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Does the Selective Erasure of Protected Areas Raise Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon?

Derya Keles, Alexander Pfaff, Michael B. Mascia
Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (2022)

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Protected areas (PAs) are the leading policy to lower deforestation. Yet resistance by land users leads PAs to be created in remote sites, lowering impact. Resistance continues after PA creation, with both illegal deforestation and advocacy for PADDD, that is, reducing PA status (downgrading) or PA size (partial or full erasure, downsizing or degazettement). For the Brazilian Amazon, we estimate 2010–15 forest impacts of 2009–12 PA erasures, on average and for distinct states. Before panel-DID regression, to find similar controls we matched using static characteristics and 8–10 years of pretreatment deforestation. PA erasures should raise deforestation if erased PAs faced and blocked pressures. Consistent with this, three conditions for “environmental selection” yielded little short-run impact from PADDD: low pressures, unblocked higher pressures, and pressures blocked less by those PAs selected for erasures. Yet for “development selection,” with PA erasures in sites with pressures plus enforcement, PADDD yielded increased deforestation.