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Brazil Catholic Church opposes proposed reforms to rainforest laws

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The Senate is considering changes to the country's Forest Code
  • The church will start a petition among its 12,000 parishes
  • Environmentalists fear that the changes will lead to rainforest devastation

(CNN) -- Brazil's Catholic Church is the latest to publicly oppose a controversial revamping of the country's "Forest Code," which activists say would cause an environmental disaster.

The bill, which was approved by the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies and is now before the Senate, would rewrite some of the rules regarding protected areas, grant amnesty to illegal deforestation that occurred before July 2008, and give states greater control over preservation management.

Supporters say that the bill will help landowners, especially small ones -- a large number of whom currently violate existing conservation laws. By changing the way that land set aside for preservation is calculated, it would help many get back within the law.

But opponents say easing deforestation laws will give a greenlight to developers and loggers to fell more of the Amazon Rainforest.

On Friday, Brazil's Catholic Church announced that it would count on its 12,000 parishes to circulate a petition against the reforms, the state-run Agencia Brasil news agency reported.

"Our main concern is the impact and consequences of a law of this size on people's lives and the environment," the church said in a statement.

"We urge our communities to participate in the process of reform of the Forest Code, mobilizing social forces and promoting a petition against the devastation," the statement said.

Last year, the church was able to collect more than 1 million signatures on a petition regarding another piece of legislation, Agencia Brasil reported. Once again, the church said it's goal with the Forest Code petition is to foment public discussion on the proposed bill.