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BRAZIL: New Logging Permits Banned in Amazon State

by By Alan Clendenning Associated Press
June 6th, 2005

SAO PAOLO, Brazil New logging permits were suspended Friday in a huge Amazon state where the rain forest is being cleared at an ever increasing rate, a day after police launched a crackdown on official corruption.

Gov. Blairo Maggi of Mato Grosso also ousted his environmental chief, who was arrested and accused of involvement in the corruption ring, according to a statement on the state government Web site.

Maggi is the world's largest soy farmer, and is often accused by environmentalists of ignoring illegal logging. He acted after federal police made 90 arrests government officials and businessmen connected to loggers. Among those arrested was Moacir Pires, the head of Brazil's federal environmental protection agency in Mato Grosso.

Authorities allege those arrested were responsible for the illegal clearing of 119,000 acres of Amazon rainforest over the past two years, much of it on Indian reservations and in national parks.

Officials in the state twice the size of Sweden now will evaluate pending logging licenses individually before giving approval, and are planning to revamp the state agency that oversees the environment.

The crackdown came just weeks after the government said the Amazon rainforest was disappearing at an alarming rate -- shrinking by 10,000 square miles in the 12-month period ending last August.

Almost half the destruction occurred in Mato Grosso, an interior central Brazilian state where the forest has been cut down at accelerating rates as farmers clear land to make way for soy and cattle.

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