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A Rainforest A new law in Brazil, if passed, would legalize some logging in the rainforest. (Frans Lanting / Corbis)

Rainforest at Risk

Lawmakers in Brazil debate a law that could put the Amazon rainforest’s recovery in danger.

By Zach Jones | March 29 , 2012
<p>PHOTO: Environmentalists fear that legalized logging would threaten rainforest plants and animals. (istockphoto.com) </p><p> MAP: The Amazon rainforest stretches across eight countries and is half the size of the United States. (Jim McMahon)</p>

PHOTO: Environmentalists fear that legalized logging would threaten rainforest plants and animals. (istockphoto.com)

MAP: The Amazon rainforest stretches across eight countries and is half the size of the United States. (Jim McMahon)

The Amazon rainforest stretches across eight countries in South America and covers a region that is half the size of the entire United States. In Brazil, it is illegal to cut down trees in the rainforest. But loggers there illegally cut down large numbers of trees to be sold as timber.

Now, a change being discussed in Brazil’s law would make it legal to cut down trees in more than 250,000 square miles of the Amazon rainforest.

The new forestry code would legalize logging in areas that had been partially logged prior to July 2008. The code changes would also allow logging along the Amazon River.

Supporters say these changes could help protect forests by regulating logging, or making it possible to supervise it to make sure rules are being followed. They think legal logging can be controlled more easily than illegal logging. Those in favor of the changes also argue that regulated logging in Brazil would bring much-needed jobs and money to the country.

But opponents believe that the new law would allow more logging than necessary. Environmentalists say that more logging in the Amazon, especially near riverbanks, would be harmful. They say it would threaten endangered plants and animals that are sensitive to habitat changes.

Brazil’s Senate has already approved the code changes. Now the nation’s Congress must approve the new code. Then Brazil’s President could sign the changes into law. The Congress is now trying to determine whether the new code will help or hurt the forest.

More than 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest grows in Brazil. At least one fifth of that forest has been destroyed since 1970 for timber and to clear land for farms. But the Brazilian government has recently cracked down on illegal logging, successfully saving thousands of miles of forest.

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