Farmers have illegally cleared over 1,350 hectares (ha) of Atlantic Forest for agriculture and cattle ranching in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná.
According to a news report by Globo, six people were arrested during the joint operation, which involved the state Public Prosecutor’s Office, the state’s Environmental Police, and the federal environment agency IBAMA.
The organisation SOS Mata Atlântica reported that, of the 241 large farms that were inspected between 26 March and 1 April, 222 had committed some kind of illegality.
It claimed that the authorities registered a total of 94 illegalities directly related to deforestation within the properties, which are located in 15 municipalities.
Public prosecutor Alexandre Gaio told Globo that the “vast majority of property owners had no permits to clear their lands” of native forest. He said that the operation’s report is being sent to the competent judicial authorities to determine the criminal and civil liability of the perpetrators.
The Atlantic Forest, which stretches across southern Brazil and into parts of Argentina and Paraguay, rivals the better known Amazon forest in terms of biological diversity.
More than 85% of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest has already been cleared. Paraná leads the ranking in Atlantic Forest deforestation in Brazil, losing over 450,000ha in the past 30 years.
The operation is part of the Mata Atlântica em Pé (Atlantic Forest Standing) project, which is coordinated by Paraná’s Public Prosecutor’s Office and seeks to halt the high levels of deforestation in the state.
In a report published in March, the WWF states that commercial farming continues to be the main driver of Atlantic Forest loss in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.
Leading causes include soybean and sugarcane cultivation, cattle ranching, and the establishment of eucalyptus and pine plantations.