A Case History
Common perceptions of forestry companies in South America tend to brand them with the image of decades of rain forest destruction. In some areas, where extraction of prized hardwoods has been the dominant industry, that reputation has historically been deserved, with uncontrolled logging removing whole swathes of native forest to the detriment of biodiversity and local communities. However, governments and NGOs alike have increasingly come to realize that better control of logging concessions is only part of the answer to conserving the biodiversity of regions' native forests. Poverty is, in most cases, a far more dangerous enemy than the search for corporate profit. Extraction of timber by impoverished local communities, either for fuel, construction, or simply land clearance for planting, has been estimated, for example, to account for the considerable majority of native forest loss in some areas of the Amazon.
One approach to the problem over the past thirty years is for government to work closely with forest products companies to reduce pressures on dwindling native forests—first, by providing a new economic framework in the regions most affected so that the damaging effects of poverty on the native forest are mitigated; second, by developing alternative, planted sources for timber and cellulose that make extraction from the native forest unnecessary.
In this context, the Brazilian government approved a project in the state of Espírito Santo in the mid-1960s, at a time when the Atlantic rain forest that originally covered almost 90 percent of the state had shrunk considerably. Much of the southern part of the state had been laid waste by successive cycles of logging, agriculture, cattle-raising,