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July 24, 2018

Mato Grosso levies very high fines for Illegal Deforestation

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Even though the Brazilian government has made significant progress against illegal deforestation in recent years, it is always a struggle to monitor an area as large and as remote as the Amazon Forest. In addition to the federal government, individual Brazilian states have also joined in the effort to combat illegal deforestation.

The Environmental Secretariat for the State of Mato Grosso (Sema) recently announced that they have embargoed 39,600 hectares (97,812 acres) of land in the state that was illegally cleared during the first half of 2018. Sema also issued fines to the landowners of more than R$ 32 million for the illegal clearing. Once an area is embargoed, the landowner is not allowed to sell any products from the embargoed area.

In recent years, the Brazilian government has passed a series of laws that dictate what percentage of a property may be deforested and these laws are especially strict concerning deforestation along rivers and streams. Basically, the larger the body of water, the more land that must remain in its native condition on both sides of the river or stream.

A team from Sema uses satellite photos to monitor the vegetative cover in the state looking for possible illegal clearing in the state. Remote sensing allows the agency to detect recent clearing as well as land that was illegally cleared previously, thus reducing the landowner's hope for impunity for prior violations.

The native vegetation in the state of Mato Grosso falls into three distinct biomes. The cerrado or savanna biome of the state is generally found in the central and eastern regions of the state. It is the cerrado that has been cleared for row crop production and cattle ranching. The Amazon Rain forest biome is generally found in the northern and northwestern regions of the state. The vast majority of the deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest biome is for cattle ranching. The third biome is and Pantanal wetland found in southwestern region of the state. Cattle ranching has been a part of the Pantanal for generations and it looks like it will continue that way.

The financial penalties levied for illegal clearing are substantial. Fines for illegal clearing vary from R$ 1,000 to R$ 5,000 per hectare (approximately $1,000 to $3,250 per acre) depending on the characteristics of the area. In cases where the landowner ignores the embargo, the fines vary from R$ 10,000 to R$ 1,000,000 per hectare (approximately $6,500 to $106,500 per acre). If the landowner impedes the natural reforestation process of an embargoed area, there is an additional fine of R$ 5,000 per hectare (approximately $3,250 per acre).

In addition to financial penalties, a landowner can also face criminal prosecution for illegal clearing.

The state of Mato Grosso is Brazil's largest producer of soybeans, corn, cotton, and cattle. It is a very large state encompassing an area that is as large as the entire Midwest of the United States.