, while still amounting to 60 percent of the original fine, will go directly to the fined company or individual, eliminating NGOs.The measure will also weaken IBAMA by reducing the amount of funds it receives.Bolsonaro has long called for IBAMA to be brought into line, dubbing it an  “an industry of fines.” He seems to have felt personal rancor toward the agency ever since he was fined by it in 2012, when he was a federal deputy, after being caught on camera holding a fishing rod within an ecological station at a time when he claimed he was at an airport. The fine was cancelled at the end of the Temer administration, but in March of this year Bolsonaro sacked José Augusto Morelli, the IBAMA employee who imposed the fine — importantly, Morelli at the time of his firing ran the Air Operations Center responsible for environmental monitoring.Bolsonaro justified Decree No. 9,760 by saying it will “improve” the way fines are administered and make “the system more agile.”Brazilian environmentalists responded with a chorus of criticism. They question how efficient the new system can be, with the new centers likely employing very few people, yet needing to deal with a large number of fines — about 14,000 per year in the past.They say, far from being more agile, the new process will be more cumbersome; if a first appeal fails, the fined person or firm will now have three further chances of appealing within IBAMA, as well as the possibility of challenging the fine in court. According to Márcio Astrini, coordinator of public policies at Greenpeace Brasil. “People caught committing environmental crimes have been given the chance of making endless appeals and never effectively being judged.”Ironically, in practice, very little will change, as only about 5 percent of environmental fines are ever paid.Some environmentalists believe that the real importance of the new decree is that it sends a message to ruralists, telling them that they can ignore Brazil’s environmental legislation and be confident they won’t be punished for crimes.PROAM, the Brazilian Institute of Environmental Preservation, an NGO, said: “If Decree No. 9,760 of April 11 goes ahead, Brazil will be instituting an anti-environmental measure, which will dismantle one of the main means of preventing environmental crime in Brazil. It will especially favor those carrying out large-scale devastation, with negative impacts and risks to Brazilian biomes, intensifying the unscrupulous and predatory use of forests, affecting biodiversity, water, soil and air.”Brazilian Minister of the Environment Ricardo Salles. Image by Gilberto Soares/MMA.Changing penalties, laying off staffSome worry the government may use the new presidential decree as a precedent. The administration is considering a similar approach in dealing with the hefty R$250 million (US$63.4 million) fine imposed by IBAMA on Brazil’s gigantic Vale mining company covering a variety of serious environmental law infractions in the leadup to the Brumadinho disaster, in which 235 people died. Environment Minister Ricardo Salles has said that he plans to convert the Vale fine into “investment in two national parks and five conservation units located in the state of Minas Gerais “for infrastructure, trails, activities and services that will make the area attractive for ecotourism in the future.” But the MPF (Federal Public Ministry), Brazil’s body of independent public litigators, is opposed, saying that “the proposal is a way of transforming an environmental sanction into a kind of prize.”This is only one of several measures accomplished by Salles since January that have been strongly criticized by environmentalists. Last week, after being severely criticized, Salles denied any discount of the Vale fine and the park concessions.He abolished the Secretariat for Climate Change and Forests, transferring its tasks to a new body, with a much smaller staff. According to O Globo, Salles said that Secretariat employees were “carrying out international tourism at the cost of the government,” citing the case of “almost 50 employees going to Poland to take part in COP-24,” the United Nations Climate Conference held in December of last year.But environmentalist, Carlos Rittl, from Observatório do Clima, an NGO set up by 37 civil society bodies to monitor climate change in the Brazilian context, said that the Secretariat carried out important tasks, such as monitoring Brazil’s commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent by 2025, as compared to 2005, and to eliminate illegal deforestation in the Amazon.  “Who is going to be responsible [for these tasks]?” Rittl asks.Salles is also proposing to downgrade the Brazilian Forest Service and the National Agency for Water, transferring them to other ministries.In February, Salles sacked a large number of IBAMA staff, including 21 of its 27 regional superintendents, responsible for combating deforestation. More recently he took disciplinary action against ICMBio employees who did not attend a meeting he called with parliamentarians linked to agribusiness. In response, employees say they didn’t receive an invitation to the event. These firings were reportedly one reason why ICMBio President Adalberto Eberhard resigned in mid-April. Eberhard is also said to be opposed to the fusion of ICMBio with IBAMA, a move the government is reportedly planning for the second half of 2019.In mid-April, Bolsonaro appeared in a video in which he strongly criticised an IBAMA operation in which it seized and burned trucks and tractors used by illegal loggers and land thieves to clear forest in a protected area of Rondonia state. Brazilian law permits such action if IBAMA can’t remove the equipment during the operation. Bolsonaro scolded: “This is not how it should be done, this is not the way they [IBAMA employees] are told to act.” He revealed that Salles would be investigating to find out which IBAMA employees had set fire to the vehicles.  He did not mention the criminals who were breaking the law by clearing the forest.A tractor utilized by illegal loggers in the Amazon legally set afire by IBAMA agents. Image courtesy of IBAMAMilitarizing IBAMAThe Bolsonaro administration is also militarizing the government’s environmental bodies, say critics. Key positions in the Environment Ministry, IBAMA and ICMBio are now in the hands of officers from the Armed Forces and Military Police. The move is in response to a request by Bolsonaro to abolish the “ideological framework” of the sector.  On 18 April, he sacked IBAMA’s planning director, Luiz Eduardo Nunes, a professional civil servant, replacing him with Luiz Gustavo Biagoni, who had recently retired from the Military Police in São Paulo. A few days earlier, Bolsonaro appointed Colonel Homero de Giorge Cerqueira, as president of ICMBio; and Davi de Souza Silva, another military officer, to head IBAMA’s regional office in São Paulo. There are now at least 12 military officers in key positions with the Ministry of the Environment (MMA), on the boards of IBAMA and with ICMBio.Then on 25 April, employees in the Agriculture Ministry told the Brazilian press, off the record, that Ministry Executive Secretary Ana Maria Pellini, had instructed staff to remove from the ministry database all information concerning Areas and Priority Actions for the Conservation, Sustainable Use and Sharing of  the Benefits of Biodiversity. This data is used by the government to provide technical support for the creation of protected areas.A day earlier Marcelo Moraes, president of FMASE (the Environmental Forum of the Electric Sector), had sent a letter to Salles asking that the criteria for the creation of protected areas be revised. The letter pointed out that Brazil has already protected 30 percent of its total area, and concluded: “This reality, together with the goals for Priority Actions for Biodiversity Conservation, is very harmful for the implementation and operation of projects and activities necessary for the development of the country.”The Agriculture Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.These many changes add up to a great weakening of Brazil’s environmental administration and legislation. But Bolsonaro rejects all criticisms repeatedly saying that Brazil “doesn’t owe anything to anybody with respect to the environment.”Marco Astrini from Greenpeace sees things differently: “If the present direction of environmental policies is continued, it will wipe out decades of efforts to combat deforestation, endangering the health of the population and doing incalculable damage to the economy and the country’s image,” he said. “Bolsonaro wasn’t given a blank check from Brazilian society to destroy our natural resources. He should be governing for the good of all the population, not just of the groups he’s allied with.”BANNER IMAGE: IBAMA agents approach an illegal mining operation in the Brazilian Amazon. Image courtesy of IBAMAFEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page.last_img read more