RPT-Peru says deforestation slowing as it beefs up laws, sanctions
(Repeats for wider distribution)
By Mitra Taj
LIMA Oct 7 (Reuters) - Deforestation in Peru has slowed since peaking at nearly 180,000 hectares (700 square miles) in 2014 when swaths of the Amazon were illegally cleared for oil palm plantations, the head of the country's forest service said on Friday.
Fabiola Munoz said tougher new laws and enforcement, including fines 700 percent higher and jailtime for people who destroy primary forest, are helping Peru rein in deforestation.
"People really used to think there would be no consequences," Munoz told foreign media. "That's changed."
In 2015, Peru lost about 160,000 hectares of forest cover, and less should be cleared this year, Munoz said. So far in 2016, about 120,000 hectares have been destroyed, according to satellite imagery.
"We expect the trend to continue to be downward. But that means we have to be more active, we can't let our guard down," Munoz said.
Peru controls about a tenth of the Amazon, a tropical forest home to unrivaled biodiversity and vast stores of carbon dioxide that fuel global warming when destroyed.
Environmentalists have criticized Peru for not doing enough to keep wood and gold from being torn illegally from its forests for export, and for allowing local authorities to dole out agricultural concessions that include swaths of virgin rainforest. Continuación...