For the first time in three years, deforestation in Brazil's Amazon basin increased, jumping 69% from the prior year alone. Analysts blame rising demand for soy and cattle, which pushed farmers and ranchers to illegally clear some 3,000 square miles of forest between August 2007 and August 2008.
According to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, which conducts the annual survey, deforestation has claimed one-fifth of the 1.6 million square miles that make up the country's Amazon basin. The agency hopes that its survey will help the Brazilian government better control illegal deforestation by alerting it about heretofore unknown tree cutting hotspots.
"We're not content," Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc told reporters. "Deforestation has to fall more and the conditions for sustainable development have to improve."