With Guns and Fines, Brazil Takes On Logger
ALTA FLORESTA, Brazil – A convoy of six black sport utility vehicles pulled into a lumberyard unannounced here one recent morning. Out popped about two dozen members of Brazil's security and police forces, packing sidearms and rifles. But the weapon the foreman feared most was carried by a separate group of agents of Brazil's national environmental agency: bright yellow tape measures.
"Thirty-eight! Seventy!" the agents shouted from the logs clustered in the thick mud as they quickly went to work. One agent, Mario Rubbo, jotted down the volume of each log for comparison with what the lumberyard had declared to state authorities. Discrepancies could mean fines or criminal charges.
This is Operation Arc of Fire, the Brazilian government's tough campaign to deter illegal destruction of the Amazon forest. It is intended to send a message that the government is serious about protecting the world's largest remaining rain forest, but so far it has stirred controversy for its militaristic approach to saving trees, and the initial results have been less than promising.
The operation began in February after new satellite data showed that deforestation had spiked in the second half of 2007 after three consecutive years of declines. The new data rattled the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, which has been trying to play a bigger role in discussions about global > climate change
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