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Legal Reserve Requirements In Brazilian Forests: Path Dependent Evolution Of De Facto Legislation

  • Bernardo Mueller
  • Lee J. Alston

Why would a poor and largely pro-developmental country such as Brazil, that has so much of its territory covered in forest, adopt one of the most restrictive land use requirements in the world when it comes to cutting the forest to give way to other economic uses? We describe the evolution of legal reserve legislation in Brazil, which currently requires that 20% of the area in a property (80% in the Amazon) be left in forest or its native vegetation. This legislation was put into place in 1934 with the objective of assuring the supply of wood for fuel. Over time this objective has become irrelevant, but the legislation remained in place, though non-constraining, until the late 1980s when growing environmental concerns led to increasing levels of enforcement. We show how the path dependent nature of the legislation interacted with the changing de facto impact of the law to create a situation where environmental interests were able to ratchet up changes in the laws that could never have been achieved if the point of departure had been the complete absence of legislation.

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Paper provided by ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics] in its series Anais do XXXV Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 35th Brazilian Economics Meeting] with number 147.

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Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:anp:en2007:147
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  1. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:106:y:1991:i:2:p:407-43 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Lee J. Alston & Marcus André Melo & Bernardo Mueller & Carlos Pereira, 2006. "Political Institutions, Policymaking Processes and Policy Outcomes in Brazil," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 39698, Inter-American Development Bank.
  3. Deacon, Robert & Norman, Catherine S, 2004. "Does the Environmental Kuznets Curve Describe How Individual Countries Behave?," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt6gm8164w, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  4. Barro, R.J., 1989. "Economic Growth In A Cross Section Of Countries," RCER Working Papers 201, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  5. Arik Levinson, 2001. "The Ups and Downs of the Environmental Kuznets Curve," Working Papers gueconwpa~01-01-08, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
  6. Lee J. Alston & Bernardo Mueller, 2005. "Pork for Policy: Executive and Legislative Exchange in Brazil," NBER Working Papers 11273, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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