Rainforest raiders foil the guardians of the Amazon

The construction site of an illegal sawmill is seen from a police helicopter in Nova Esperanca do Piria

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In late September, Reuters accompanied agents from the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, or Ibama, for the start of a month-long sting against people felling the rainforest. Charged with enforcing the country's environmental laws, Ibama agents see firsthand the destruction. Many who live here consider the cutting a local right. Environmentalists and scientists, because the rainforest acts as a greenhouse-gas filter, say the activity cripples the fight against climate change.

During the operation, Ibama shut eight sawmills and leveled another nine, demolishing unlicensed facilities whose operators had skipped town - a common tactic when Ibama is nearby. The agents levied more than $1.7 million in fines, seized machinery and confiscated roughly $2 million worth of lumber. Most of that wood came from a nearby Indian reserve, a swath of virgin forest that, like much of Brazil's protected woodland, is increasingly besieged. (Reuters)

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