Controlling Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: Alta Floresta Works Towards Sustainability, 2008-2013

Rachel Jackson

In the early 2000s, the municipality of Alta Floresta was part of Brazil’s Arc of Fire, a curving frontier of communities whose residents were clearing old-growth forests in the Amazon region so they could graze livestock, harvest timber, or cultivate crops. In 2008, the federal government cracked down on deforestation and pressured local governments to implement national environmental regulations. It created a blacklist of municipalities that were the worst violators of deforestation laws. Alta Floresta, as one of the 36 municipalities on the list, was thrust into an unfavorable national spotlight, cut off from access to rural agricultural credit, and its ranchers embargoed from selling their cattle to slaughterhouses. To get off the list, the municipality had to convince the owners of 80% of privately held land—more than 2,500 owners in all—to register their property, map property boundaries, declare the extent of deforestation, and agree to restore any illegally degraded or deforested areas within 10 years. Making compliance feasible for local ranchers meant that the municipal government had to promote more efficient agricultural production and provide opportunities for alternative livelihoods. This approach protected land set aside for restoration and reduced the economic need for future deforestation. In 2012, Alta Floresta became the third municipality in Brazil to earn removal from the blacklist.

Year of publication: 
Princeton Innovations for Successful Societies
Themes and sectors: 
Decentralisation and local government
Themes and sectors: 
Natural resource use and management
Case story length: 
17 pages

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