RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil’s environmental protection agency IBAMA on Wednesday launched its biggest-ever operation to tackle illegal logging that is accelerating Amazon deforestation amid a surge in tree-felling since President Jair Bolsonaro took office.
The environment ministry, which oversees IBAMA, said the agency has sent 165 agents to the states of Acre, Amazonas, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia and Roraima, backed by soldiers and police.
“The objective is to scrutinize the regions with the highest concentration of illicit activity to contain the expansion of environmental damage,” the ministry said in a statement.
Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil sped up in May to the fastest rate in a decade, according to data from an early-warning satellite system. Experts say the reason is a surge in activity by illegal loggers encouraged by the easing of environmental protections under Bolsonaro.
In its first five months, Bolsonaro’s government has dismantled conservation agencies, cut the budget to enforce environment laws and generally shown scepticism about measures to fight climate change, environmental activists say.
After Bolsonaro took office, the forestry commission was moved from the environment ministry to the agriculture ministry, which is run by the president’s farm industry allies.
(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)