Amazon Conservation in the Age of Development: The Limits of Providence

By Ronald A. Foresta | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
The Mosaic of Opportunity

When Wetterberg arrived in Brasilia in early 1976, he met Maria Tereza Jorge Pádua, a young administrator rising through the IBDF's ranks and a conservation advocate. Politically shrewd, she worked with Wetterberg during 1976, helping him deepen the political and pragmatic dimensions of his work. 1 Aligning conservation with the dominant values of the government was the most important political task during the early, formative stages of conservation planning for Amazonia, but now a more delicate task arose: fitting conservation's ambition to the political space and energy available to it. If the limits of the possible were undershot, conservation might fail to save what was within its grasp. If the limits were overstepped, the opportunity to fill the last great gap in South American conservation might be lost.

To Jorge Pádua and other Brazilian conservationists, the limits appeared broader than ever before. While the military government had not put conservation at the forefront of its concerns, especially in the years before the Stockholm Conference, it did make changes that, while aimed at other ends, laid the administrative and political groundwork for a substantial program of Amazon conservation.

First, as part of a general effort to mold the nation's legal code into an instrument of development, the disjointed and often contradictory forest legislation that had accumulated over the preceding several decades was replaced by a new and strengthened forest code in 1965. 2 The new code's restrictions on deforestation expanded earlier legislation: it was now illegal to clear forest from steep slopes, near springs, along river banks, and on the margins of lakes, even on private land; landowners could clear no more than 50 percent of the forests on their land. A companion faunal protection code was passed two years later. 3 It declared all wild animals government property and outlawed professional hunting, the pelt trade, and the

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