Controlling Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: Alta Floresta Works Towards Sustainability, 2008-2013


In the early 2000s, the municipality of Alta Floresta was part of Brazil’s Arc of Fire, a curving frontier of communities whose residents were clearing old-growth forests in the Amazon region so they could graze livestock, harvest timber, or cultivate crops. In 2008, the federal government cracked down on deforestation and pressured local governments to implement national environmental regulations. It created a blacklist of municipalities that were the worst violators of deforestation laws. Alta Floresta, as one of the 36 municipalities on the list, was thrust into an unfavorable national spotlight, cut off from access to rural agricultural credit, and its ranchers embargoed from selling their cattle to slaughterhouses. To get off the list, the municipality had to convince the owners of 80% of privately held land—more than 2,500 owners in all—to register their property, map property boundaries, declare the extent of deforestation, and agree to restore any illegally degraded or deforested areas within 10 years. Making compliance feasible for local ranchers meant that the municipal government had to promote more efficient agricultural production and provide opportunities for alternative livelihoods. This approach protected land set aside for restoration and reduced the economic need for future deforestation. In 2012, Alta Floresta became the third municipality in Brazil to earn removal from the blacklist.
Rachel Jackson drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Brazil, in March and April 2014. This case was funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation in collaboration with the Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy program at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Case published July 2014. To learn more about national deforestation efforts, see "A Credible Commitment: Reducing Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, 2003-2012."

land registry
Amazon Fund
Instituto Centro de Vida
Cadastro Ambiental Rural
Arc of Fire
command and control
law enforcement
institutional capacity
spoiler trap
electoral cycles
geographic access
information technology
informal & illegal markets
collective action
credible commitment
forest protection
Focus Area(s)
Natural Resources
Critical Tasks
Building citizen support
Informal settlements
Making services accessible
Municipal centers of government
Core Challenge
Collective action
Norm coordination
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Rachel Jackson