For those who look at it from afar, the Amazon may seem like one thing. But the environmental dynamics of the nine Brazilian states covered by the forest are different in many respects. They are so different in size that the entire Acre would fit within the state protected areas of Pará. The same 3 million hectares contained in state conservation units represent 3.5% of the territory of Mato Grosso and almost a quarter of Amapá.
In common, they all have a mission to take care of the forest — a responsibility that has increased even more under Jair Bolsonaro’s government, with its anti-environmental agenda. “We see that the chance to protect the Amazon is now very much in the hands of state governments,” explains Angela Kuczach, biologist and Executive Director of the National Network for Conservation Units.
No wonder its governors are requesting the return of the Amazon Fund and created an interstate consortium to negotiate with Norway, Germany and other potential investors. The World Bank is also betting its chips on the States: in 2019, Mato Grosso inaugurated a new modality of loan contracts, which combines the traditional fiscal adjustment with ambitious goals for environmental preservation. Soon, Amazonas must sign an agreement on the same terms.
To understand how each state is taking care of the forest, ((o))eco looked into public databases that reveal the differences and similarities between the nine states that share the biome in the country.
Rondônia, Mato Grosso, Maranhão and Tocantins have already lost more than a quarter (25%) of their native vegetation. This is relevant data since the Forest Code imposes a 20% quota on private properties as a limit for deforestation in the Amazon. Pará, in spite of being the leader in absolute deforested area, has, proportionally to the territory, 14% of forest loss.
INFOGRAPHIC 1: Total loss of forests in the States
The largest state among those that make up the Legal Amazon, Amazonas continues to have most of its biodiversity intact. Alongside Acre and Roraima, it forms the trio that lost the least amount of forests within state conservation units (UC). Along with Indigenous Lands, Conservation Units (UCs) are the main barriers to the advance of crops, loggers, miners and mining companies into the forest.
The UCs can be federal, state or municipal, and their creation takes place through a decree of the Executive power.
INFOGRAPHIC 2: Forest loss in state PAs
The influence of agribusiness on the States is reflected in the lack of transparency in environmental data —as we will show in a report later this week— and it also makes it difficult to allocate areas for environmental preservation. “In states where there is little area free from cultivation, there is no political force to create new UCs”, laments Kuczach.
This is possibly the explanation for why Mato Grosso, the national leader in meat and soy production, has only 3.5% of its territory destined for parks or protected areas — the worst rate among all nine Amazon states. At the other end is Amapá, with the highest percentage (almost 23%), although in terms of area, both are almost equal.
INFOGRAPHIC 3: Percentage of territory in UCs
In Rondônia, pressure from ranchers to advance into protected areas led Governor Marcos Rocha (PSL) to pass a law that reduced two state Conservation Units by about 167,000 hectares — a measure that ended up in court by action of the Public Ministry. The UC most affected by the bill, the Jaci-Paraná Extractive Reserve, has already lost half of the forest to cattle ranchers who illegally occupied the territory.
In Pará, the government ignored the pressure of mayors in the neighboring state, Mato Grosso, and, last Monday (18), created the Refúgio de Vida Silvestre Rios São Benedito and Azul, in the municipalities of Jacareacanga and Novo Progresso. The mayors say that “the UC would make the region economically unviable” and threaten to go to court against the state decree.
Spending is low, but exceeds federal percentage
In addition to the forest to take care of, the nine states in the Legal Amazon share a dismal statistic: between 2016 and 2020, resources allocated to the environment in state expenditures represented, on average, less than 1% of all the funds administered by the governors. This account includes secretariats for the environment and foundations or institutes for the protection of fauna and flora in the States.
Even so, with the exception of Amapá, all states invest proportionally more in the environment than the federal government, where the Ministry of the Environment represented, on average, only 0.09% of the Union’s spending in the same period. The article was unable to calculate the amount allocated by Roraima to the environmental area: despite being basic data for any public agency, the Executive’s consolidated annual disbursements are not available for public consultation, nor was it possible to obtain them via the press office .
INFOGRAPHIC: comparison of budgets
Mato Grosso states that the 2022 budget in the environmental area should grow “by 22%, compatible with the expected increase in revenue”, while Acre informs that it seeks to complement its resources for environmental protection with credits from international development and development banks. Ministry of the Environment. Amazonas highlights that since the beginning of the current administration, the State Secretariat for the Environment’s budget has increased by 99%. The full responses from all states can be read here.
The strengthening of the environmental area is one of the counterparts to the loan signed with the World Bank in 2019 by Mato Grosso, which should be signed soon by Amazonas as well.” The need to strengthen the State Environment Secretariats is a fundamental point. In Amazonas, even more than in Mato Grosso, the resources allocated by the state are negligible. It is one of the last secretariats in terms of financial resources, and it is a portfolio that controls an immense forest territory”, observes Renato Nardello, leader of the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Program in Brazil, who granted an exclusive interview to ((o))eco which airs this Tuesday (26).
While celebrating the governors’ initiatives, Kuczach believes they will have to do much more if they are to fill the vacuum left by the Ministry of Environment under Jair Bolsonaro’s government. “They know it’s in their hands, and they have enormous potential. But just staying at the potential doesn’t solve it, it has to show results in practice”, he concludes.
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