It sounds like a nightmarishly bad idea: Brazil is auctioning off big pieces of the Amazon ... to timber companies. But it's a move that could ultimately save the Amazon from destruction, according to Brazil's National Forestry Service.
Reuters reports that the Brazilian government is offering logging concessions for 2.47 million acres by the end of the year and 27 million acres in the next four to five years. That's about the same size as Virginia. For some perspective, Brazil currently only offers 370,000 acres to logging companies. So why the increase?
Right now, speculators often illegally occupy state land. These speculators log illegally (slash and burn practices have already destroyed 20% of the planet's rainforests), making lots of money for themselves, but little for the Brazilian government. By privatizing the land, the government hopes to promote sustainable logging — only as much as the rainforest can regenerate. And of course, Brazil also hopes to get some jobs and tax revenues out of the deal.
It's not a perfect solution. Legitimate corporations like Sinar Mas Group's Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) are often accused of unsustainable logging practices. But it's better than the alternative.