Dec 16, 3:02 AM EST
Brazil forest protection turns to digital world
By JULIANA BARBASSA
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Landowners who broke Brazil's environmental laws by clearing their farms of native forest used to have just one way to make right with government inspectors: plant trees. Now, they can clear their names by just pointing and clicking.
After decades trying to protect rapidly shrinking forest, Brazil has turned to the digital world and launched a new platform called BVRio that allows growers with more untouched forest on their land than is legally required to sell "quotas" to farmers who fall short, one hectare at a time, for a price that will be determined by supply and demand.
From environmentalists to landowners, all sides agree the privately developed tool could revolutionize Brazil's ability to protect the world's biggest rainforest while enforcing the country's just-enacted environmental law.
Under the rule, growers have to keep a "legal reserve," or a minimum amount of native growth on their properties ranging from 20 percent to 80 percent of their land, depending on the type of vegetation. The trading platform launched this week allows farmers to find and negotiate directly with each other.