Protecting the native inhabitants of the Amazon and their right to ancestral lands is crucial to saving the rainforest because they are its best guardians, environmental activists said on Monday (October 4).
But, they added, rights to protected lands are being undermined by the far-right government of President Jair Bolsonaro.
"What we are seeing is an attack on indigenous people, on their rights, their lives and territories," said Leila Salazar-Lopez, executive director of Amazon Watch, speaking at the Reuters Impact conference.
Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has risen sharply since Bolsonaro took office in 2019. Although preliminary data suggest clearing so far this year is little changed from last year, destruction remains at a level not seen in Brazil since 2008.
Salazar-Lopez said forests were being cut down intentionally to clear land for cattle grazing and soy plantations, while the gutting of the government's indigenous affairs agency Funai under Bolsonaro has left indigenous reservations unprotected and vulnerable to illegal logging and gold miners.
After years of funding cuts and hiring freezes, Bolsonaro promised to double resources for environmental enforcement to combat illegal deforestation at a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September.