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

By Ronald A. Foresta | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
The Lees of Success: The IBDF in the Eighties

The erosion of political support for biological conservation in the 1980s undercut the IBDFs' conservation program in several ways. One was through its impact on the IBDF's organizational culture. Economic development regained its full former importance to the IBDF, a process reinforced now by Brazil's debt crisis. The forest institute intensified its commitment to commercial forestry and the generation of revenues through licenses, cutting permits, and fines for forestry code infractions. Its personnel rolls in the mid-1980s reflected this commitment: most of its more than six hundred professionals were forest or agricultural engineers, and most of the balance were lawyers, professional administrators, or economists. 1 This gave the agency a culture dominated by production-oriented professionals; Brazilian forest engineers, like those elsewhere, saw trees as products and forests as timber stands rather than habitats.

IBDF conservationists were unable to count on their allies elsewhere in the federal government to compensate for their isolation within their own agency; the power of their allies was undercut by the same emphasis on production that had undercut them. For example, by the mid-1980s, SUDAM was no longer receptive to its Natural Resources Division's advocacy of developing Amazonia according to the region's "natural calling" which left the division isolated and without a base of power. 2

The weakness of conservation factions within individual agencies also left them unable to force their agencies to cooperate with each other on conservation-related issues. SUDAM's Natural Resources Division thought it important to maintain the forests of Amazonia by directing cattle projects to the natural campos and other areas of nonforest vegetation. But while SUDAM frequently dealt with the

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